1. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

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    Head-hopping

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Malisky, Jan 21, 2020.

    Why is it so wrong? This is a honest question. Why are people and mostly writers or people that work in this kind of trade so put off by head-hoping? It recently came to my attention that many readers wouldn't be able to notice the head-hop if someone else didn't bring it to their attention and explained to them what it is. Not all readers, but many. Since when did it become a rule of thumb to avoid it? I can only suspect that a hundred years ago, maybe it wasn't a thing. Have you ever read a novel or a piece of writing that contained head-hoping that worked or at least didn't annoy you as much? Maybe a writer that used it as a tool of sorts in order to achieve a specific style. I don't know. That's why I'm asking.

    In an older review I read upon J.K Rolling's Harry Potter, a critic mentioned that at places she head-hops, but does so in a masterful way. Unfortunately, the critic didn't mention in which places or why, in which way it is masterfully used. The last Harry Potter book I read was more than 10 years ago, so I can't remember passages, etc.

    Would you ever knowingly implement head-hoping to achieve a certain something in your work?

    ETA: I hope I placed this in the right thread. Sorry if I didn't.
     
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  2. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

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    Excellent question and interesting idea. I am sure that you understand p.o.v very well. I am afraid I am not one to break the consistent p.o.v convention, not in anything for public consumption anyway. My own opinion is that head hopping is for films and TV. I dont think there are too many rules for writing books but consistent p.o.v is one I abide by. I cant say I remember reading one that HH either.

    Might make an interesting prompt for the short or flash fiction story competitions: You must head hop! I will put forward the suggestion. Bring on the uproar!!
     
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  3. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    Most people who do it badly do it with no rhyme or reason. If you're going to do it, and most writers do, then do it where it makes sense. Don't try to change perspective in the middle of a conversation. I've seen that tried. It's just wrong. Do it in a new chapter. Make sure the reader knows what you're doing.
     
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  4. davcha

    davcha New Member

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    Switching point of views in the same scene, basically...
    But one thing come to my mind : Frank Herbert's Dune. Ok, it's an omniscient pov, but given that he gives to the reader the thought of all his characters during the same scene and that these thought are very limited to their very personnal pov (maybe with the exception of Gary Stue - oopsy I meant Paul). Is there a big difference ?
     
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  5. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Active Member

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    I mostly read fantasy novels with third person limited and multiple protagonists, so that is what I've become accustomed to. But last year I read a horror book that I thought was aiming for the same thing, third person limited with multiple protagonists.

    And I think that was what it was trying to do, but it also had a lot of head-hopping. Each time the author would head-hop it would kill my immersion in the character and the book. It was hard for me to get into the mind of the current pov when the author himself couldn't stay in their mind.

    There is a time when head-hopping can work, it's when it is third person omniscient (in which case it isn't really head-hopping).
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd agree with this. Third Person Omniscient tells the story from the perspective of the narrator. You can't substitute "I" for he or she in Third Person Omniscient.

    Basically you CAN substitute "I" for he or she, in Third Person Limited. That's where head-hopping can be disconcerting.

    If "I" am relating a series of events, I can't know for certain what another person's thought processes are. I can only relate what I see them doing, what I hear them saying, etc—and draw my own conclusion about what their thoughts might be.

    Third Person Limited does allow the author to switch perspectives, however, which First Person generally doesn't.*

    A switch of perspective in Third Person Limited usually happens at the start of a scene or chapter—but the POV remains consistent throughout that scene or chapter. If the author head-hops within a scene, the reader isn't sure who they're supposed to be identifying with, and can become distanced from all the characters. Instead of giving the reader intimate relationships with more characters, head-hopping generally creates the opposite effect. That's why the convention exists against head-hopping in Third Person Limited.

    If you avoid head-hopping that means you need to 'show' events unfolding. Instead of telling the reader that a secondary character is 'sad,' you are forced to 'show' the behaviour that makes the POV character assume other person is sad. This makes the story come to life more vividly for the reader. It's as if you were participating in the scene—not standing back and watching players moving around on a board and being told what they think and feel—and why.

    .......

    * ...at least not without a chapter heading that makes it clear the "I" in this chapter is a different character from the "I" in the previous chapter.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
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  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Pimpin' ain't easy, but it sure is fun.... Contributor

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    It's not the head-hoppings fault, it's the amateur writers making of a mess of it. Nobody knows what POV is until somebody explains it to them, and everyone starts out head-hopping all over the place. It reads like shit, and probably three-quarters of the manuscripts agents and publishers review are loaded with it.

    Now, once a writer understands the finer points of POV, and why a consistent POV is the best way to draw the reader into the story, they are free to dick around with head-hopping and use it in a charming, ironic way. Of course, the buyers are so used to the amateurish head-hopping that they can't see the masterful usage of it for what it is. It's the first red flag they look for and they've been conditioned to reject it out of hand. It's kind of unfortunate, but I understand where they're coming from. You need to have broad filters to sift through all the dog shit, so with head-hopping, you have to hope that the agent reads on, understands what you're doing and says, "Oh, wait, you meant to be lame... that's brilliant!"
     
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  8. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    I just finished reading Lonesome Dove, and McMurtry head hops with wild abandon, at least in that work. It was annoying throughout, as it took several sentences to figure out that the perspective had changed, and often it would change again about the time you settled into the new perspective.
     
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  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    I'm writing a story at the moment which is written in third person omniscient. But I've just got to a point where I've suddenly realised that the way I plotted the story, I need to switch in to close third for one scene and write from one particular character's POV, and I don't think that's going to work. Currently grappling with it.
     
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  10. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

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    It will work as long as you dont chop and change all over the place. Most people accept p.o.v changes if the come with a clear change of scene or even better chapters. Remember there is no law against having short chapters. It will take some work but it can be done.
     
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    It's not a novel though - it's a short story.
     
  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    It can be ridiculously confusing. One thing you don't want is for someone to have to repeatedly re-read pages and chapters just to figure out who said or knows what. If that happens once or twice in a novel, it's probably going to take the reader out of the story, but otherwise it's not going to be too bad. If it happens repeatedly, though, people probably aren't going bother to finish the story, or zone out while they finish it out of a sense of duty. And at that point it doesn't matter how well written anything else is, people aren't going to notice and you'll likely get ratings from "meh" to "raging pile of burning feces," depending on how sensitive the reader was to feeling not-clever. I'd say you could probably pull it off with careful planning and implementation, but then it wouldn't be head-hopping, it'd just be changing POV.
     
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  13. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

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    In certain circumstances p.o.v can be changed. My editor has allowed me a virtually omniscient first chapter then singular, changing with each chapter (although sometimes a p.o.v can last for more than one chapter). It would even be allowed between chapters if the circumstances are right. That is a 70K novel but I don't see why the same rules don't apply to short stories.

    If it were me, I would write first draft then tweak afterwards. That is never usually hard to do.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's a good discipline to force yourself to use one perspective only, even if it's only for an entire chapter. That means you have to work a little bit harder to convey exactly what you want to convey. But it can be done, and the results are worth it.

    Decide which of the characters in the chapter (or scene) is the best one to convey the purpose of the scene. That is a little harder than flipping back and forth between perspectives, but it really can nail the focus.

    I found myself head hopping POVs in one scene in my long novel. I then got a grip and re-wrote it from the POV of my main female POV character. However, later on, I decided to try writing it from the POV of the male character in the scene instead. And guess what? It's ten times better that way.

    It works for the story, to have 'him' revealing his thoughts to the reader, rather than the other way around. He is quietly raging during that scene, and it works better to have him as the POV character, because the reader now understands why he's so angry. In the earlier version, the woman had to try and guess why he was so furious ...which didn't cut to the chase as well as it could have done. The reader was left unsure. Now, the reader KNOWS exactly why. Which works a lot better setting up the chapter that follows.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
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  15. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

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    So, to sum this up, after reading all of your replies, I see two basic problems upon head-hoping. Firstly, the confusion it might bring to the reader, meaning whose perspective we are following now and secondly, the disconnect of immersion a reader might have upon an MC.

    I was thinking more upon the lines that let's say it's clear for the reader whose perspective he's/she's following, meaning that when the head-hop happens it's written in a way that's not confusing the reader. It's there on purpose to achieve a specific effect. The reason this question came to mind was because I was thinking upon a story (I just began writing the draft) that has 3 MC's. I want to make them equally interesting for the reader, but each one of them is interesting for completely different reasons. It's something like a coming-of-age story. I was thinking that a reader might relate more to one out of the three characters and it would be a pity to just focus on one perspective. What I mean is that in some peaky situations where all three characters interact, I want to give each one of them their respective share of gravity. I know that I can find ways around it without head-hoping, just by manipulating time, but I fear that this would drag. Besides, there's not much to describe separately apart from some very specific elements I wish to reveal, upon each character's perspective upon a happening. I wouldn't head-hop the whole story through, that would be tiring and indeed too chaotic, but in some parts I was thinking that it could produce a sense of paranoia and irony. Might add some cynical comedy as well. Creating real-time conflict on the spot; the readers know that there's something wrong, but the characters do not... yet. As you can tell, I'm not going 1rst person on this. 3rd omniscient most probably with some hints of 3rd limited perhaps. Not sure yet. I'm still in the process of brainstorming upon the style of narration.

    Another reason, is because you know... When I'm giving my insight upon another's writing and I notice the head-hop, I tell them and I just realised that at least in some instances, I did so mechanically. Meaning that it's not a matter of annoyance or clarification (whose perspective I was following or the switch was clear, it didn't confuse me). It's a matter of mechanically following the "rules". Like telling the fellow writer "You head-hoped there. Did you notice that? Did you do it consciously to achieve something?" I was just thinking upon the gravity of such a "mistake" or "rarity" might I say. Good to know other writers implemented this, bad to know that so far, considering your replies, none did masterfully enough. :p Kind of intimidating.

    Thanks for your replies. Much appreciated.
     
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  16. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

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    It would be possible to designate one of the 3 MC's as the p.o.v character. Then simply use dialogue between the three with the designated character perceiving on behalf of the reader. Personally I think that would be clumsy. Or just do the dialogue and let the reader make their own mind up judging by the MC reactions. That would be the most efficient way of doing it. It would be important to be concise so it didn't get in the way of the story. Honestly I can't see HH working. It is what distinguishes books from films.
     
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  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    The phrase "head-hopping" is typically used pejoratively to describe bad attempts at it by writers who don't know how to handle POV shifts. There is nothing inherently wrong with shifting POV. You can do it mid-sentence, like Virginia Woolf, or from paragraph to paragraph, or (more commonly) at scene or chapter breaks. It has all been done--done well by authors who know what they're doing and botched by thousands of writers who are trying something they don't have the skill to achieve. If anyone criticizes POV shifts per se, with no thought as to whether an instance of it is handled well or poorly, that person should be ignored. They're probably just parroting writing advice without understanding it.
     
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  18. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter Contributor

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    Using third person omniscient perspective, it's easy to provide perspectives on events external to each of the characters. To wit:

    Bob, Dave, and Ralph watched the man tuning the guitar. Bob, a guitar player himself, knew that string stretch was a thing to be battled with a freshly-strung axe. Dave, on the other hand, knew nothing of guitars and marveled at the array of cords, foot pedals, and amplifier boxes connected together. Ralph, always the impatient one, blurted, "Are you going to play that thing, or just keep tuning it?"
    Knowledge of guitars, or lack thereof, are traits of the particular characters, and can be used to describe how each might perceive things. On the other hand, adding in memories or internal struggles, should be kept to a single character (it's pre-coffee, and I can't think of how to extend this scene to show an example of how NOT to do it).

    Cheers.

    JD
     
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