Are you a head hopper?

Head Hopping: the act of switching point of view character mid-scene.

To switch pov or not to switch pov is one of those perennial discussions amongst writers, so let me say right up front, I strongly recommend one pov per scene.  

Here’s why: You want your reader to lose herself in your pov character.  You want her to imagine herself in the story. 

In order to accomplish that ultimate escape for your reader (living the life of a fictional character) you need to use deep point of view — you need to get into the skin and mind of that character and stay there.  If you successfully hook your reader with deep point of view, and she’s imagining herself as Jane, but then you suddenly switch into Tom’s pov, you are literally jerking the reader out of her experience of Jane’s life.  Most readers will forgive you, if the jerk isn’t too jarring, but then they’ll start to sink into Tom’s experience… only to be jerked back to Jane’s just when they were bonding with Tom.  As a reader I find this very frustrating.  As a writer, amongst other things, you are denying your reader the opportunity to wonder what Tom must be thinking of all this that Jane is experiencing.  If you make a reader wonder… she’s going to keep reading to find out what Tom’s experiencing.  If you switch to Tom’s pov mid-scene to show what he’s thinking or feeling right then the reader doesn’t have to read any further to find out.

The other reason I strongly believe in one pov per scene has to do with scene goals and disasters.  (If you aren’t familiar with scene goals and disasters read this post.)   If the pov character has a scene goal at the beginning of the scene, but you are in another character’s pov at the end of the scene, then the disaster loses its impact because the new pov character doesn’t care about the scene goal or may even be working against the scene goal, in which case what should be the disaster is either unimportant or is now a reason to celebrate.  What you end up doing is losing the conflict in the scene because you aren’t letting the reader stay with the character who has something to accomplish in the scene.

Obviously it’s up to each author to determine what works for her, but I feel that sticking to a single pov per scene makes for stronger, more compelling, more page turning stories.

That said, the one place I do regularly switch pov mid-scene is in love scenes, but not all of them.  Usually just the first one.  Personally, I want to know what both of them are thinking/feeling and you don’t usually have the dialog and action (other than the obvious!) to help show the non-pov person’s experience.

What can I say? Rules are made to be broken, but only when you are breaking them for a good reason.



3 Responses

  1. I am a head hopper! I loved this post and your blog is full to brim with great advice. Thank you very much.


    Hannah Katy

  2. Hannah, thanks for stopping by!


  3. […] of view (already in the blog here and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: