Sunday, May 28, 2017

Head-hopping makes it hard for readers to believe your fiction.

By aware, when writing in third person limited multiple viewpoint (3PLM) viewpoint, you can change viewpoints only if you change scenes or, better yet, change to a new chapter.
                                         [Repeating.]

Within a chapter or at the least a scene, you should stick with just one viewpoint. No switching viewpoints within a scene. They call that head-hopping.


In the first chapter of Option To Die, a body is discovered. Naturally, since Veronica can't know about it yet, I move to another character's viewpoint.

Here's how it worked.
Quentin Reese walked along Bay Isles Road on Longboat Key, a narrow but exclusive community between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay, trying to keep pace with the music in the tiny earphones plugged into the cassette tape player on his waistband. Up ahead, he saw a lump of something.

(A few moments later, he encounters a dead body on the ground. That was his job in the story. He does not appear again.)

That’s one reason I recommend the third person limited multiple viewpoint (3PLM). It makes the book far more interesting to readers when they can see someone find the body or hear the antagonist’s plot his evil plans and be places that the protagonist cannot be.

Please don't do what my wife, ex-Los Angeles English teacher, Lori Crews, and Senior Editor of Petersen Press, calls Head Hopping.

Here's an example:
Dennis Moss stood outside the small frame house holding his three iron and eyeing the golf ball. This time, he thought, (V1) I will hit it to the tree with one stroke.
Diane McCarthy, standing at her window in the living room, wondered (V2) what Dennis was doing.
Dennis glanced (V1 again) at his watch. Where was Mike? Mike was supposed to join him for this game of golf on the lawn. What had happened to Ernie?
Mike was upstairs. He had finally persuaded (V3) the college girls to come up to his room, and now he had to do some fast-talking to impress the young ladies.
Ernie Wallace was waist deep (V4) in a vat of chocolate syrup. The plant had closed for the weekend and there was no one to hear his cries for help.
Cameron, the night watchman, was just outside (V5) the warehouse, but Ernie didn't know that. (V4 again)

Do you see what's happening here? Readers have been yanked around from one mind to another. Seven times!

Here’s how it should be done:

Dennis Moss stood outside the small frame house holding his three iron and eyeing the golf ball. This time, he thought, I will hit it to the tree with one stroke. Dennis glanced (V1 again) at his watch. Where was Mike? Mike was supposed to join him for this game of golf on the lawn. What had happened to Ernie?

* * *       (signaling a scene change)

Ernie Wallace was waist deep (V2) in a vat of chocolate syrup. The plant had closed for the weekend and there was no one to hear his cries for help. He yelled “I’m in the vat of chocolate syrup!” He hoped Cameron, the night watchman, might still be around.

That’s what happens when you head-hop.

Readers get settled in, involved in a scene from a particular viewpoint and suddenly are made to look at it from another direction altogether.
It's as if you took readers to a movie and as soon as they got comfortable you said,
"Let's sit over there," then when they were comfortable over there, you said,
"Hey, there are some great seats up in the back."

It’ll be your last group date.

Head-hopping makes it difficult for readers to identify with your characters and believe your fiction. Try to keep readers in one place as much as possible, and when you do move them, do it smoothly, for good reasons.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0189VGK32