Just Say No to Head Hopping
I’ve read two published books lately where head hopping has been a major problem. In romance, we typically write from two different point of views: the hero and the heroine. I have one novella that was only from the heroine’s POV, but I had good reason for this. Switching would have given too much story away (BTW, I have been slapped on the wrist for only using one POV in a couple reviews). Certainly, you can jump back and forth between two, or three, characters over the course of a story, just not in one paragraph.
For newbies, the advice all says to complete avoid it. Any changes in POV should happen at scene or chapter breaks. I personally find this easiest to read. I like to know who is talking and who they are talking about the entire time. No editor I’ve worked with would allow me to switch at any other point in time. As a reader, I’m able to follow these changes because the new scene or chapter is introduced by the POV character. Immediately, I know who is telling the story. If the character development is good, I can often figure it out instantly, but there are always clues.
I think the problem is that many established authors are given more leeway. Perhaps they do know how to handle it better, but without obvious breaks, I have no idea whose thoughts I’m reading. Especially, when they are changing in a single paragraph. The last book I read had two sentences, back to back, with different viewpoints without a single switch. Some of the bits even appeared to be from the view of a minor character.
The only great example I have of an author who switched during a scene, but didn’t lose me was in Leah Braemel’s
Texas Tangle. Despite the fact that scenes would switch between three POV characters, I always knew exactly where I was.
Authors, please keep your head hopping to an absolute minimum. Find a scene break to deal with any changes you need to make.