Head Hopping – It’s not about beer

When I first heard the phrase ‘head hopping,’ I’ll admit, I had no idea what it meant. To me, head hopping was hearing both (or all) of the characters’ inner thoughts in a scene, not necessarily what they were seeing or even feeling to a certain extent. Thing is, I’m not wrong but I’m also not right.

According to many, many articles and blog posts I’ve read, there is no hard and fast rule, only the elusive ‘guideline.’ Some famous novelists head-hop all over the place. Some are a bit, um, vehement about not doing it.

The Editor’s Blog says: ‘Head-hopping is what happens to the reader when a writer suddenly changes the viewpoint of a character or POV. Switching from one viewpoint character to another, experiencing the mind and heart of one character for a moment only to be forced to switch focus to another character a paragraph or two later, is disconcerting.’

When I read Randy Ingermanson’s blog on the subject, I became even more confused.

“Randy sez:  Let’s define terms. “Head-hopping” is the practice of switching point-of-view characters within a single scene. This is not the same as the omniscient point-of-view, which would allow your narrator to know things that none of the characters know.”

Then the points being made by Randy were eclipsed by what was being said in the comments, specifically:

“If it’s about a person, don’t head hop, if it’s about the relationship or bigger picture, head hop.”

And then:

“Skilled writers don’t need it (head hopping) to convey the other person’s emotions through showing.”

I then found Ciara Ballintyne‘s post on the subject, and this is probably the clearest explanation, along with a great flowchart:

  • First – I gave a small shrug. That was of no matter at the moment.
  • Third – Isaiah gave a small shrug. That is of no matter at the moment.
  • Omniscient – Isaiah gave a small shrug. He thought it was of no matter at the moment

Image result for head hopping

And that’s when my brain exploded.

What say you WordPress?

 

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