Head Hopping – What I didn’t know

Head Hopping – What I didn’t know

In this short post I am going to share something that I didn’t know that I needed to know.

Head Hopping – What I didn’t know

This is a mistake that I made without even realizing I was making it back when I first started writing. When I wrote poetry I had never heard of such a thing.

The problem: when you’re writing, you get so wrapped you in your story that you switch perceptive or POV (point of view) between your mc (main character) and their counter parts. The result: we, the reader, know what’s going on in both of their heads in the same scene, chapter, passage, or paragraph. Doesn’t really sound like it’s all that bad but it’s jarring to the reader if you switch back and forth to quickly.

Head Hopping

Once someone pointed out to me that I was doing it I immediately took action to stop. But it’s harder to catch in a first draft while I’m free writing than using -form for -from is. Sometimes I even have trouble catching it in subsequent drafts and it doesn’t get caught until someone else looks at my work and points out the mistake.

I’ve read books where authors head hop between their mc and their counter part in the same chapters. The difference is they don’t do it in every other paragraph like I was doing. They have a passage from one character maybe pages long then it’s followed by a passage from another character maybe just as long.

The editor I was working with preferred head hopping to only happen on a chapter level. So, I sometimes have short chapters if it only takes a character a bit to get their pertinent information across to the reader. This way I can note in the chapter header who the reader is getting ready to read from. Preparing them for maybe harsh language, slang, or some such.

My advice is to be vigilant and consistent. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule as to when to head hop but most do it at a chapter level to make life easier for the reader. If you do decide that you are going to do it at a passage level inside of chapters I would separate them with the character’s name. See example below:


Chapter One

Alice

Random thoughts from your mc Alice.

Fred

Fred’s point of view on the matter.

Chapter Two


This lets your reader know they are switching characters. But as always knowing is part of the battle, deciding how you’re going to use the knowledge to find your voice is up to you.

Happy Writing!

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