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jodiodi
02-07-2007, 07:41 AM
I've been cautioned about 'head-hopping' but right now I'm editing an intimate scene (I write romance so ...).

Anyway, I'm finding it almost impossible to do it effectively without the POV changes between the hero and heroine. What each one feels, thinks--How am I supposed to stick with only one POV when the emotional impact of what's happening affects each character equally? Maybe I'm just blind or have suddenly been struck stupid.

Can anyone offer examples/advice?

Thanks.

Will Lavender
02-07-2007, 07:54 AM
This is a problem I encountered while writing my novel. (Though I don't write romance, I understand the "intimacy" issue.)

What I did was this:

I basically stole from Tom Wolfe. I allowed each main character, when they were in the same physical space, a little time in the narrative headlight. Since I'd been alternating POV between chapters anyway, I figured it only fit if I allowed that shifting to occur while the characters were "onstage" together.

Addendum:

You want the main character to shine through the most, though. (Duh.) What I've found in working with agents and now editors -- and this is no surprise to anyone on this board, I realize, but I'll put it in anyway -- is that the main character is essential. If you give more "weight" to your heroine throughout the story, I would probably give more weight to her in these intimate scenes.

Hope this helps.

jodiodi
02-07-2007, 07:59 AM
Thank you.

Actually, the hero and heroine are almost equally highlighted throughout the story--though she is the first character we meet in the book.

The way it's written right now, they each have a paragraph or two, alternating with each other to tell what they're doing/thinking/feeling as they join together (it's more than just physical intimacy).

Thanks for your help.

Sage
02-07-2007, 08:01 AM
Jodi, I PM'd specific to your novel. Sorry I don't have any examples, though.

Chumplet
02-07-2007, 08:16 AM
I'm having the same problem. In a love scene, both H/h should have equal time, and it's difficult to divide such a scene into compartments.

In the same MS, I also have a very intense fight involving three characters. If I have to put an asterisk between each POV, it breaks up the flow and looks stupid.

I can understand doing it if several paragraphs are devoted to one character's POV, but when things are happening quickly, it's really HARD!

Gary
02-07-2007, 02:39 PM
Tami Hoag does it often and effectively.

VGrossack
02-07-2007, 04:50 PM
Here's a link - and the text (sorry, as it's rather long) of an article which I wrote that may be of assistance.

http://www.coffeehouseforwriters.com/fictionfix/0608%20Grossack.html

What Are They Thinking?: Portraying Your Character's Thoughts

Victoria Grossack

One of the advantages that the medium of written fiction has over other forms of storytelling – such as film and theatre – is that novels and short stories allow readers easy access to characters’ thoughts.

Now, I’m not saying that other literary art forms never let us experience the inner workings of characters’ minds. Who doesn’t know some of Shakespeare’s great passages? Consider Hamlet’s, “To be or not to be,” Richard the Third’s, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” and the balcony scene in Romeo & Juliet: “Romeo – wherefore art thou Romeo?” These all give us wonderful insights to the characters’ minds. But they are soliloquies – the character is speaking ostensibly to him- or herself – and thus, some would argue, there is an air of the artificial about it, because people normally don’t speak so long and certainly not so eloquently aloud to themselves (although in Romeo & Juliet, Romeo happens to be conveniently eavesdropping – but this is not something that Juliet realizes at the time). Therefore, soliloquies are not always used and the chance to learn what the characters are thinking is often not possible. In theatre, the emphasis is more on dialogue than anything else and so what the spectators experience is conversation.

In film, thoughts are occasionally given – perhaps by the reading aloud of a letter, or by showing the character not speaking but having his voice speak anyway. In Annie Hall, Woody Allen showed a conversation between two parties with subtitles. But in film, the emphasis is on the visual, and internal thoughts and occasionally even the dialogue are sacrificed, to make room and time for chase scenes and special effects. This is not a complaint, mind you; just an observation.

So, if we really want to experience characters’ thoughts – and what could be more intimate, than to see into another person’s mind? – we’re best doing it in regular text, i.e., the printed page (or an audio version of the same). But showing characters’ thoughts is tricky. Let’s go through some of the issues that need to be addressed:

- How do you make sure that the reader knows that these words are part of a thought and not either dialogue or part of the regular text?

- How do you make sure that the reader knows which of your characters is doing the thinking?

There are a host of other issues that could arise, but this is a little column, so let’s limit its scope.

How you meet these challenges depends very much on other choices that you have made for your story; nothing happens in a vacuum. In particular, the person and point of view are critically intertwined with how you show your characters’ thoughts. These are subjects that I’ve not yet covered in my columns - because there’s so much to say and others have already said so much - but we need to understand these things now, so let’s lay some foundation.

Person and Point of View
Person is a term that you should have encountered while doing grammar, either while studying English or another language. A story told in first person is a story where everything is told through the voice of the narrator, who even uses the word “I” while telling the story. Second person is “you,” and it is virtually never used for storytelling (if anyone knows of any exceptions, please let me know – I couldn’t think of any). Third person means that the story is told using “he” or “she.”

Point of View refers to which character’s eyes (ears, nose, fingers and so on) the reader gets to experience the story. If you are writing in first person, then you are also writing using the narrator’s point of view (again, if anyone knows of exceptions, please feel free to contact me and I’ll include them in a future column). If you are writing in third person – and this is by far the most common – you have a choice. You can elect to tell the story from what is known as the omniscient point of view – where the reader can see the actions and motivations and occurrences associated with all the characters – or you can limit your readers’ access to either one or more characters in your story, for example writing each scene from a single point of view – or perhaps your entire novel this way. This I have seen referred to as the intimate point of view. With the intimate point of view, the readers can only learn what the characters experience or hear about.

Which is better? That’s an artistic choice, and is actually influenced by what you’re trying to achieve, so I don’t want to come down on one side or the other. It belongs, besides, in a column devoted to these topics – so perhaps I’ll write one some day. So enough on person and point of view! I could write an entire column on it (and perhaps some day I will). I simply wanted to define these matters, because we need them for what’s coming up.

Distinguishing Thoughts from Everything Else
Thoughts are like dialogue in that they are associated with individual characters and that they can be given verbatim. They are different from dialogue in that the rules surrounding them aren’t as concrete as the rules governing dialogue. In other words, the grammar gendarmes probably won’t come out to get you when you do one thing instead of the other. On the other hand, some techniques are smoother than others.

So, let’s work through some examples.

A. John stopped in front of the long, steep staircase and said, “I can do this.”

The above is dialogue, as is made obvious by the quotation marks and the word “said” – used to attribute the speech to John. Instead of saying these words aloud, John could think them. In that case, you could write:

B. John stopped in front of the long, steep staircase and thought, “I can do this.”

But this is awkward, because quotation marks are generally used to signal dialogue. Another technique is to employ italics. So here’s another possibility:

C. John stopped in front of the long, steep staircase and thought, I can do this.

I’ve even seen, in print, options B & C combined to create writing like the following:

D. John stopped in front of the long, steep staircase and thought, “I can do this.”

Now, I’ll interject some opinion. I am not keen on using italics. I think they should be used sparingly, because italics, I believe, tire the reader – especially if you have a lot of interior monologue. They’re distracting, and, I believe, should be saved for special occasions.

There’s also something else to realize about italics: they imply that you are giving the exact thoughts, in other words, word for word. The same thing goes for the use of quotation marks. But if you’re using the first person or a third person intimate, you don’t have to write it this way. You can imply it. Let’s go through a few more possibilities.

E. John stopped in front of the long, steep staircase and thought, he could do this.

Notice that the entire sentence is now in third person and the verb in the thought has shifted from the present tense can to its past tense could.

F. John stopped in front of the long, steep staircase. He could do this.

In version F, we have removed the word thought altogether and turned the single sentence in the earlier examples into two sentences. The first sentence, “John stopped in front of the stairs,” is important because it lets the reader know who is doing the thinking.

Then, as we are in third person intimate, we slide very naturally into John’s optimistic self-evaluation of his stair-climbing ability in the next sentence – in other words, into his mind and feelings - even though the word thought is not to be found.

G. I stopped in front of the long, steep staircase and thought, I could do this.

In example G, I’ve switched to first person. Although there’s nothing really wrong with the sentence above, in a way, there’s a redundancy of meaning. In first person, nearly everything – unless explicitly shown to be otherwise – is a thought of the narrator’s.

H. I stopped in front of the long, steep staircase. I could do this.

In example H, can you almost sense the quick intake of breath as the narrator looks at the long steep climb and decides to tackle it?

Conclusion
We’ve come up with eight different versions of representing almost the same thing. Some may be better, some may be worse; some will depend on what you’re trying to do. At any rate, we’ve had a chance to explore different ways of portraying what your characters are thinking. If you have the urge to tell me what you’re thinking, drop me a line at grossackva@yahoo.com

You can climb those staircases! Until next time.

****
This article is the sole property of the author. It is produced here with the author's permission. The unauthorized use or reprinting of an article is illegal, and will be prosecuted at the discretion of the author.

* * *
Hope it helps!
Victoria
www.tapestryofbronze.com

jodiodi
02-07-2007, 05:48 PM
Thanks for the help! I'm going to try editing it again today (now that I've had some time to distance myself and read everyone's suggestions).

I appreciate the responses.

scarletpeaches
02-07-2007, 05:59 PM
You can either stay inside one person's head, or simply describe what's going on as from an outside observer and let the reader draw their own conclusions.

Remember, it's all about showing, not telling. It's a myth that you have to get inside every character's head. You don't. The reader doesn't want to be patronised as in, "You're too dense to work this out for yourself so I have to tell you what everyone is thinking at all times."

I hate reading a scene where there's head-hopping. It feels messy and uncontrolled, and I don't like being told what characters think. I like to work that out for myself.

CheshireCat
02-10-2007, 03:38 AM
If you write romance, your audience expects to know what the characters are thinking and feeling, especially in a love scene. Head-hopping is allowed, if done well (especially as it became a refreshing change from the heroine-only POV so prevalent in years past).

Just avoid the back-and-forth, back-and-forth rapidfire changes that will make the reader feel as if they're watching a tennis match; stay in a single POV for a paragraph or three, then switch.

The thing to keep in mind is that you usually want the viewpoint of the character who's experiencing the most intense emotions and sensations in that moment, or whose thoughts are otherwise most vital for the reader to know.

scarletpeaches
02-10-2007, 05:00 AM
I can't disagree strongly enough, CC. I read romances and I certainly do NOT expect to be told what each character is thinking and feeling, even in a love scene. Head hopping is not 'allowed' just so the reader can be told what's going on in everyone's head - the scene should be written in such a way that the reader can work out for themselves what characters are thinking.

Besides, laying it all on a plate takes away the fun of reading. It's often what we are NOT told that makes a scene interesting. After all, we don't know what people are thinking in real life, do we? All we have to go on are their words and actions.

Swapping heads in the middle of a scene is messy, messy, messy, whatever the genre and romance readers certainly don't deserve to be patronised. They're more intelligent than they're often given credit for.

There's no need to head-jump. Ever. The writer just needs to choose his POV wisely. A hard decision? Maybe. But no-one ever said writing a book was easy.

JanDarby
02-10-2007, 05:23 AM
Just say no to headhopping.

As Scarletpeaches said, you really, really don't need to be in some person's head to show what that person is thinking and feeling, and every time you change POV, you break the reader's bond with the character. This is every bit as true -- perhaps more so -- in romance as in any other genre, since romance depends hugely upon the emotional attachment of the reader with the characters. What matters isn't necessarily what both characters think and feel in a given scene. but what the POV character BELIEVES the other character thinks and feels. We can find out later that the first POV character was wrong, but while it's happening, while it's unfolding in front of us as it's unfolding for the characters, while we're sort of inhabiting the skin of the heroine, for example, what matters is how the heroine is experiencing the event, including her impressions of his thoughts/emotions. She doesn't know what he's thinking/feeling; why would you want the reader to know, if you want the reader to share the heroine's experiences? Don't you lose some of the tension if the reader knows everything? If the heroine is thinking -- and this is cliche, but bear with me for a moment -- "I love him so much, and I hope he loves me at least a little" -- the reader is going to think, "Oh, me, too, I hope he loves her at least a little" and keep reading to find out. But if in the very next sentence, we pop into his head, and he thinks, "I love her so much," well -- poof -- there goes any suspense for the reader, so the heroine may be on tenterhooks, wondering about the hero, but the reader isn't worried, b/c the reader's thinking, "he's in love with you, dummy, all is well with the world," and there's no need to keep reading.

Decide whether you're writing third person limited or third person omniscient. If you're writing third person omniscient, go for it, and you can delve into any head you want, at any time you want (which sounds simple in theory, and isn't in practice), BUT -- and it really is a big "BUT" -- every time you do change, you're emphasizing the distance that's inherent in an omniscient POV. An omniscient POV also has a distinct narrator, someone the reader is aware of, someone who will make general pronouncements outside the POV of any character. And those pronouncements, along with the headhopping, make for a very distant feel to the story, not something you're going to want in a romance.

In romance, usually the author and reader want a more intimate POV, and will therefore use either first or third person limited. First person isn't on the table here, so that means you're left with third person limited. Third limited is a very intimate POV, and it allows you to delve deeply into the heart and mind of the character, and where the reader will bond deeply and for long periods with the character. Which isn't to say you have to stay in that one POV for the whole book; you can have third limited, with two or more POV characters, but you stay in one POV for the duration of a scene or longer. There are also variations in depth of POV, even in third limited, which you can play with for pacing and emotional reasons. In some scenes, you can be so deep in a character's thoughts/emotions that it's virtually indistinguishable from first person (you could change the pronouns and make the verbs match, and everything else would remain the same), and other times you can pull back a little and still be telling the story from that third-limited POV, but not delving quite so deep into the character's thoughts/emotions, b/c it's not as emotional a scene.

The thing to remember about slipping out of the chosen POV isn't that it's a sacrosanct rule and the punishment is that you'll go to hell if you headhop. The thing to remember is that the choice and use of POV matters to the story. POV is a tool with a purpose. Messing with the POV messes with the purpose behind using that POV. Know what the purpose of a given POV is -- to establish intimacy and a bond with the reader, in the case of third limited -- and if you're going to break the POV, do it with the knowledge that you're breaking the intimacy/bond, and you'd better have a darned good reason for it. The fact that it's easier for you, the writer, to show what a non-pov character is thinking/feeling is not even a slightly good reason; breaking POV has to be better for the reader in order to justify it, and it's hard to think of many circumstances where breaking the bond with the reader is better for her than maintaining the bond. The one circumstance I know that uses POV violations to good effect has to do with comic relief -- where Character A is thinking along the lines of "this is such a great idea" and Character B is simultaneously thinking "what a bad idea." Think about it, though -- do you think the technique that works for comic relief (largely b/c it's distant from either character's deep emotions and is, in essence, making fun of their emotions, taking on the characteristics of distant, omniscient POV) is likely to work well for an intimate scene?

One other thing to consider: is it at all possible you're switching POV b/c of some problem with the scene? The two things I see most often, where someone thinks she needs to switch POV in the middle of a scene are either: a) the scene has gotten to a point where the POV character's emotions are too strong for the writer to handle, and the WRITER needs some distance from those emotions, and switching POV gives that distance, but it's cheating both the writer and the reader if the writer doesn't force herself to confront the emotions to their logical conclusion at the end of the scene; or b) the scene doesn't have enough meat to it, and the writer has run out of stuff to say in the first POV and seeks to flesh it out (no pun intended for an intimate scene) by getting a different take on what's going on. In the latter case, checking for the basic components of a scene -- two characters, with opposing goals, in a struggle that matters to them -- will straighten out the problem, enabling the author to keep the scene all in the POV of the character whose goal is pushing the scene forward.

Yes, yes, I know. People headhop all the time. Doesn't mean the story wouldn't have been better if they'd stayed true to POV. Doesn't mean you can carry it off. Doesn't mean you should "settle" for something that's not as good for the reader as you can make it. You're better than that.

JD

jodiodi
02-10-2007, 06:29 AM
The two things I see most often, where someone thinks she needs to switch POV in the middle of a scene are either: a) the scene has gotten to a point where the POV character's emotions are too strong for the writer to handle, and the WRITER needs some distance from those emotions, and switching POV gives that distance, but it's cheating both the writer and the reader if the writer doesn't force herself to confront the emotions to their logical conclusion at the end of the scene; or b) the scene doesn't have enough meat to it, and the writer has run out of stuff to say in the first POV and seeks to flesh it out (no pun intended for an intimate scene) by getting a different take on what's going on.

I've seen (a) that you mentioned, written of before on the board. What does it mean? I've never written anything I couldn't 'handle'. It seems an oxymoron to me. I'm not feeling the emotions of the characters; the characters are telling me, showing me. Their emotions and such are their own, I just document them. I guess I just can't fathom what it means that a writer is too affected by their character's emotions. (Then again, maybe I'm just stupid and shallow, a distinct possibility.}

Thanks for the help. I'm working on making certain my PoV's suit the story. I have to finish it within the next week and a half.

scarletpeaches
02-10-2007, 06:37 AM
To use a personal example of writers being too close to their characters' emotions:

For me, rape would be extremely difficult to write about. I'd be reluctant to do so. But the only way to make the reader feel the terror of the character would be to force myself to face up to it, to write about it, rather than jumping into another character's head or using wishy-washy terms, or telling rather than showing.

Sometimes if the writer is dealing with an uncomfortable subject they can pull back. Sometimes it can be that they've never experienced certain events themselves and don't know HOW to write it. Sometimes the writer can be scared.

If the writer is reluctant to write a particular scene in a particular way, it's logical to imagine the reader being similarly reluctant to bother reading it.

Susan Gable
02-10-2007, 07:49 PM
Head-hopping, no. Controlled, careful, well-written POV shift inside the scene, yes. I do it. (And POV purists can throw things at me, and think I'm wrong for doing so. That's fine. As long as my editor is cool with it, I'm happy.)

I've even been known to start, say, in the heroine's POV, shift to the hero's POV for a while, then shift back to the heroine's POV in a love scene. That's not head-hopping. Head-hopping, bad. <G>

Just do the shift well. Immediately ground the reader in the other character's head, making the transition clear.

Susan G.

scarletpeaches
02-10-2007, 07:53 PM
I don't get it. If one changes POV mid-scene and goes into another character's head, that's head hopping. It's all very well to say it's done well, but head hopping is still head hopping, even by the different name of 'POV change'.

I've read thousands of books in my time (no, really) and I've never read a mid-scene POV change that didn't read like a head jump. 'Cause that's what it is. Changing viewpoint.

JanDarby
02-10-2007, 08:02 PM
Yep, Scarletpeaches pretty much explained what I meant. Some authors DO experience what their character is experiencing, and some authors (me included) don't handle emotion well in our own lives (it's all that lawyerly training that makes me twitch when emotion comes into the equation, and I have to struggle to get past that), so if we're experiencing the character's emotion, and it's getting intense, we'll back away from it, look for excuses to end the scene (that's my personal pitfall) or to find a different POV that's not so intense. I'm not saying you do that, but it is something to consider, just in case, b/c I've heard enough writers admit to having trouble when the emotions get really intense, so it is a real risk.

One of the best examples of the effect of backing off like that, but it's a bit obscure and you'd need to be as obsessive as I am to really get it perhaps, is in the transition from Aaron Sorkin as the writer of West Wing to whoever wrote the later episodes. When Sorkin was writing it, you'd have a scene with two characters, and the first would say something, and the second would disagree, and the first would say something stronger, and the second would disagree more strongly, and the first would go into a long rant, and the second would either acquiesce or go into his own rant. When the new writers were doing a scene, the first would say something and the second would disagree, end of scene. There was no escalation of the tension. I don't know if it really was the cause, but it came across as if they couldn't handle the real emotion in the scene, and were only willing to take the first step, not carry it out to its logical (well, logically emotional) and intense conclusion. As a result the scenes were quite flat, compared to Sorkin's.

JD

ChaosTitan
02-10-2007, 08:19 PM
I've seen (a) that you mentioned, written of before on the board. What does it mean? I've never written anything I couldn't 'handle'. It seems an oxymoron to me. I'm not feeling the emotions of the characters; the characters are telling me, showing me. Their emotions and such are their own, I just document them. I guess I just can't fathom what it means that a writer is too affected by their character's emotions.

I think the "handling of emotions" goes back to each writer's individual process. I don't think of myself as a documentarian, following my characters around and recording the things they tell me. Rather, I see myself as a participant in their lives. I write in tight third-person limited and occasionally first-person. I'm not simply writing what the characters are doing, I am in their heads, experiencing things as they experience them.

Maybe it's me, but I can't imagine having an emotional distance when I'm trying to write about grief or rage or complete joy. If I am too distant, I am doing the character a disservice and the emotion may ring false to the reader. Not to say I am an emotional wreck while writing, but there are times when I have been affected by what my characters are feeling. I have felt uncomfortable writing certain scenes from certain POV's because of the challenge of the emotions. But I knew that the story would be best served by that POV, so I wrote it.

It was difficult, I hated myself for what I was doing to the Main Character, but in the end, it was exactly what the story needed.

ChaosTitan
02-10-2007, 08:22 PM
As a result the scenes were quite flat, compared to Sorkin's.


That's because no one can write rapier-sharp debate like Sorkin. ;)

JanDarby
02-10-2007, 09:45 PM
That's because no one can write rapier-sharp debate like Sorkin.

Well, yeah. He's brilliant. I'm a huge fan, and writers can learn a lot from his dialogue, both things to do and things to avoid (his tendency to make all the characters sound alike).

But it also had to do with the later writers wimping out once they reached a certain point, and they just kinda' trailed off, instead of really pushing the issue.

JD

ChaosTitan
02-10-2007, 10:04 PM
But it also had to do with the later writers wimping out once they reached a certain point, and they just kinda' trailed off, instead of really pushing the issue.

JD

At the risk of hijacking this thread....

I agree. I am an avid West Wing fan, and you just can't top the first two seasons for quality. John Wells, as a producer, tends to play it a bit safe when it comes to hot button topics. I never forgave him for how they resolved the "Zoe kidnapping" plot.

Susan Gable
02-10-2007, 10:17 PM
I don't get it. If one changes POV mid-scene and goes into another character's head, that's head hopping. It's all very well to say it's done well, but head hopping is still head hopping, even by the different name of 'POV change'.

No, head hopping is when you switch back and forth like a ping-pong ball. Hence "hopping." It implies more than once.

And this disagreement over what a term means exactly just goes to further point out the subjectiveness of writing. :)

Susan G.

Sage
02-10-2007, 10:19 PM
Just say no to headhopping.

As Scarletpeaches said, you really, really don't need to be in some person's head to show what that person is thinking and feeling, and every time you change POV, you break the reader's bond with the character.

[Snipped for length]

Jan, I have to say that that post was the most comprehensive explanation of why and how to avoid headhopping I've ever read. :Thumbs:

AnneMarble
02-10-2007, 10:38 PM
I don't get it. If one changes POV mid-scene and goes into another character's head, that's head hopping. It's all very well to say it's done well, but head hopping is still head hopping, even by the different name of 'POV change'.

I've read thousands of books in my time (no, really) and I've never read a mid-scene POV change that didn't read like a head jump. 'Cause that's what it is. Changing viewpoint.
I used to think that until I reread a fantasy novel by Sean Russell. Right near the end of scene, the POV goes from the mage Eldritch to his assistant, Walky. And I had never noticed the first time because it went so smoothly. It does help that the POV stayed with Walky for the rest of the scene.

I'm strict about POV changes, but I don't see anything wrong with switching in the middle of the scene if you can do it well and keep it to that one switch. (I'm not going to do it myself, but I'm strict and old-fashioned. ;))

On a completely unrelated note, I do think some writers become so attuned to POV switches that they point at things that aren't really POV switches and shout "POV switch!!!" Sort of like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatches pointing at the good guys. I think some of them have attended workshops or read writing books (ahem, Barry Longyear, ahem) where they were told such-and-such was a POV switch, and they believed it. Even though most authors would look at that so-called POV switch and say "Wha?"

For example, in a story I had up for critique, where the POV character was Trebor, I had a sentence that went ... "If Malby thought he could get away with it, he'd cut Trebor's throat with that very sword." And a critiquer called that a "Major POV switch." But while I'll admit that wasn't very well phrased, it was from Trebor's thoughts, not Malby's! Trebor realized that if Malby thought he could get away with it, he'd kill Trebor.

There was another point in the story that he thought was a POV switch. Malby smirked and caressed the jeweled hilt of his sword, as if reminding his master who had the true power here. To think he had been so worried about that sword taking his life. The disease was going to kill him before long. Malby would get all the treasures, without so much as dirtying his blade.

Again, not the best wording. But I thought it was clear that it was Trebor thinking all this. Sigh. I know, if it's not clear to the critiquer, then you probably wrote it wrong. But ... POV switch?!

But that's nothing. In a workshop, I put up the first chapter of my fantasy noel for critique. I was told (by the guy running the session) that in a scene from the POV of Talia, the sentence "Near a long table in the center of the room, a gaunt middle-aged man struggled with a crate of vegetables, trying to drag it across the earthen floor" was a POV switch. Apparently to be true to Talia's POV, I had to say "a gaunt middle-aged man was struggling..."

:roll:

Argh! :) And I thought I was anal about POV. ;)

Sage
02-10-2007, 10:43 PM
No, head hopping is when you switch back and forth like a ping-pong ball. Hence "hopping." It implies more than once.

And this disagreement over what a term means exactly just goes to further point out the subjectiveness of writing. :)

Susan G.
Headhopping does imply that it goes back & forth rapidly. I wouldn't call an occasional slip into another character's mind in omni POV headhopping. However, I would still find it distracting (as I did when I recently reread some novels I read when I was younger, & every once in a long while, the omni POV would slip from one character's head to another's midscene for just a paragraph or so before returning to the original). Of course, then you have to wonder where the "rapidly" draws the line. Every line, every paragraph, switching more than one time in a scene or chapter? I know jodiodi was told by an agent that switching POV was okay if it was a new paragraph . But if you have a paragraph that is a line of dialogue w/ a little narrative in one POV, then switch to the other character's dialogue w/ a little narrative in their POV, then switch back, it's still a lot of back & forth, & i would define it as headhopping.

In omni, I can understand using the all-knowing POV to show (or at least tell) a collective group's feelings on something. And definitely, omni is the way to go if you want to show what's going on when the characters aren't subject to observing that which you are trying to show. Limited is limiting in that way ;) (although, in 3rd limited you do have the option to change the POV at a scene or chapter break to someone's POV who does know what's going on). I can even understand having an occasional change from what's going on in one person's head to another's. However, every time you do, it will probably pull the reader out of the story, especially if you've been in that first POV for a while. Also, each time you change, you have idicate the change somehow, & that often leads to filtering (he observed/knew/felt/noticed/believed, etc.). And as Jan said, it often leads to telling instead of showing.

Sage
02-10-2007, 10:59 PM
Anne, I'd say that the way it's phrased the first example you gave actually is a POV change. You might have meant for it to be Trebor's guess of Malby's thoughts, but the problem comes from "If Malby thought he could get away with it...." This suggests that you are actually telling us Malby's feelings, not Trebor's estimation of them. The 2nd example confused me (because of the lack of context, I think), & you're right about the third. That guy didn't know what he was talking about. I suspect he meant that technically the POV character couldn't know that the guy was truly struggling, but there really was no reason to assume that the POV character can't figure out someone is struggling (it is telling, but sometimes you don't need to show everything), & certainly, his "fix" was way off.

It is really easy to slip out of POV (or at least seem to) without noticing it. Your first example is a good one for that. I don't think most readers would notice that slip, though, assuming the rest was all in Trebor's POV, they'd probably think that line was from his too.

AnneMarble
02-10-2007, 11:40 PM
Anne, I'd say that the way it's phrased the first example you gave actually is a POV change. You might have meant for it to be Trebor's guess of Malby's thoughts, but the problem comes from "If Malby thought he could get away with it...." This suggests that you are actually telling us Malby's feelings, not Trebor's estimation of them.
Yeah, I probably should have reworded that sentence. But I didn't think the rewording suggested by the critiquer helped because he made it ... meh. Although looking back at that story, my overall response is ... meh. ;)


The 2nd example confused me (because of the lack of context, I think), & you're right about the third. That guy didn't know what he was talking about. I suspect he meant that technically the POV character couldn't know that the guy was truly struggling, but there really was no reason to assume that the POV character can't figure out someone is struggling (it is telling, but sometimes you don't need to show everything), & certainly, his "fix" was way off.
Especially as his "fix" cut down on the direct action. (I was going to say he made it passive, but no, he just added a "was," and I know that's not the same thing. :D Still dull, thought.) I guess he would have accepted something like "...a middle-aged gaunt man grunted as he tried to pick up a crate..." But sometimes you have to tell rather than show. My heroine used to be a detective, so she could tell the man was struggling. ;)


It is really easy to slip out of POV (or at least seem to) without noticing it. Your first example is a good one for that. I don't think most readers would notice that slip, though, assuming the rest was all in Trebor's POV, they'd probably think that line was from his too.
Yup, it was all in his POV. Well not counting that one line, which I would have changed anyway. :D

One subtle POV whoopsie another critiquer noticed (in a different story) was when I referred to the POV character as "the female fighter." Kind of like Erle Stanley Gardner referring to Perry Mason as "the burly lawyer" (or whatever term he used) all the time. :D Of course, my character thought of herself as Zara, not the "female fighter." Heh heh, whoops.

scarletpeaches
02-10-2007, 11:55 PM
Even if you go into another character's POV once, it's still head-hopping. You can't be inside more than one person's head at a time within one scene, and it yanks the reader out of the suspended disbelief state. They're just getting to know one person and the fact you withdraw and jump into someone else's head reminds them that they're reading a story and makes it less realistic.

I don't care if it's only done once, or allegedly done skilfully, it jumps out from the page at me and I lose respect for the writer.

CheshireCat
02-11-2007, 01:05 AM
I can't disagree strongly enough, CC. I read romances and I certainly do NOT expect to be told what each character is thinking and feeling, even in a love scene. Head hopping is not 'allowed' just so the reader can be told what's going on in everyone's head - the scene should be written in such a way that the reader can work out for themselves what characters are thinking.

Besides, laying it all on a plate takes away the fun of reading. It's often what we are NOT told that makes a scene interesting. After all, we don't know what people are thinking in real life, do we? All we have to go on are their words and actions.

Swapping heads in the middle of a scene is messy, messy, messy, whatever the genre and romance readers certainly don't deserve to be patronised. They're more intelligent than they're often given credit for.

There's no need to head-jump. Ever. The writer just needs to choose his POV wisely. A hard decision? Maybe. But no-one ever said writing a book was easy.

We'll have to agree to disagree. I've written (and published) quite a few romances, and never once was chastised by a reader for head-hopping -- which I have always done, no matter the genre.

Tastes in this probably depend on your history as a reader. I read the early, early romances (pre-romance boom, back in the 70s), and absolutely despised the heroine-only POV, particularly since the trend then was for Alpha heroes, usually with a dark and tortured past, and without his POV it was quite difficult to forgive him his (usually) cruel treatment of the heroine.

Of course, by the end -- usually right at the end -- you learned the hero's story, and the heroine forgave him.

Not me. I stayed pissed. Because he never explained himself out loud, and I never knew what he was thinking -- and I defy any reader to glean thoughts and emotions from the "stone facade" that was often his face.

So. :Shrug: Totally a matter of taste and preference.

But please don't insist to aspiring writers that multiple POVs are inherently bad. They are not.

As I've said on other topics, as writers we have a toolbox, and each writer should feel free to practice using all the tools and select those that work best for your individual story.

There's no right or wrong.

CheshireCat
02-11-2007, 01:10 AM
Head-hopping, no. Controlled, careful, well-written POV shift inside the scene, yes. I do it. (And POV purists can throw things at me, and think I'm wrong for doing so. That's fine. As long as my editor is cool with it, I'm happy.)

I've even been known to start, say, in the heroine's POV, shift to the hero's POV for a while, then shift back to the heroine's POV in a love scene. That's not head-hopping. Head-hopping, bad. <G>

Just do the shift well. Immediately ground the reader in the other character's head, making the transition clear.

Susan G.

You put it much better than I did.

Maybe if we call it "POV shifts" rather than "head-hopping" we won't get hit with rotten fruit. :)

scarletpeaches
02-11-2007, 01:22 AM
...I defy any reader to glean thoughts and emotions from the "stone facade" that was often his face...

Actions speak louder than words. Describe his actions and the reader will get it.

CheshireCat
02-11-2007, 01:36 AM
Even if you go into another character's POV once, it's still head-hopping. You can't be inside more than one person's head at a time within one scene, and it yanks the reader out of the suspended disbelief state. They're just getting to know one person and the fact you withdraw and jump into someone else's head reminds them that they're reading a story and makes it less realistic.

I don't care if it's only done once, or allegedly done skilfully, it jumps out from the page at me and I lose respect for the writer.

All right. This is your view and your opinion, and you're entitled to it. But please don't use phrases like "you can't" and other absolutes when discussing this stuff with other writers.

Honestly, I promise you all, the only absolute in writing is that there are no absolutes.

If you prefer to remain in one POV throughout a scene or a book or all your books, great, terrific. If you prefer as a reader not to read authors who shift POV, again, terrific, your option.

I once did a book in which the POV was fixed on the protagonist throughout -- because it needed to be. Because I wanted that character isolated, and didn't want the reader to know what other characters were thinking or feeling. It worked.

For that story.

The story before that, I probably had about six POV characters, two major, two secondary, and two minor. Again, done for a specific reason.

Do I head-hop (or shift POV) within a scene? Not often, but sometimes. When I feel it's necessary. When I don't want the reader to be at all uncertain of a character's thoughts or feelings (which really, Scarlet, quite a few readers CAN be, and I've the mail to prove it!) because those thoughts and feelings are important to the plot, or the development of the character, or whatever.

POV is a tool. Learn to use it. Experiment with it. Figure out what works for you, for your story, for your style.

Nobody else can tell you or teach you how to have a strong voice as a writer. You develop that with every choice you make, every tool you use or don't use, every experiment, be it successful or not.

Just don't set your mind against a particular tool because another writer (I don't care who he or she is) tells you it's wrong. No tool is wrong. It can be incorrectly used, certainly, but that doesn't make the tool wrong, it just means the craftsman needs more practice.

Or the craftsman needs to choose a different tool. ;)

CheshireCat
02-11-2007, 01:49 AM
Actions speak louder than words. Describe his actions and the reader will get it.

Well, no. Not always. Particularly if the actions contradict the character's actual thoughts and emotions -- which, in real life, they certainly do, and in fiction even more so.

The hero, his face frozen, says something seemingly cruel to the heroine and then leaves without a word of explanation. Does he have a motive for saying this, something that might awaken a flicker of sympathy in the mind of the reader (because, personally, I'm despising the SOB after this) while the heroine deals with her baffled hurt?

Romance has evolved, thank goodness, and there are fewer conflicts and plot "twists" based on simple misunderstandings, but the fact remains that often in fiction, you as the writer don't want one character to understand -- through expressions or actions -- the motivations of another character. So if you make it clear to the reader through actions and words what's driving that character, then your POV character is going to seem pretty dumb not to get it too.

Conversely, if you want to make sure the reader understands something about a character in a scene, but you don't want the other character or characters to "get it," then what do you do?

The tool you have in that case, in both cases, is POV.

It's just a tool. If you don't like it, shove it into the bottom of your writer's toolbox and go on. But don't take it away from another writer, who might prefer to use it and learn to use it well.

scarletpeaches
02-11-2007, 02:05 AM
...So if you make it clear to the reader through actions and words what's driving that character, then your POV character is going to seem pretty dumb not to get it too...

Not necessarily, if we the readers are privy to information the POV character doesn't have.

But then again, if we separate 'reader' from 'POV character' too much, there's a danger of again, losing the suspension of disbelief, of stopping the reader getting inside their head.

CheshireCat
02-11-2007, 02:32 AM
Not necessarily, if we the readers are privy to information the POV character doesn't have.

But then again, if we separate 'reader' from 'POV character' too much, there's a danger of again, losing the suspension of disbelief, of stopping the reader getting inside their head.

So many decisions to make, aren't there? So many choices. Choose to do one thing, and you generally affect another. So it's a question of balance. What's most important to you? What is it you're trying to accomplish with a scene, a bit of dialogue, an action?

If I'm writing in third-person, with POV limited to one or two characters primarily, then there's only so much info I can give the reader, and that info has to come through dialogue, action, or POV narration.

My own feeling is that fictional characters, just like people in real life, very often say and do things contrary to their true emotions and motives, so the only way to show that -- assuming I want the reader to understand -- is POV. Then again, I can also deliberately use contradictory or misleading dialogue and actions to further my story by not using POV to clue the reader in on what's really going on with a character.

Choices. We all make them.

And then have to live with them. :)

jodiodi
02-11-2007, 07:09 AM
I certainly appreciate everyone's advice and the information. Thank you for your responses.

gwendy85
02-12-2007, 09:25 AM
I really enjoyed this thread. It has given me a lot of insights, as I have experienced this very same problem before.

It used to be that I switch POVs every paragraph (so goes head-hopping, and with 5-6 characters no less!) Thank God my betas pointed it out. I'm now writing omniscient, but usually stick to one POV, mostly the MC's...note the word USUALLY. There are still some scenes in which you'll have to go through (as posted) your writer's toolbox and pick up on POV switch, especially if the character's thought process is pivotal to how she/he will change in the story.

I've also done love scenes, though only the first was done with switching, as I believe it is very important for the reader to know what each character was feeling and how they will change after the moments they spent in each other's arms. Just my 2 cents:box:Don't have to take it if you don't want to. Everyone has their own way of doing things. :D