Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm coming out!

Waaayy back when I started reading fantasy and sci fi, I’d often wonder “But what are these other characters thinking?” I don’t care that in real life, we can’t read other people’s minds. A novel is fiction, a creation, an artifice. We can present the story in a number of different ways.

To an extent, I think writing strictly in one point of view is unnatural. For a writer who knows her or his characters inside and out, you “head hop” without realizing it because that’s how you understand all the relationships.

Since nobody else thinks “head hopping” is okay, and I hope to be published someday, I’ve retrained myself to write each scene from one POV. When critting, I can spot when somebody else “head hops”.

Secretly, I don’t find it as confusing as other writers and readers seem to. Sure, if there are five or twelve characters in a scene, it could get confusing. I can’t help thinking that experienced writers may be able to pull that off too. But if it’s infrequent, why is that inherently confusing? If I say “Fred thought”, when my POV character is Alice, isn’t it that clear? If I use a beat with Fred’s name then follow it with his thought, isn’t that POV shift clear? For example:

Alice eased her long frame onto the sofa. On her bare arms, the velvet was softer than a baby’s bottom. Fred seemed to be eyeing her suspiciously. He’d hit the roof when he heard her idea, but eventually, he’d agree. Some extra cleavage and you’ll forget all about any silly objections.

“You know, Fred, my offshore account has slipped down to half a million. I happen to know the museum is shipping a Cezanne in three weeks for a temporary exhibit in Australia, and that’s plenty of opportunities for it to get lost. Get my drift?”

Fred jumped to his feet. Alice is looney tunes if she thinks I’ll agree to that. “I told you I’m out of that game.”

Okay, that was short, but I can hear the howling over the “head hopping”.

Let me be clear: I do not write that way. My WIP is in close third POV. I do switch between Neal’s and Sandy’s POVs, but in every instance, I use a scene break or a new chapter. I get that nobody else likes “head hopping”.

Maybe, though, it’s just that we’re trained to think that. Maybe our own POV is so set in one angle that anything else seems wrong. Maybe a few brave souls will start an underground movement of “multiple POV” that gets a cult following, and after a decade or two, finds its place alongside the “accepted” methods.

Or, maybe, it’ll stay a quirky underground movement with fewer fans than the mainstream but with equal passion. I’d be okay with that too. I can see us all sitting around in clandestine writer’s groups and shuttered book clubs. When company comes, we feel compelled to hide the books that might betray our secret. Maybe we’ll develop a whole separate society, with special phrases.

“Say, Ethel, I wonder if you ever thought about doing multi. Once in a while.”

“Oh my God, you do that too? I knew there was a reason we got along so good. I haven’t done it much, and I’m not sure I’m doing it right.”

“Don’t fret. Multi is forgiving. We could maybe share some, if you’re okay with that. I’ve got a series in development. I’d be happy to give you some tips.”

“Well, I’d be embarrassed to let anybody see mine just yet. Man, you’re doing a series? That takes guts.”

“I get a lot of support. There’s more of us than you might realize.” Wink-wink.


  1. Blasphemy! Burn her!

    I'm telling the critters!

  2. LOL. Bring it on, I'm ready for ya!

  3. You critted a story for me on CC, so I did the internet stalker thing and found your blog. >.> And I love it! This post in particular... I get a little crazy when I read head hopping, but your argument about it rang true for me. Looking forward to reading more - and checking out your novel. I've got one about a 70s rock band, so this is verrrry interesting to me.

  4. Hi Rachel! Welcome. I'm so pleased you like my ramblings.

    And wow, you get what I say about head hopping? I love ya!