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Old 10-10-2012, 07:35 AM   #1
Eli Hinze
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Question Is this head hopping?

I only recently heard about "head hopping", which made me wonder about a certain point of view I want to write from. In an upcoming project, I hope to write in third person limited/intimate, but have the POV occasionally shift to a different character when a new scene starts up. Is this a bad thing?

A perfect example I can think of is Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments. Regardless of what some may think of the writing, I really like the POV. You'll be in one character's head for one scene, then in another's the next. (Generally you're always in the main character's head, but still, it jumps around from time to time. I should also say for anyone that hasn't read these books that it's always very clear when she's shifting POVs.)

I'm hoping to write in a similar point of view for my next book, but my concern is that it might be considered head-hopping.

Sticking with the example, does that sound at all like head hopping? Not at bit? Somewhat?

I appreciate any and all feedback!
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:54 AM   #2
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That's not head hopping. Head hopping is when you're in one person's POV and start writing from someone else's POV in the same scene. So if your MC is Mike and you're writing from his point of view while he's on a date with Carla and all of a sudden you write, Carla thinks Mike looks stupid. That's head hopping.

You can change your POV character when you change scenes. People do it all the time.
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:56 AM   #3
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Sticking with the example, does that sound at all like head hopping? Not at bit? Somewhat?
No. Headhopping is when the POV shifts abruptly within a scene, usually several times. One sentence you'll be in Jane's POV and the next you'll be in Ralph's, then back to Jane again in the next paragraph, and maybe Susan after that. And I even read one piece where the dog got a POV.
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Old 10-10-2012, 08:13 AM   #4
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Aah, okay. I get it now. : )

Thanks for the clarification!
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Old 10-10-2012, 10:58 AM   #5
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This:

Quote:
He kissed her, and enjoyed the quickening of her breath. She felt like her legs were going to collapse under her.

"How will I tell her I'm leaving her?" he thought.

"He's mine forever," she said to herself.
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Old 10-10-2012, 11:17 AM   #6
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Thanks for this thread. I'll threadjack it for a second if I may: Headhopping is POV, not necessarily when the narrator reveals the interior thoughts of more than one character, right?

For example, I have a scene where two guys are putting the moves on two women in a club. The narration (3rd person) of most of the scene reveals one character's internal environment ("Joe figured he had nothing to lose") and then later the internal environment of the other character is revealed ("Vance wanted to pump his fists in the air and dance a jig").

Is my example more of an omniscient narrator or is this head hopping? Such shifts are common in my MS, although each scene is mostly inside one character.
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Old 10-10-2012, 12:59 PM   #7
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Head-hopping has nothing to do with omniscient POV. The only POV in omniscient POV is that of the omniscient all-knowing narrator. He cannot head-hop and has no need to go into anyone's head to find out what is there because he already knows what's in everybody's head.

Head-hopping is jumping without warning from one POV to another -i.e., hopping about. That is not the same thing as an omniscient narrator focussing in and out on characters from his lofty all-knowing omniscient perch.
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:40 PM   #8
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So it's impossible to head hop in omniscient? So far I've only written in 1st person (where head hopping is an obvious no-no) and 3rd person where the POV is that of the MC (or the scene's MC)--is that 3rd limited? 3rd close?

Sorry if this seems like such a basic question, but I don't know the terms for some of this.

ETA: Wikipedia to the rescue! But feel free to share your thoughts anyway.
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Old 10-10-2012, 08:16 PM   #9
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.
Quote:
=Chris P;7664664]So it's impossible to head hop in omniscient? So far I've only written in 1st person (where head hopping is an obvious no-no) and 3rd person where the POV is that of the MC (or the scene's MC)--is that 3rd limited? 3rd close?


Third person limited simply means you are
'limited' to the POV of one character at any given time.

How 'close' the author wants to get to that POV character is up to the individual author to decide and shows in the execution. Put simply, the less obvious the narrator's (meaning the author) presence and the more the author slides into invisibilty the closer the sense of participation by the reader.

Usually, if there's more than one POV character the switch to another POV character is signalled by a scene change or a line-break or a new Chapter.

Re the omniscient side. Head-hopping is jumping from POV to POV without any warning so if you only have one POV - as in that of an omniscient narrator - you cannot head-hop. You can become as 'close' or as 'distant' as you choose by focussing in or out on different characters, and you may make the reader dizzy if you constantly and rapidly focus in and out like an angry bee, but head-hopping isn't applicable.

Any help?

Sorry if this seems like such a basic question, but I don't know the terms for some of this.

ETA: Wikipedia to the rescue! But feel free to share your thoughts anyway.
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Old 10-10-2012, 10:16 PM   #10
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So it's impossible to head hop in omniscient?
Yup.

Omniscient knows everything, sees everything and the POV never changes. So you can't hop anything. That's why it's easy to write and hard to get correct.

First person is easy to write because you can't know anything but what the protagonist knows. Third limited is similar, but you can know what two characters know, just not in the same scene (or POV). This can be easy to head-hop in, and hard to write well. But for many works it's the best option. When done well.

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Old 10-10-2012, 10:27 PM   #11
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If the third person omni narrator knows everything and it is telling me, within one scene, the thoughts of several characters, then isn't the result just as jarring or confusing as head-hopping?
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Old 10-10-2012, 10:44 PM   #12
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As mentioned above, it may be confusing or jarring or dizzy-making if the omniscient narrator randomly and at speed constantly switches focus in and out on different characters but that is not head-hopping.

Flow is all in the execution.

If reference to Omniscient POV or to an omniscient narrator is made without using that 'third person' tag I find it easier to follow what is meant.

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If the third person omni narrator knows everything and it is telling me, within one scene, the thoughts of several characters, then isn't the result just as jarring or confusing as head-hopping?
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Old 10-10-2012, 11:13 PM   #13
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If the third person omni narrator knows everything and it is telling me, within one scene, the thoughts of several characters, then isn't the result just as jarring or confusing as head-hopping?
It can be. It doesn't have to be. Depends on the writer here. And, jarring and confusing may be the feeling the author is going for.

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Old 10-11-2012, 12:10 AM   #14
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If the third person omni narrator knows everything and it is telling me, within one scene, the thoughts of several characters, then isn't the result just as jarring or confusing as head-hopping?
Yes.

Well-written omniscient doesn't do this.
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Old 10-11-2012, 02:07 AM   #15
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So it's impossible to head hop in omniscient? So far I've only written in 1st person (where head hopping is an obvious no-no) and 3rd person where the POV is that of the MC (or the scene's MC)--is that 3rd limited? 3rd close?
Well done omni doesn't head hop because it's only one POV, not multiple POVs. However, poorly done omni can head hop, especially in the writer doesn't understand that it is only one viewpoint.
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Old 10-11-2012, 02:08 AM   #16
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If the third person omni narrator knows everything and it is telling me, within one scene, the thoughts of several characters, then isn't the result just as jarring or confusing as head-hopping?
Not if the writer gets the transitions right. Chances are you've probably read an omni book and never noticed because the author did a good job with it.
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Old 10-11-2012, 05:26 AM   #17
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It's not always clear to me whether an author is writing in third person omni or subjective. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes not.

Before I tried to write my first novel and learn about writing (about two years ago), I was just a casual reader who read for story and plot. Since then, I've learned about POV and stuff like head hopping. Now I notice those issues. I remember reading Judith McNaught's "Paradise" and I was bothered when she switched between characters' thoughts within a scene. Don't know if she was doing omni or subjective. Anyway, I was distracted by it. I probably would've enjoyed the book more if I remained a casual reader.
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Old 10-11-2012, 05:35 AM   #18
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Nearly every romance novel is in third limited and has at least two POVs.

Just saying. It's awful common. And most don't head hop.
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Old 10-11-2012, 06:14 AM   #19
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Now I notice those issues. I remember reading Judith McNaught's "Paradise" and I was bothered when she switched between characters' thoughts within a scene. Don't know if she was doing omni or subjective. Anyway, I was distracted by it. I probably would've enjoyed the book more if I remained a casual reader.
There are published writers who head hop. Nora Roberts does. And McNaught.
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Old 10-11-2012, 10:33 AM   #20
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Great discussion, all. Stuff I'd never thought about, and something to look for in my writing. Although I might get paranoid now.

In one of my WIPs, I have three main characters, and the POV is limited to each one in scenes where that person is the only one of the three present. When two or all three are in the same scene, is it best to limit the POV to just one of the characters, or does it work (depending on execution, of course) to have a quasi-omniscient POV where the narrator reveals the thoughts of all of the main characters?
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Old 10-11-2012, 01:37 PM   #21
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Be careful not to get too paranoid on issues like this because
there is no black and white reply to questions like these -it's all in the execution and demands of the story.

Whether switching POV from character to character during any particular scene works or not (which I guess is your question) depends entirely upon the writer's experience and ability.

Whether or not it is necessary to make the switches or whether the switching serves any purpose or not is also entirely up to the individual writer to decide.

Keep in mind it is not necessary to switch POV from Character A's POV to character B's or C's POV in order to let the reader know how character B or C reacts to whatever it is.

Character B's or C's reactions and attitudes can be conveyed by their observable actions/reactions/dialogue/body language etc., as perceived by POV Character A.


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Great discussion, all. Stuff I'd never thought about, and something to look for in my writing. Although I might get paranoid now.

In one of my WIPs, I have three main characters, and the POV is limited to each one in scenes where that person is the only one of the three present. When two or all three are in the same scene, is it best to limit the POV to just one of the characters, or does it work (depending on execution, of course) to switch POVs? have a quasi-omniscient POV where the narrator reveals the thoughts of all of the main characters? (Say what you mean -)
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Old 10-11-2012, 02:36 PM   #22
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Thanks, Bufty. I'm still sorting through the terms (voice, POV, mode, etc), so I know what you mean without being able to describe it myself. Good thing I'm not trying to be a writer or anything, huh? I called the narrator quasi-omniscient because the thoughts of ALL the characters in the scene are not revealed, only those of the two or three MCs. It would be unreadable if EVERYONE's thoughts were narrated. Anyway, points noted and more tools added to my kit.
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Old 10-11-2012, 06:28 PM   #23
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In one of my WIPs, I have three main characters, and the POV is limited to each one in scenes where that person is the only one of the three present. When two or all three are in the same scene, is it best to limit the POV to just one of the characters, or does it work (depending on execution, of course) to have a quasi-omniscient POV where the narrator reveals the thoughts of all of the main characters?
Check out this thread
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:05 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Eli Hinze View Post
I only recently heard about "head hopping", which made me wonder about a certain point of view I want to write from. In an upcoming project, I hope to write in third person limited/intimate, but have the POV occasionally shift to a different character when a new scene starts up. Is this a bad thing?
No, that's how it's supposed to be done. If you only shift povs with scene or chapter breaks, and your pov is clearly established and defined within each scene, it's not head hopping. Head hopping is when you shift from one deep or intimate pov to another within a scene.


It's perfectly all right to have more than one pov character in a limited third person novel. In fact, it's very common.

Head hopping is not the same thing as omniscient either, though it's not uncommon for less experienced writers to head hop and say they're writing in omniscient.
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:08 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
it's not uncommon for less experienced writers to head hop and say they're writing in omniscient.
D'oh! Touche, Roxxsmom

Thanks for the link, LDJ.
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