Seriously, I should have a tag that says “Deadline Brain.” Because you are getting a deadline brain post today. Not that I have time to post, but my mind is going so much lately that I can't just shut down at the end of the day. The brain is still in forward motion while the body wants to sleep. 🙂
(I'm currently working on my EIGHTH title for Harlequin Presents. I can hardly believe it.)
I was recently skimming entries at the New Voices competition that Mills & Boon are currently running and one thing kept bugging me. A lot. And it wasn't with the entries so much as within the comments.
I'm going to tell you all straight and true right here today: the only time I've EVER seen the term ‘head-hopping' is when writers use it to describe POV shifting withing a scene. I've never heard an editor say this. I've never heard an editor complain about it, quite frankly, though I suppose there might be one or two out there who don't approve of it. Not that I've run into them yet.
The truth is that it's all about the story, gang! Not whether you jump between the hero and heroine's POV's within the same scene. Now, that said, I am pretty much a purist in my own writing. I think it gives me greater control. I think it's tighter and harder to convey everything that needs to be conveyed from one character's POV. But that is my opinion and what works for ME. (And I did shift once, in one book that is yet to be released, and I agonize over the choice STILL.)
Because, let's face it, Nora Roberts isn't having a problem with POV shifting. And she is by far not the only one who does this. Within my line, Harlequin Presents, there are many authors who shift within a scene, often multiple times. If it wasn't allowed, if it were a “rule” that should not be broken, would so many of them be published?
So please stop telling people not to shift POV within a scene! It doesn't matter to the editors. They want a fabulous story, not a technically perfect entry that follows all the rules but fails to come alive on the page. If you shift, know why you do it. And if you're a purist like me, know why you do that too.
And now I'm back to the WIP that will not end (though it better end today!)….. Good luck with the writing. And remember the number one rule of all: it's all about the story!
I agree. Though writers argue about this topic frequently, there really isn’t much discussion in any editor/agent interviews I’ve ever read. If the ground work is laid correctly, it really shouldn’t matter what style the writer uses, should it? As long as the book is readable and fun, why should it? My .02.
Wishing you lots of luck hitting your deadline today, Lynn. 😉
I think a lot of it happens by accident. And my editor will usually just say, maybe if you kept it to this pov…but it doesn’t happen often.
I really don’t care, as long as it doesn’t jolt me out of the story!
Donna, I agree. I think it probably does happen by accident, or when someone is starting out and isn’t constrained by ‘rules.’ For me, single POV per scene is about control. Switching to give the other character’s side, and then switching back again, etc, would feel like I wasn’t working hard enough to say what needed to be said. But that is ME, as I said before.
Interesting that your (our) editor has mentioned it. I guess that’s what I’m talking about when I say for me one POV per scene works: then there’s no wondering if the wrong character is experiencing the event. 🙂
But, again, my way is not the only way. Clearly, or I wouldn’t have gotten peeved on behalf of head hoppers everywhere, LOL! 🙂
I’m a purist myself, and headhopping drives me crazy in other people’s books, to the point that I just don’t read those stories because it’s so distracting to me that I can’t enjoy the book.
But that’s my pet peeve, not a rule. It’s only a rule if you want me to read your book. 🙂
However, I do have a caveat for people who choose to switch POVs within a scene: POV is important and should be meaningful, not just convenient. So don’t shift just because it’s easier. Shift because that’s the person whose head we absolutely need to be in at the moment.
I can’t do it myself, Paula, but reading it doesn’t bother me. It used to, but then it stopped somewhere along the way. 🙂
I totally agree with you that POV is important and should be meaningful. Like I said, KNOW why you’re doing what you’re doing. POV is an amazing tool – and for me, switching too often distances the reader from the characters’ emotions. I’ve read books where I felt like if the writer had only stayed in that character’s head a bit longer, it would have been so much more powerful.
But, again, that’s me. And you, apparently, LOL! 🙂
Lynn, as we’re fond of saying in my crit group AITE (all in the execution). I’m a ‘head hopper’ but I feel as long as it’s clear whose POV we’re in, it’s okay. The only real POV things to pick on are the hero admiring his own bicep, or the heroine observing her own facial expression or something.
As for the comments, some of them have made me cringe. Voice and story. The End. If that’s there, you can fix other little issues.
Very true, Maisey, about the character admiring his or her own hair, etc! Not good, no matter whether you’re a purist or not!
Its something as a novice writer I do worry about. Thank you for allowing me to set that thought aside and focus on the story.
YAY!!! I love mid-scene pov shifts. They need to be clear as a freshly squeegeed window pane, but when they work – boy do they work! Thank YOU So Much for saying out loud what I’ve believed all along. And — the people who claim that readers want just one POV at all times, are not giving our readers nearly enough credit.
Hi, Deni — and you’re welcome! I think some of the ‘rules’ of writing make perfect sense (no backstory dumps in the first chapter, for example), but the POV rule, as much as I am a purist in my own writing, is more like a guideline IMO.
If you’re switching, and you know why, more power to you. It’s all about knowing which character has the most to lose or gain, etc.
I really believe that readers don’t care. I’ve never yet run across any pure reader, not writer, who gave a flip. Now, that doesn’t mean a reader can’t feel disconnected to a story somehow and not know why. That might be a POV issue — or it might not.
When POV switching doesn’t work for me, it’s always because I feel disconnected from the characters. But no writer should be told not to do it. They should be told to know WHY they do what they do — and then do it. Story comes first. Always. 🙂
Great article! The problems I’ve seen with head-hopping are when an author doesn’t know how to do it seamlessly. If it’s done right, it shouldn’t be an issue. This is probably another one of those times when you have to learn the rules well before you’re allowed to break them. 🙂
Oh, and this post reminds me – my critique partner was going to enter this contest. I’ll have to see if her entry is up yet.
Woo Hoo! My CP’s entry is up: http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/110-Love-Of-A-Lifetime
I do agree with this Lynn, i do have a problem though when the POV switches say five or six times. That to me is too much and the author hasn’t really thought about it. Unless they have broken up the scenes of course.
But thanks for your points!
I agree about the head hopping, but I do try to avoid it within a scene. It is totally about the story, but even then it is all about it being the right story for the right editor and the right line. I think head hopping is disconcerting for me now as a reader because I’ve beaten it out of my writing.
Another thing that is important is that the characters jump off the page. If they are boring or flat, then pure writing won’t save the story at all.
And now back to the people in my head 🙂