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Friday, July 19, 2013

Point of View

This week I've been talking about the lessons a writer can learn from reading poorly written (or perhaps just poorly edited) books. The kinds of books you find for free on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

One issue that comes up time and again is head hopping. But I'm not an expert on this.

My novels are written in first person. My main character is the only point-of-view character. This is easy for me. It means that some information remains hidden as the main character doesn't know it, but I don't have to worry about whose head I'm in.

But what is the proper way to shift from one point-of-view character to another?

I thought it should only be done at chapters. Or, at least scene breaks. I've seen it done in the middle of scenes, though, and I don't know if that is the way to do it.

So, I'm asking. When is the best time to shift point-of-view? Is there a proper way to do it?


mshatch said...

That's tough, imo. I've seen multiple head hopping done within a chapter and I've seen only a single pov per chapter. I think the important thing is to establish the pov rules early on so your readers become accustomed to them.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I agree with Marcy. Head hopping rules need to be established early in the novel so a reader knows what to expect. There should always be some kind of "break" between heads, either an extra space, or a warning of some kind. I've read books that hopped between sections of text and even liked them, but I prefer the books that hop heads from chapter to chapter. It's less confusing and easier to read.

Also, despite the success of Game of Thrones, I think that limiting the pov head hopping to 4-5 characters in a book is a good idea. More than that generally gets confusing and out of hand.

Kelley Lynn said...

I think the most important thing is to make sure all the voices are distinctive. Then it doesn't matter when or how you jump because you'll know who's head you're in.

Liz said...

Thanks. So it doesn't have to be chapter to chapter. I do get mixed up when there's a change without some sort of text break.

farawayeyes said...

A few days late to this party, but I'm wondering about this. My WIP is written in first person with multiple POV (6). There are only three main characters, but the other three disclose information that I want the reader to have, but not necessarily the other characters.

This drives my 'writing group' nuts. They all claim that there should never be more than three. So, what do you think? If I have three extra with limited chapters (I use chapters as a way of introducing a new POV to give some needed information - is that cheap?