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Don't lose your head, even when you're (giving?) head-hopping

Updated: Jan 1, 2019

I expressed to my adviser that I had immense difficulty maintaining one type of Point of View, and felt like less of a writer because of the struggle. All my characters fascinate me, and as a result, I hold an obligation to explore their feelings in a particular situation. Sometimes, I do this too quickly.


She informed me that POV was, in fact, a confusing matter for most writers, and deploying POV was even more complex (in the technical sense).


I’ll begin by saying this: Before you write your novel, decide what kind of POV you want. My journey could have been so much easier if I knew whether Shakespeare’s Promenade was third person omniscient, or third person limited.


When writing third person, the most common mistake (because I make it all the time), is head hopping. Sounds promiscuous, but it’s just the opposite. The writer switches point of view of the characters too quickly, which results in destroying any possible intimacy with the scene’s main character.


Similar to dating multiple awesome people at the same time. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, but you never exactly uphold pure, 100%, fairy-tale intimacy with one person, because you’ve spread your heart out. You may be asking: Aahoo, do you actually believe in the existence of fairy-tale intimacy in our tinder cultured society? My answer is MAYBE I DO, and you certainly won’t reach it through head-hopping.


However, I am a firm believer in breaking the rules of writing. And head-hopping, if done correctly (in writing and real life), can give your reader a powerful emotional experience through swiftly putting them in the perspective of one character at a time. But if you’re going to head-hop, establish your point of view early on, most likely on the first page of your novel.

So if you’re going to be a head-hopper, tell ‘em early on so they won’t get their hopes up [this was not a direct attack on anyone].


Famous Head-Hopper: Earnest Hemingway

Best lyric: “But she never lost her head, even when she was giving head.” – Lou Reed


Useful POV links:

This one is a general overview, and reviews the problem of “head hopping towards the end: https://thewritepractice.com/point-of-view-guide/

This one is a closer look at how to do third person omniscient: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/third-person-omniscient-point-of-view-1277125

A discussion to why the various types of third person narration are easy to confuse:

https://liminalpages.com/whats-difference-omniscient-third-person-narration/

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