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fnord33
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« on: July 26, 2010, 06:59:14 PM »

Is head hopping ever OK? I have a tendency to want to convey the whole picture rather than limiting the reader's perspective to one person's POV. I think that it's OK as long as it works, but it doesn't matter what I think. I'm working on a part of this story where it's necessary to convey what is going on in the head of a person and his pet at the same time. I think it's necessary anyway. It's a fairly sizable chapter that constantly jumps back and forth between the two perspectives. Rewriting this into one POV would be extensive and extremely difficult to pull off without losing a substantial portion of the subtext and catharsis of a major turning point in the book. The easiest thing would be to either leave it the way it is or add breaks between the two POVs. The problem is that a lot of the breaks would be for one paragraph and I think it would look sloppy. I hope to try it out on the crit group next month, but I'm not sure if this chapter is too long for that. It's almost 10,000 words.         

So, what do you think the chances are of pulling something like this off without irritating the reader?
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2010, 08:14:00 PM »

So, what do you think the chances are of pulling something like this off without irritating the reader?

That quite depends on the reader.  bleh

Some people can't stand head hopping; others are more willing to go with the flow--as long as it works, as you say.

You're going to lose the reader's connection with a single character by doing that; it will be more like watching a tennis game, back and forth, back and forth... The reader is more of an observer at that point, not really immersed in either character's POV.

That said, loads of very successful books have been written in this way. You need to handle the transitions very carefully and really look at just how much the reader needs to know versus how much you want to tell him or her.
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2010, 02:52:28 AM »

I agree. The biggest problem with it is you lose the reader's connection with the character they were seeing the story through, but... if the chapter comes at the end of a novel then the reader (IMO) usually has enough of a connection with both characters to carry them through, as long as they are clear about whose head they're in at every step. You would hope by this point the characters are sufficiently different from each other to make this obvious to the reader, rather than having to employ line breaks or other clunky signage that will stilt the flow of the narrative.

To echo what Pharo said, you have to make sure it's all necessary for the reader to know, and not just masturbatory for the author afro otherwise it'll ware thin for even the most avid reader.
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2010, 03:58:09 AM »

The tennis analogy is good and head-hopping to that extent is something to be avoided i.e. going back and forth constantly. Certainly it's acceptable to move between heads in a scene, although I must admit it's not something I personally enjoy in a story. That said, I don't know if there's also a fashion thing here that you might want to consider - I've been reading some older books recently and the multiple-perspectives-in-once-scene  thing happens a lot. In modern books (at least those I read) it doesn't happen so much. I may be totally wrong, of course. I only read a few books, after all.

The book I'm currently and thoroughly enjoying had the first hundred pages written in the first person from one of the three main character's viewpoints. When I hit the second section it changed to a different character (still first person - but different gender now as well!). I must admit it threw me a little and, especially late at night when I was tired, I'd pick up the book and take several paragraphs before I realised whose head I was in. I suspect the third and last section will be first person from the final main character's perspective. It's actually a neat way to tell a tale and I might have a go at it myself one day.

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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2010, 06:20:46 AM »

Romance novels do this all the time.  Within scenes and even from paragraph to paragraph.  If I'm immersed in the story, I don't notice.  But if I'm not completely immersed, I find it a little annoying.  The POV transitions need to be both clear and seamless.

The danger in doing the head-hopping is that you're kinda 'telling' the reader exactly how both POV characters are reacting to the situations.  You're not allowing the reader to feel engaged in the situation because you've already spelled out the impact of everything in a given scene.  Plus, it tends to get rid of all suspense, unless the head-hopping can be used (like in romance novels) to show misunderstanding between the characters.
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2010, 07:03:51 AM »

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Plus, it tends to get rid of all suspense,

This is a very good point. I think it was PD James who said you could never write a murder whodunnit from the perspective of the murderer and retain any suspense as the murderer would be thinking about this terrible deed constantly. And if the murderer wasn't thinking about the murder then the writer wasn't playing fair with the reader!

That said, Elizabeth George writes in her great book that she immediately took James's observation as a challenge and set out to do exactly what had been said couldn't be done...

Nevertheless, the risk of killing suspense is a very real issue when getting inside everyone's heads (and playing fair).

Derek
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2010, 07:50:24 AM »

I think it was PD James who said you could never write a murder whodunnit from the perspective of the murderer and retain any suspense as the murderer would be thinking about this terrible deed constantly. And if the murderer wasn't thinking about the murder then the writer wasn't playing fair with the reader!

Might I direct the Jury's attention to Christie's 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd'?
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2010, 03:57:46 PM »

Ah!  I've heard of that one!  grin

I have a habit of doing that omniscient thingy, as many of you will have noticed via the crit group anyway, and so POV changes are common (to me) in that style, but I don't do it (any more) in any other style (I don't think) as it feels weird.  I assume, fnord, it's for your Turnip novel?  I think you'd get away with it since there's a fair bit of it already, but like the others have said, it'd be like tennis (or ping pong!) if it's main character...the pet....MC...pet...MC..pet etc etc etc but I don't know about the separating them thing...obviously you *should* to make it more clear whose POV we're now in, but then *I* think it'd look scruffy with gaps all over the place.

Hmm, I don't think I've really added anything to this discussion at all haha

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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2010, 05:23:33 PM »

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Might I direct the Jury's attention to Christie's 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd'?

What does the jury think?

I've not read it myself, but am aware of the famous twist. Did Christie play fair with her readers?

Derek
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« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2010, 05:38:04 PM »

Not read that one.

Head hopping hadn't really featured on my radar until I subbed work in critters and other crit groups. Now the damn concept occupies my every read of anyone's story. I bet it doesn't matter too much to pure readers unless it is so bad that they can't engage with any of the characters.
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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2010, 04:15:41 AM »

I've read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I worked out whodunnit early on, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story. It's my fave Christie story.

Regarding head-hopping: I've read a novel where head-hopping seemed to occur in nearly every paragraph. It was irritating, but as it was a fast-paced thriller, I managed to ignore that enough to keep reading. If it had been a slower story, I might have given up.
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2010, 05:00:52 AM »

I"m with jingold on this. If you want to engage your reader's emotions, you need to maintain a consistent POV for each scene, so that you're seeing it through a given character's eyes. It's also a good discipline from a writer's perspective as it forces you to show instead of tell.

That said, if you read Jane Austen, she is all over the bloody shop. Hopeless.
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2010, 08:32:14 AM »

That said, if you read Jane Austen, she is all over the bloody shop. Hopeless.

I have Jane's e-mail address, I'll let her know what you said, Jon.
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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2010, 09:47:01 AM »

That said, if you read Jane Austen, she is all over the bloody shop. Hopeless.

I have Jane's e-mail address, I'll let her know what you said, Jon.

Actually, there are a couple of other things I wanted to check with her ...
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« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2010, 06:26:22 PM »

Thanks everybody. I just finished the rewrite and tidied up a good bit of the head hopping. The word count dropped about 1,500 words, but it's a lot tighter. There is still a good bit of Cakey's perspective near the end, but I hope that I've made it blend well enough. I'll have to wait and see in next months crit group. 
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