We talked last Friday about writing scenes in "deep 3rd POV." If you missed it, you can find it by clicking here. In that post, I said that you shouldn't be on the character's shoulder, but inside their head. This means we, the reader, are viewing the world through their eyes. It means everything is shaded with the point-of-view character's background, world view, education, and prejudices.
It also means we don't get to know what other people think. When you hear people talk about "head hopping," that's what they're referring to - telling the reader what other people are thinking and feeling instead of limiting our experience to the point of view character.
Sometimes head hopping is extremely obvious. Like the passages I've marked in red below. These are all pulled from the dandelion story, which I wrote as a junior in high school, and this scene is supposed to be from Paige's POV:
Paige was scanning the room for him. Her eyes searched for the familiar floppy brown hair but were not successful. Her search did not go unnoticed by the class. They knew that she was looking for Carter and they also knew that she would not find him in that class.Here's another scene:
"It's great to see you too," she told him.
"Where did you move to?" Kyle asked, pretending he didn't know. The truth was he had no idea what to say to her. He had no idea what to say to this girl, this stranger.
There was a time when the above would have been acceptable (not the clunky prose, but the POV issues). As I mentioned on Friday, you'll read head hopping not just in the classics, but also in current books by bestselling authors. I don't know why that is. I routinely hear agents and editors griping about head-hopping. You can fight them on it, or you can learn to write deep POV.
If you were to rewrite those scenes in deep 3rd, the way to do it would be like this:
Paige scanned the room for familiar floppy brown hair. Did anyone notice the way her gaze kept sweeping the room? If so, they likely knew who she was searching for.
And the other one:
"It's great to see you too," she told him."Where did you move to?" Kyle asked.Paige bit her lip. Surely, Kyle knew where she had moved, right? So why had he asked? Was she more forgettable than she had assumed, or did he just not know how to talk to her anymore?
The trick to avoid head-hopping is to have your character questioning it, and to leave it open-ended. Like, "they likely knew" or "it seemed like" or something along those lines.
Sometimes I did it correctly in the dandelion story:
Carter kept a hold of her hand, but held it carefully, as if he thought she might break.
"As if" is what makes it okay to share his thoughts. It makes it clear that we're still in Paige's head, this is what she's experiencing, and that she thinks this is why.
The thing you have to watch with this is you can try too hard to broadcast the other character's feelings, which keeps it from ringing true. Like:
Kyle touched her sleeveless arm as she walked by him. It was as if he didn’t believe she was there and had to make sure his best friend wasn’t an illusion.
It's too much, isn't it? It's clear that I'm trying to tell you what Kyle is feeling, and it's distracting. Especially when read in context.
The technique of suggesting what a non-POV character is feeling works best when you leave a bit of a question in the reader's mind. Raise the question, but leave it open for them to decide.
Sometimes head-hopping is kind of murky. Like, is it head-hopping to say, "Kyle looked at her with disgust"? This is a much-debated topic among writers. One camp is in the "Yes that's head-hopping because how can she possibly know what feeling he has when he looked at her?" The other camp is, "Come on. You can't seriously expect me to write 'Kyle looked at her with what seemed like disgust,' every time, right? That's so clunky! Can't we just trust our readers to 'get it'?" Which side do you agree with more? Or do you have another opinion to offer?
On Friday, we'll be talking about writing in first person, how the POV rules still apply. Also, if you haven't gotten yourself entered to win a copy of Amy Deardon's The Story Pillar, you can do that by clicking here. And the Go Teen Writers Facebook group is up and going, so join in the conversation by clicking here.