Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Head Hopping

How many heads does it take to make a story?

For most of mine, it takes, well, just one. For a boatload of other stories out there, it takes way more than that.

I’ve just started into a new wip with some head hopping and I’m having some difficulty. It’s really tough when I’m so accustomed to one voice, one perspective.

Head hopping, I think, is harder to do well in first person (and I've mostly written in 1st). The best books I’ve seen this done in are ones that make the transition at chapter breaks. Each chapter having different narrator.

Susane Colasanti’s When It Happens is a primo example. As is Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver.

In third person is where I see the head hopping ALL THE TIME. Mostly, it’s not a big deal. The transitions come with scene breaks and the chapters are built in a way that the head hopping makes sense.

Cassandra Clare in The Mortal Instruments series, is a good example. So is Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series, with 3-4 narrators depending on the story is also great.

What gets me is the stories with head hopping with no defined break. When I don’t know who’s thinking what and have to reread whole sections just to figure out who the narrator is. That bugs. So as you can see, I’m a bit stressed about this in addition to worrying about Perspectives and Tenses) for my new project. Maybe I should just quit worrying and write first, but I’m a chronic worrier.

Have you guys done some head hopping? How’s it working out? Any tossing the computer out the window going on? I’m nearing that point.


Nisa said...

I love head hopping because I love to see things from different perspectives, but I can't imagine the stitch happening willy nilly. Chapter breaks or a hard break to represent the switch really need to happen. It would be very confusing if all the characters were trying to yell out in each chapter.

Angie said...

Nisa's right. (And she does a great job of it too.) Chapter or scene breaks between POV switches are essential. It's also important to establish in the first sentence of the new chapter/scene whose head we've entered. My current novel has seven (gasp) POV characters. I think it's working all right.

Elana Johnson said...

Dreaming Anastasia is what you're describing. There's a male narrator and a female narrator. And when they're not together, I didn't mind the chapter breaks and the new POV. But then for the last 2/3 of the book they ARE together and the chapter break is merely to allow the other one to narrate. I didn't mind it, but I didn't get it.

Tess said...

I used to think I could only write in first person. Then an editor told me to rewrite my entire ms and change it from first to third. What a challenge! But, now I see how my voice seems to work better in third person. Now I'm scared to ever go back to first. fickle, silly me.

WindyA said...

Nisa & Angie - Thanks! I totally agree. I'll maybe be picking your brains for some help here :D

Elana - Maggie Stiefvater does that too, switching chapters and only having a couple pages because it is changing perspective.

Tess - yes. The fear of change. It's in us all.

L.T. Elliot said...

The term "head hopping" is usually something I associate with a negative. Why? Because when I'm reading along (just like you said) and can't figure out whose head I'm supposed to be in, I'm done. Fastest way for me to get irritated with a book. However, I do like books with multiple perspectives (and I see a HUGE difference there). Multiple perspectives can really enhance a story--just like a single perspective can bring you close to your MC. I just don't like having to figure out who's talking to me.

Dominique said...

I tend to do some POV shifting, as it were. Usually, though, I limit it to my two big characters. Otherwise, I think it would get too confusing for the readers.

Jen said...

I don't mind it, and I'm using it in my book. But it must be a clear difference in voice or it's just poor writing.