Head Hopping

Vancouver, Photo crédit: Doree Weller

Vancouver, Photo crédit: Doree Weller

When I read critiques from other writers, sorting out the useful advice from the less useful advice can be hard.  Of course, I don’t really want my work to be criticized.  I labored over those words and I kind of like them.  So, I don’t want to cut them, even if someone else says they don’t work.  What do you know, anyway?  Or, on the other hand, I sometimes go overboard and do everything a critiquer tells me to.

I cut down on adverbs and I try to keep “so” and “that” to a minimum.  I’ve put in more description and scene setting, taken it out, put parts of it back in, and generally have driven myself nuts with it.

Today’s topic is not about setting, but about something near and dear to my heart… head hopping.

We all know what this is, right?  It’s when a narrator switches point of view in the middle of the action.  Using different chapters to follow different characters isn’t head hopping.

I like bouncing around in my character’s heads.  Besides, if I know what’s going on, why shouldn’t you?  Head hopping is generally seen as a bad thing. It can be sloppy, an amateur technique. The problem is that when I read romance novels, I like head hopping. I like seeing the action from more than one person’s eyes. If I wanted reality, I’d read non-fiction.

I recently read a book I really enjoyed called The Last Prophet, by Kay Hooper.  She’s one of my favorite authors, and I enjoy all her books.  She did a bit of head hopping in her last book.  As I read the book, and was writing this post, I felt vindicated.  There!  See!  A really good author uses head hopping!

As I thought more about it though, I realized that not one of my favorite books uses head hopping.  Not one.  They all either stick exclusively to one point of view or they change point of view from chapter to chapter.

There’s nothing wrong with head hopping.  It makes for an enjoyable book and a fast read.  I can do it if I want to.  However, none of the books I love and admire do it.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that not one book on the list does it.  I guess the question is then… does staying in one point of view make for a better book?  Or is it just that a more skilled author overall happens to write a better book and does not happen to head hop?  I’m honestly not sure of the answer.  But what I do know is that I’m looking carefully at what I’ve written and deciding if I need to keep shifting point of view, or if I can better get across what I want to through action.

I’d love to hear from other readers and writers.  Where do you weigh in on head hopping?