The first time I submitted a story to a contest, the judge commented that I head-hopped. I thought it was a compliment – I’m a good listener, I empathize with people, really try to get into their heads and understand them. Ah, well, turns out she wasn’t being complimentary. Head-hopping is switching from one character’s point of view to another within one scene in a story. And it’s a problem? Really? Surely readers are smart enough to know when I switch it up. It seemed pretty clear to me. Haha.
It turns out that (even if readers are smart enough to know) convention dictates that you must write a scene from one character’s point of view. So how do you do that?
The easiest way to think of it is to imagine you have a camera on the character’s head and you’re describing what is seen through the lens. If you can’t see it through the camera, you can’t write it.
I launched my first book with a party, and my brother-in-law, Paul, videoed it for me. There was dancing (of course!). When I was up on the dance floor, I listened to the song, interacted with the other dancers, waved to the crowd of people sitting around inviting them to join us, and I was aware of people watching. The video that Paul took had clips of us dancing, but he also wandered around the room, taking footage of my family and friends that I couldn’t see from the dance floor. At the end of the video, my sister turned the camera on him, so there was a short clip of him, too. If I had described the scene, my view of that moment would have been very different from his (and I have to say – I loved that he captured the moment to include all of my family!).
It’s okay to include the point of view of another character in the story (in fact, it’s encouraged), but there has to be a shift in the scene or some marker or break so that it’s very clear to the reader. The reader, it turns out, will thank you!
Here’s a romantic comedy told from Margo and Trace’s point of view. And it’s going on sale for 99 cents July 1-7, 2016! Catch up on Perfectly Reasonable, Book 2 of the Perfectly Series.
Margo MacMillan finished medical school, but in the process, her self-confidence and self-esteem took a beating. So for the sake of self-preservation, she’s stepped away from medicine to re-group. In the meantime, painting soothes her soul and pays the bills.
Trace Bennett set his sights on a medical degree and has to prepare the perfect medical school application. His big plan is to paint his condo for a little feng shui divine luck. When Margo shows up to paint, he realizes he’s found exactly what he’s looking for. He just has to convince Margo to share more than the art of medicine.
She’s got it. He wants it. It’s Perfectly Reasonable.