Whose eye are you viewing the story through? This is called Point of View (POV). It is something a writer needs to give considerable thought to before the first words ever get written on a page. You can write a story from a single point of view or you can use multiple points of view. There are books written on this topic, and at the end of this tip I will refer you to a good book. For now, I will keep this very simple.
You can use multiple points of view as long as you avoid what I call head hopping. I have struggled with this from a writer’s perspective, and it is hard to spot while you are writing. As an editor, I can find it right away because when reading, if there are too many POV (point of view) shifts, I get confused. It will become clear because I cannot tell whose head I’m viewing the story from. Let me try to give you an example.
Caroline bit her nail as she let Steve into her apartment. Did it send the wrong message? Was she being too forward? He seemed calm to her, as if he didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary. Steve walked over to the sofa and sat down. He looked at Caroline. What was she thinking? Did she expect him to hit on her? He didn’t think she was the type of woman that would want to move so fast. Caroline closed the door and joined Steve on the sofa. She stared at her hands wondering what to do next.
Okay, in this short paragraph I explored the scene from two different points of view, both Caroline’s and Steve’s. Because I did it within the same paragraph, the character’s perspective is very confusing to the reader. This is an example of head hopping.
You can change POV from one character to the next, but it is much better if you have some type of hard and fast break. Either the scene changes or you move on to another chapter. In my book Sealed In Lies I did that quite a bit. I have multiple points of view, but I would break them with a new chapter each time. That way the reader knew whose head they were in at the beginning of the chapter.
For all you romance writers, another place to watch for head hopping is during a love scene. Try to have the feelings and emotions coming out of only one character. If you want to express what the other character is feeling, it is usually best to do that through dialogue or as an observation of your POV character.
A good book for those of you concerned about POV is Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. It is part of the Write Great Fiction series of books that I cut my teeth on as a writer. In my opinion, this is the best series of books to teach you how to write better fiction. They have instruction and exercises that help you practice your craft.
Until next time… Watch that head hopping.
Copyright 2014 by Kelly Abell