Point of View, Writing

Point of View II – First, Omni, Third

Self Editing for Fiction Writers
Self Editing for Fiction Writers

Yesterday, I talked about “headhopping.” That’s jumping from one character’s POV into another’s head in the scene. If you write this way, you’re in good company, but it’s jarring to the reader. In Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, they open Chapter 3, Point of View, with a short passage from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. It’s an example of headhopping.

“Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove is a powerfully written book, yet some readers find it hard to get involved in the story, in part because of passages like the above. The characters are clear, the dialogue has an authentic feel, but in the second paragraph we’re seeing the scene as Joe sees it, in the third we’ve switched to Elmira, and in the last paragraph we’ve switched again, to July. We never settle in to a single point of view.” (Page 41) The passage is page 40. We’ll see it below.

This chapter explains the differences between first person, omniscient, and third person. My favorite way is third person, because if you write only from first person POV, you’re only going to get one person’s POV. It can be a very powerful vehicle, but keep in mind, it’s only one person’s perspective.

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Point of View, Writing

No Headhopping Allowed

sol stein on writingWhat’s “headhopping?” Simply stated, it’s multiple points of view within one scene. It’s jarring to the reader, and it shows me, the reader, that the author doesn’t have a complete understanding of Point of View (POV). Mostly I read it in either poorly edited books or self-published books.

Blunt people would call it “headhopping.” Let’s say we’re writing a scene with three characters, Bob, Dick, and Sue. Headhopping would mean that we might start out with Bob’s POV, but about halfway through the scene we read a sentence or a paragraph of something from Dick’s POV, in other words, something only would know or think about at the time. Then, at the end of the scene, we might read something from a totally feminine way of thinking, that’s Sue. It’s confusing to the reader. I’ve read scenes like that. I used to write them like that – before I knew better.

Sol Stein, in Stein on Writing, says, “The term point of view as used by writers is mis-defined even in good dictionaries. It means the character whose eyes are observing what happens; the perspective from which a scene or story is written.” Page 141 gives you a POV checklist in ten bullet points to help you examine your own work. I’ll give you a couple for free.

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