Back in the dark ages, when I first started writing, I took classes and read books on writing and tried to learn the craft side of the art. One of the basics that seemed pretty clear at the time was point of view. The most likely candidates for me were first person, third person, and third person’s cousin: omniscient. I understood most of the advantages and disadvantages of each and I usually felt most comfortable using third person omniscient. I liked having the ability to let my reader know what was going on in the minds of multiple characters.
Fast forward to the present. I’m still writing and trying to position myself to make a serious run at getting published. I’m following blogs and listening to other writers and I run into the phrase, head hopping. Head hopping, as I understand it, is using the third person omniscient POV to move in and out of multiple characters’ minds and is considered a definite no-no. Slightly confused, I go back to books I’ve particularly enjoyed reading and study the POV. I find an assortment of POV’s, including some that seem to be guilty of head hopping…but that are hugely successful. Of course, I then discover that one of the exceptions to the rule on head hopping is Nora Roberts and some of the books I’ve been re-reading are JD Robb’s In Death series (is there anyone out there who does not know JD Robb is Nora Roberts?). But as a reader, I still enjoy a certain amount of head hopping.
So I’m still working on my re-writes and I’m focusing on the POV and cleaning up some random head hopping and I get to this scene: Four people are sitting at a table having a conversation. POV is on person A. Person A leaves the table for a minute and something is said by person B to the other two before person A comes back and the scene continues. I want the reader to “hear” this comment but not person A. From the omniscient POV, I should be able to do this but since person A is not present to hear the comment, I believe this constitutes a head hop. Unfortunately, the most common solution – splitting the scene – would create an awkward break in the flow of the story. Now I'm sitting here scratching my head, trying to decide what to do?
I’ve reached a point where I’m getting absolutely paranoid on the subject, so I’d like your input. As a reader, do you like some forms of head hopping or does it hamper your enjoyment of the story. As a writer, do you think there is such a thing as an acceptable head hop? Where do you draw the line?
I'm currently enjoying: Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
Quote of the day: We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. ~ Ernest Hemingway