Doing the (Head) Hop; or, Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Part 2)

(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)

In my last entry, I commented on how I had gone back to read one of my first third-person pieces, a Regency romance, and found it rife with head-hopping. I discovered that I hadn’t quite exhausted the topic, so I’m back for more.

I’ve started to revise the novel (in between working on revisions to one of my other WIPs), and for the most part, it has been going fairly smoothly. There are a couple of scenes that are going to need a bit of work, but I seem to have discovered a few tricks that are helping a lot.

First, when I look at a scene, I have to identify who owns it. Most are pretty obvious, but some seem to have group ownership. For those, I’ve been asking questions like:

  • Who stands to lose/gain the most in this scene? (If Uncle Matthew tells Cousin Sarah that they will have to skip their daily ride in the park, but Sarah was looking forward to seeing her friends–especially the guy she sorta-kinda likes–then Sarah has the most to lose, and the scene should belong to her.)
  • Who is the most active character in the scene? (If Annalise is riding a horse, and the Earl is watching approvingly, Annalise is more active, and we should see the scene from her POV.)
  • Who has the most thinky-thoughts that can’t be shown through their actions/reactions? (If Lady Featherspoon, the failed chaperone, is worried about how she is going to lose her position, and plotting her revenge, but keeps a smile plastered on her face the whole time, it might be her turn to carry the story ball.)

One thing that I’ve discovered is that on my latest WIP, the second volume in the Winterbourne series, I’ve been unconsciously considering these questions up front, instead of after the fact. Every time I sat down to write a new scene, I asked myself whose POV I should use. There was always an answer that made the most sense. And I’ve gotten a lot better at picking one and sticking to it. (Though I have to admit that in the first volume, there were still a few–fairly obvious–head hops. I’ve edited most of them out, and I’ll get the rest as I finish this edit pass.)

Going back to the Regency romance, I’ve found a few scenes where I started to revise in one point of view, only to discover that I still had an irresistible urge to head-hop. Which seems to mean that I’ve chosen the wrong POV. Going back and looking at the scene again usually shows that I haven’t really found the correct POV character yet.

What are some other tricks people have learned to fix/prevent the dreaded “Head Hop”?

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About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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