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As a reader I prefer close third person viewpoint or first person viewpoint. This helps me be invested in the character. Since I know his thoughts, experience what he is experiencing, I identify with him. I can salivate for what she is eating, feel cold because she is, be anxious about what she’s worried about. I get “lost” in the world of the book.
This translates to my own writing. I can only know, hear, see, feel, taste, touch, what my main character knows. I can’t know what someone else in the story is thinking. My main character can guess. She can learn about it from another character. He can spy on another character, but there won’t be any hopping from one head to another. In my opinion this makes for less confusion for a reader. It also makes for a more realistic feel to the story—after all, I can’t tell in real life what the people around me are thinking.
In a post called “Headhopping, Authorial Intrusion, and Shocked Expressions,” I love what Anne M. Marble said about her example text: “Either that scene had headhopping or Blythe is psychic. How else would she know what both Anthony and the waitress are thinking and experiencing?”
Author Marcy Kennedy says, “Head hopping damages your story because it makes the writing feel choppy. Readers constantly need to pause, however slightly, and figure out who they’re supposed to identify with.”
Author Joe Bunting says, “It’s taboo because writers, editors, and readers have found when the narrator switches from one character’s thoughts to another’s too quickly, it jars the reader and breaks the intimacy with the scene’s main character.”
In my novel ALONE I had a scene where I tried to cheat on first person pov. I told the scene as if another character had explained it so well that my main character felt as if she were “a mouse in the corner” observing. But I kept it chronological. My main character didn’t know this happened at the time I showed it. Fortunately, a wise editor suggested it wasn’t working. When I looked at the scene objectively, I realized it could be cut and the reader wouldn’t miss a thing. The scene that followed gave enough information. And it kept the story more intimate.
Fiction editor Beth Hill agrees. “Keep the reader in one head, one heart, at a time.” Ooh, I love that emphasis on heart. And it works whether you are writing in first person or close third person point of view.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.