I’m in the middle of a book by a New York Times bestselling author, one whose books I have always enjoyed.
This one is also good. In fact, I’d recommend it, but since I’m about to complain about the book, giving you the title — and therefore the author — wouldn’t be such a good idea.
Anyway, in this book, I’ve noticed The Author (and that’s all the identity you’ll get from me) appears to have taken a somewhat looser approach to point of view than we lesser authors have been told is wise.
That’s okay because she is a NYT bestselling author whom I love, and I am … well, I’m not. She can get away with it. I can’t.
And yet, last night, a paragraph jumped out at me and has been bugging me ever since. That particular paragraph was in a chapter written from the woman’s point of view. Except right in the middle, The Author describes the hero as having changed his clothes since that morning.
Our heroine hadn’t seen him earlier. Ergo, she couldn’t have known about the clothes changing. Grrrrrr … I’m telling you, I’m grinding my molars even now. (Sorry, Dr. Kurz — I know that’s a bad habit, and I promise to order that mouth guard next time I see you.)
For those readers who aren’t writers, this is called “head hopping,” and we are warned against it time and time again.
Not sure what I mean? Below is my own shamefully badly written example.
Haylee paused in front of the restaurant door, taking time to check out her reflection in the glass. To die for designer sunglasses? Check. Super-cute new dress? Check. Fresh blond highlights? Check. Smokin’ hot body beneath it all? Check and double-check! She allowed herself a tiny smile of satisfaction before stepping aside so the old geezer behind her could open the door.
Sweeping past both him and his equally wrinkly wife, Haylee paused once more in the foyer of the restaurant, taking off her sunglasses and sweeping her turquoise blue eyes over the crowd inside as she searched for the man she hadn’t seen since high school.
Taylor had showered and changed after leaving work before dressing in freshly pressed white shirt and a dark pair of jeans.
He looked scrumptious! Haylee knew she just had to have him.
Did you catch it? Are you gritting your teeth yet?
No? It’s this bit: Taylor had showered and changed after leaving work before dressing in freshly pressed white shirt and a dark pair of jeans. We were in Haylee’s head, and she hadn’t seen him since high school. How would she know he’d showered and changed?
Still, don’t get it? Well, here’s an even more glaring example.
Jessica couldn’t freaking believe it! Her lying, cheating, three-four-sixteen-timing ex-husband had actually had the nerve to show up. Ryan — the man she’d married as the love of her life, the same man Jess had found less than six months later doing the horizontal rhumba with her equally former best friend — was here. At Jessica’s wedding.
Oh, sure, she’d sent him an invitation. But she hadn’t meant for him to come. Ryan knew that, but he had come anyway, determined to stop this farce and equally determined to win Jess — his Jess — back.
For two years, he’d tried to forget her, burying himself in his work and — he had to be honest — any willing woman, before realizing the truth. Jess was unforgettable, and screwing around on her had been the biggest mistake of his life, a mistake he had to rectify.
“I still love you, Jess. Don’t marry him.” He dropped to his knees, right there in the middle of the church aisle, his words accompanied by the organist’s somewhat shaky rendition of “Here Comes the Bride.”
Love? The snake didn’t know what the word meant. How dare he interrupt what should be the happiest day of Jess’s life, the day she stood at the altar and swore her undying allegiance and love for Ryan, er, Michael, Jess had meant Michael, the one true love of her life.
Now, you get the idea. Headhopping is the linguistic equivalent of a tennis match, forcing the reader to be-bop back and forth, back and forth, between two characters’ heads.
Still, there are plenty of writers who do it, even NYT bestselling ones it seems.
When I first started writing, I had to struggle not to headhop. Now — as the horrific excerpts above attest — it’s difficult for me to do even in jest.
The worst part is, when I notice it in others’ writing, it detracts a little from the pleasure of reading.
I hate that.
- Sex and Motivation: A Romance Writer’s Rant (janestarwood.wordpress.com)