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Posts tagged ‘Head hopping’

First Monday Mentoring for May: what stops you reading a book?

It’s First Monday again, time to share your thoughts and ask me any questions you have to do with writing, editing or publishing your work. Today’s first question was inspired by a discussion I had on Facebook with Serena Lockwood Dorman, so thank you Serena for the tip.

She said, “I just thought, Valerie, since you do the monthly advice blog for newish writers, you should do a post on what makes you stop reading a story. I’ve been reading a lot of stories on Wattpad and when I come across certain things I click out of the story right away. It would be helpful to know what instantly turns seasoned authors off.”

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I thought for a minute. As a reader, I’m fairly forgiving as long as the story grabs me. But here’s the list I gave Serena:

1. Bad writing. If the story has too many mistakes, spelling, grammar and the like, jumps around from one character’s point of view to another – known as head-hopping – or otherwise pulls me out of the story, then I’m not likely to keep reading.

2. Too much description not relevant to the story, so I skip. As Chuck Wendig blogged recently, we don’t need to see every sip of coffee the character takes. It becomes a distraction. As a reader, I want the words to disappear and have the story run like a movie in my head. When a character enters a room, I want to see what they see, not every stick of furniture as a judge on The Block sees it, but what’s relevant to that particular character. Put yourself inside their head and show us what they notice and why, as it relates to the story, and I’ll keep reading.

3. Good character doing bad things, even if for good reason. For example, a hero is broke and needs medicine for a child. He stumbles across the proceeds of robbery and decides to keep it – this still makes him a bad person IMO. He may be sorely tempted to keep the money. Another character may think he has – there’s a story in that – but ultimately, torn and tested, a good person will do the right thing.

4. One character out to despoil the environment the other character loves. For some reason this conflict appeals to new writers. Apart from being predictable, someone has to lose. There’s no solution where one or the other doesn’t have to give in. Think of another conflict.

5. Any story where the ending is obvious early in the book. Writers are your toughest audience. If you can keep us reading and wondering, you’ll keep any reader.

I’m also not fond of a heroine taking up with her late husband’s brother, or issues like spousal abuse, miscarriage or loss of a partner not treated seriously. They can provide powerful motivations, but do your homework and have a care for readers who’ve been there.

Now over to you. What stops you from reading or finishing a book? Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you want your comment to appear without moderation, click on the “sign me up” button to subscribe. I don’t share your email details with anyone.

Valerie
About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

First Monday Mentoring, ask your burning question here

Half-way through the year already, where did the time go? The first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) is when I invite you to post your writing-related questions and I’ll  answer them here. Lots of talented writers read and comment on this blog and you’re also welcome to contribute your thoughts on an answer, or share a writing experience that might help others.

 Questions can be posted ahead of time if you like and I will answer during Monday July 2.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day. To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writing Centre during the last week:

Which is better, staying in one characters point of view or having a variety? I was told not to “head hop”

The viewpoint character is the person through which the reader “enters” the story. Like putting on a garment, we “put on” the character’s view of the story (POV) and see everything as it happens through that person’s eyes. If there’s more than one viewpoint character, we get to see the story as it’s experienced by two or more people.

In romance novels we used to see the story only through the heroine’s eyes. She would guess or imagine why the hero did things, or what he was thinking. These days, readers want to see both sides of the romance. so it’s common to switch between the heroine’s POV and the hero’s. To avoid confusing your reader, it’s a good idea to switch viewpoints only when we have something new to learn from the other character. She might think he’s not attracted to her, for example. In his POV, we find out that there’s danger and he’s pretending not to care to get her out of the way.

There are no rules, only what works in your story.

It all depends on your point of view!

If a critique partner or editor says you’re “head hopping”, this means you’re not staying in one character’s viewpoint for very long before switching to another, and this can get confusing. Some writers – Nora Roberts is a good example – switch so effortlessly we don’t notice it happening. A lot depends on your skill as a writer.  You need to be aware of whose POV you’re writing in and when you make a switch, so the reader isn’t lost.  Also beware of accidentally slipping into the head of a minor character by having them “think” about the hero or heroine as they take their coats, for instance. Rather, have the POV character assume that the minor character doesn’t like them by their snooty expression, so we stay in the right head.

Got a question? Advanced or basic,

I’ll do my best to answer.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Proud friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence 2012, Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth WA

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