A Quick Guide to Avoid Head Hopping

Head Hopping: What not to do.

“It’s spelt grey,” said Bertha, slamming her fist down on the restaurant table. “G-R-E-Y.” How was Barnaby dense enough to believe otherwise?

Barnaby looked into Bertha’s beady, unintelligent eyes and seethed. “No, it’s spelled gray. G-R-A-Y.” He felt ready to up and leave her sitting there at the diner.

Close-Third Person: What you can do.

“It’s spelt grey,” said Bertha, slamming her fist down on the table. “G-R-E-Y.” Barnaby was such an uncultured idiot. Why was she even hanging out with him?

Omniscient: What you can also do.

“It’s spelt grey,” said Bertha. “G-R-E-Y.”

She couldn’t wrap her head around how stupid Barnaby was, and he felt the same.

Standing from the table, Barnaby slammed the cash for his meal onto the table. “That’s it; I can’t stand your pretentious spelling habits another moment. I’m going to the theater alone.” He felt at ease with the choice, now that he knew her true color: blue.

“Don’t you mean theatre?” asked Bertha, grinning as he shouldered the door open and stormed out onto the sidewalk.

When writing in the close-third person point of view, or POV, you should stick to knowing the thoughts and feelings of just one character. Otherwise, you’ll confuse the dickens out of your reader. As you can see in the head hopping example, both character’s feelings toward one another are expressed, which would get confusing after a long string of dialogue.

In the example in which this is done correctly, we know Bertha’s feelings only, and would be following her closely for the entirety of the story. If you did want to use this style with multiple characters, you would want to denote sections by the character’s name, and never switch within the same paragraph. Or chapter, in most cases.

Only in the omniscient third person POV should we know all the character’s emotions, and even so, they’re factually stated rather than written as though the character is actively thinking these thoughts.


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