Monday, March 7, 2011

Talking Heads

Head hopping!  It drives me crazy! It is my biggest writing and reading pet peeve.
This is not to say I’ve never been guilty of a writing sin.  I’m no grammar diva, word czar, or comma queen.  I screw up plenty.  When I wrote my first short story, even I committed the egregious error of head hopping.  However, once I learned the err of my head hopping ways; it now stands out to me like plaid on paisley.
There was much discussion lately on our Carolina Romance Writers’ yahoo loop about the practice of head hopping and if it’s ever okay.  Some had heard it’s more forgivable in today’s books and even becoming in vogue.  Others have heard it’s less forgivable.  Personally, in vogue or not, I cannot stand it.  It makes me want to bang my head against the wall/desk/palm of my hand.  I have been known to launch a book across the room in frustration (unless it’s on my Kindle of course).  I am not so passionately opposed because I’m a head hopping snob.  Quite simply, it confuses the heck out of me!
I recently ordered a book (that shall remain nameless) in which the author head hopped constantly.
Hey, at least she was consistent with her inconsistent POV.  In one scene we had three men.  We dipped into all three men’s point of view within that one scene.  When “he” thought the other “he” was suspicious looking and probably a shoe-in for the crime, I had no idea who “he” was or which “he” was probably the baddy.  The entire scene was lost on me because the head hopping negated any insight.
That’s an extreme example.  Less extreme would be an example brought up on our loop.  We are reading the heroine’s POV.  She refers (in her head) to her “beautiful, flashing blue eyes.”  Uhm … no.  Please don’t do this.  I don’t care how much you love your eyeballs; you are not going to be thinking about your flashing blue eyes locking on to Mr. Hottie’s deep brown ones.  You are going to be all about his gorgeous peepers and the soon to follow smooching.
Another example is, when in the hero’s POV, he “crossed his arms over his impressively broad and sexy chest.”  Either dude is one seriously big narcissist or … yeah, he’s pretty much just a narcissist.  The heroine would think that though.  In her POV, he’d talk to her and SHE would notice his sexy chest.  She probably wouldn’t notice her own. You see where I’m going with this?
One trick I’ve used when I’m in a particular character’s deep POV and I want her/him to comment on how they sound, look, etc., I might say something like:  “She knew how she must look. Like a (fill in the blank here).”
Something like that might work if your POV character just has to comment.
What about you?  Where do you stand on head hopping? What are your reader and writer pet peeves and sins?  Which ones have you committed?
                  (credit: Talking Heads. Oh c'mon I had to!  Psycho Killer ... qu'est ce que c'est?)


Elizabeth Michels said...

Head hopping drives me crazy too. I don't care if it's in vogue to head hop; it doesn't make for a very realistic story if all the characters are mind readers...Does excessive use of the comma qualify me as a Comma Queen? LOL "COMMAS!!!!!"

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