Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Libraries almost invariably contain long aisle...Image via WikipediaIs it just me?

I picked up a novel with an attractive cover and an intriguing premise. I started reading it last night, but after about 20 pages I put it on the shelf to return to the library. There was so much "head hopping" I lost interest in the heroine and her problems.

I try hard when I'm writing not to switch point of view in a scene unless I believe it's absolutely necessary, and even then I try to mark it in some way to show a scene shift. Lately though I've been dismayed at the number of novels I'm reading where an author jumps back and forth in the same scene, disrupting the flow of the narrative. And let's face it, most of the authors doing this are not Nora Roberts. It takes a lot of skill to be able to do this seamlessly.

I believe novice writers would do well to read Dame Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. Heck, any intelligent reader would benefit from reading the Lymond Chronicles, but the reason a writer should read it is for craft. In six extensive, complex novels you are never in the protagonist's POV except for one sentence.

Think about that: Thousands and thousands of pages, and you only truly get to know what's going on in the hero's head in one sentence. Yet any fan of the books can tell you that Lymond is one of the most well-written characters in modern fiction. All done without head-hopping.

It's a good writing goal to work towards, newbies, and I promise I'll try to do better also.
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2 comments:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I had to learn the hard way about head hopping. Finally, I managed, but it was hard as a new writer because everyone I read were headhoppers, but they were great at it like Nora Roberts. Now when I read a book like that, I have trouble staying with it until the end. It's interesting how we change and evolve.

Darlene said...

It's harder to read some of the crap that gets published now that I know more about writing.

I suppose that's a good thing.

But my wall has a lot more holes in it.[g]