Have you ever heard of the term head-hopping? Lately, a lot of the blog posts I seem to be reading warn against head-hopping. They claim that using a dual point-of-view (or a triple, or even a multiple point-of-view) can ruin a story if it’s not done right.
I admit that dual points-of-view need to be done correctly. If you head-hop, you need to make sure your reader understands a) that the hop has taken place and b) whose head they’ve hopped into.
That aside, though, head-hopping can be an effective tool. Especially for romance novels, where emotion is a significant aspect of the plot.
So then, what does head-hopping do that makes it such an effective tool?
1. It keeps the narrative fresh
How many times have you read a book where you’ve been in the heroine’s head from start to finish? Doesn’t that get a bit boring after a while?
If you’re writing in the first person, then there’s no help for this; everything needs to be filtered through your main character since it’s s/he who is telling the story.
But if you’re writing from a third-person-omniscient perspective, you don’t have to stay in one character’s thoughts. You can explore different situations, give them different twists, and tell them with a different voice by seeing them through a shifting lens.
2. It encourages sympathy for a character
Take a quick peek at Amazon’s reviews, and chances are you’ll find at least one where the reader lamented that they didn’t like a character, or they just couldn’t sympathize with them. Head-hopping helps you get past this roadblock.
Take these two different perspectives on the same situation:
Lady Cora glared at the handsome Lord John who her father had just told her she must marry. Must marry? It was not fair! Why must she simply submit to her father’s will? Anger flared inside her, and fresh tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. She held them in, determined that she would not cry.
Lord John waited for Lady Cora to say something. She glared at him with all the defiance of her wilful nature. But underneath it he saw the turmoil she fought hard to suppress. A tender sorrow blossomed in his breast as her eyes glistened with fresh tears which the lady refused to shed.
Both scenarios are meant to inspire sympathy for our Lady Cora. But with the first one, if it’s not handled carefully, she can end up looking like a spoiled brat (you might almost expect her to stomp her foot and threaten to hold her breath). With the second one, we see the reaction her suffering inspires in Lord John, and we are more likely to agree with his sympathy for her.
Dual (or multiple) points-of-view are the most effective way to keep your story interesting and multi-faceted. It is a more engaging, and a more malleable option for driving home the emotions you want to evoke in your readers.
It’s a powerful tool. Don’t shy away from it.