Mario Acevedo is the author of the Felix Gomez detective-vampire series. Keep an eye peeled for Rescue From Planet Pleasure, due March 2015 from WordFire Press. He's also a great guy who has served his county and made me laugh, the two most important things anyone can do.
Jim has been after me for some time to contribute an article with writing advice to his blog. It’s taken me this long to submit something for a couple of reasons. First, I have been busy. I mean like work busy, not like watching House of Cards on Netflix busy. Second, I couldn’t think of anything to add about writing that hasn’t been written a bazillion times already. If you’re a newbie writer, then you tend to soak up all the writer advice you can and hope it’ll stick. Maybe, you’ll get an A-Ha! moment. But mostly I get the impression that writers are always on the prowl--like raccoons scrounging through a dumpster--in search of that one morsel of advice that will carry you over that elusive threshold from unpublished to published, from unwashed to still dirty, but at least with credentials!
POV doesn’t matter. I can hear a collective sucking of breath on that one. Again, Point-of-View doesn’t matter. I say that because I can’t think of one novel where violating the Commandment Thou Shall Not Head-Hop made one difference (measured in WTF’s) in terms of sales or acclaim. And I can’t think of one reader who ever said, “The story was great. The characters were amazing. The plot, compelling. But I put the book down because of the shifts in Point-of-View.”
What confuses the new writer is to get back a sample chapter and have it redlined up by a teacher or a critique partner with notes admonishing you of POV shifts within a scene. But wait, you protest, here’s my beloved, international bestseller, rock-star rich author and he, she, hops around POV like a frog on a hot George Foreman and that hasn’t hurt their career. “But,” the teacher/critique partner replies, “the different are rules because those writers are published. “
Advice like that is enough to make you go from head-hopping to head-lopping. However, before you go all nutzo with head-hopping, I’ll admit that at first, you have to understand POV. A tight POV helps you develop what’s going on in the character’s head, whether you write First Person or Third Person. Newbie writers who skim from head-to-head miss opportunities for dramatic immersion. But at one point, you’ll figure it out. So why not vary POV?
Old hands will tell you, okay, but if you shift POV, then you must either rely on a chapter break or a paragraph drop-down. You see, they argue, readers are morons with the attention span of bottle flies. You can’t depend on them to keep track of anything. Even though you might have introduced a huge roster of characters and a plot so intricate that readers needs index cards and a highlighter to follow the story, but if you hop one head, BOOM! you’ve lost them. So why the writer witch-hunts on POV? Because a POV shift is easy to spot. It’s easy to criticize. It’s easy to say, POV shift! bad writer.
In my critique group (all old hands at this writer game), anytime one of us introduces an abrupt POV shift, the others act as if we’ve written kiddie porn and killed puppies. Shame on you! Then when we discuss the latest book we’ve read, we’re all: “It was awesome. The prose, so colorful. The characters were magic.” What about POV shifts? “Like a crazy mo-fo, but it didn’t make a difference. I loved the story.”
So here’s my advice to you. Go ahead, remove the shackles. Indulge in head-hopping. Have fun.