Writing Rules

Marsha Riegert West​ talks head-hopping on the Sisterhood of Suspense​ #blog today!

Word by Word

When I began writing people told me to follow the rules. I’m a rule follower, so that should’ve been easy, right? Tell me the rules, and I promise to follow them. Problem is, I can always find folks who are very successful (like award-winning) who don’t follow the rules.


One of the rules I worked hard to learn and to follow is “no head-hopping.” You know what that is. When you’re in one character’s head (POV) and within the same sentence or paragraph you hop over to another character’s head. In the old days, authors wrote this way. It was called the omniscient author. Nobody thought anything of it.

Well, at some point between “the old days” and when I began writing eleven or so years ago (wow, can it be that long?), the rules changed, and head-hopping fell into disfavor. So I took on line-classes, attended conferences, I practiced…

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  1. I will never forget when my first real editor told me that when I become as popular and make as much money as Nora, I can head-hop. Love Nora! I do still catch myself sometimes.

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  2. It can be hard not to head-hop, especially since I usually have so many characters.
    The thing that helped me most was the self-discipline I had to muster the first time I wrote in first person. Good golly Miss Molly — that was hard to get used to. 😉

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    1. I’m doing my first first person (that’s a mouthful!) now, and you’re right, it’s hard!

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  3. Staci Troilo says:

    I’ve never been much of a head-hopper and it annoys me when I see it in novels. If you write in Scrivener, you can give every POV character a different color and while you’re writing, at a glance, you can see whose POV you should be in. (I usually give my heroine pink, my hero blue, and my villain grey. But you can do anything.) Makes it a lot easier.

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