Sunday, 9 January 2011

Headhopping confuses the customers

When you read over your text, look out for those interjected thoughts that emanate from some other character than the one driving the scene.  It's all too easy to throw in a comment from elsewhere than the head we're in.  Instant confusion and your reader is out of the story.

"Carina shifted tack, hoping to trick him.  'I suppose tomorrow is out of the question?'
He realised at once that she knew."

We're in Carina's head, so he's not about to realise anything.  Unless Carina sees it:

"Carina shifted tack, hoping to trick him.  'I suppose tomorrow is out of the question?'
His glance flicked away and back again.  Had he realised she knew?"

We're still in Carina's head and she's trying to read him.

A good test is to ask "Who said that?"  Meaning mental statement, not speech.

Another pitfall in this line is remembering your head character can't see themselves, so you can't use visuals that only another person could see:  "Carina looked him over with a glint in her eye."  She doesn't know she has a glint.  Stick to how she feels:  "Anger rising, Carina looked him over."

If you can, try to avoid the mirror trick.  Staying in the character's head and having them look in a mirror so you can tell us what they look like.  Clues are enough.  Is she overweight?  Have her get into a garment with difficulty or mention she bought it before she put on weight.  Then let the other character (assuming you have more than one viewpoint) tell us what the first character looks like.

Your reader will fill in the gaps, don't worry.

Keeping your viewpoint clean will up the quality level of your manuscript in leaps and bounds.

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