Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why I Can't Head Hop

Sure, I could've posted about Valentine's day, but I figure ya'll are probably getting tired of the "my husband is the most awesome man eva" posts. Suffice to say, love is grand, Mark is amazing.

I finally figured out exactly why I struggle to read and enjoy books with an omniscient POV. I always imagine myself as the POV character. Woman, man, good guy, bad guy, whatever. So when I'm reading along, happily creating a movie in my head in which I'm the POV character, getting all the good lines, doing all the cool stunts, and then suddenly the POV switches to another character. And I have to stop, adjust the mental image, and start the movie back up from a different set of eyes (and, often, gender or moral outlook). Then in the next paragraph, the switch happens again. Repeat the stop and go. Finally I get so frustrated with all of this "hang on a sec" mental adjusting that I pull back to the surface and just read the words instead of living them vicariously. I read faster this way, sure, but it's not nearly as much fun as watching the book as a movie in my head.

And, in addition to preventing my preferred method of enjoying a book, omniscient POV often gets annoying with mirroring internal thoughts, particularly in a romance subplot. Hero thinks something about the sexy clothing the heroine is wearing and hopes his physical reaction to the ensemble isn't obvious. Next paragraph: heroine is flustered herself, wondering what hero thinks, and then spies the erection. I think the tension is better with the hero, trying to hide the obvious, wanting to do something about the state of affairs, but there's usually some Problem in the way (this is what's known as the primary plot), and generally feeling aroused and frustrated while trying not to get distracted from solving the Problem. That's good conflict, because everyone goes through that. Having the heroine's thoughts immediately respond to the hero's thoughts (rather than in dialog) seems like a cheat and really makes the snap and crackle of the scene fizzle out.

I like the suspense of not knowing what another character is thinking until it is revealed by that character's actions or words to the POV character. That's the way life goes, right? There are other contrivances in fiction that I don't have a problem with (consistent characters, complete plot resolution, etc), but head-hopping isn't one of them.


Timber Beast said...

This is a great explanation of head hopping and the problems inherent with the 3rd-Person Omniscient PoV.

Kellie said...

Glad it worked for you. I'd like to know how others who enjoy head-hopping read a book. Is it like a movie where they are the star no matter what the role? Or is reading a story a more distant observer experience?