Head hopping, is it okay?

First this is the cover of my new book that will be coming out next week.  I’ll be giving away a Smashwords coupon for the book.  I’m really excited about this book.  It’s quickly become one of my favorites.  There is an excerpt after the blog.



I’ve been reading one of my all time favorite books. Gentle Warrior by Julie Garwood. Now that I’m an author too, it’s amazing the things I see, even in my favorite books.

Julie writes in the style that was popular in the day. She does a lot of ‘head hopping’. This is where the point of view changes. In this case it sometimes changes in the same paragraph. According to everything I’ve learned over the last 11 years, since joining Romance Writers of America and Colorado Romance Writers, this is wrong. A big no-no. But you know what? It doesn’t matter in my enjoyment of the book. It works for this book.

I don’t know if it would work for my books, though I seem to naturally gravitate to that form of writing. Maybe because all my favorite authors tend to write that way.

The writing guru’s will tell you that you need to stay in one persons’ point of view for the entire scene. I say hogwash.

You need to be in whoever’s head it needs to be in for that moment. I like the ‘headhopping’. I like knowing immediately what my h/h is thinking about what the other might have just said or done. I don’t want to switch to another scene to find this out.

I like knowing immediately how it felt when he made love to her and she to him. It’s a necessary part of my pleasure.

Do I head hop in my scenes? No, not if I can help it. Though since I self publish, I might try it, who knows?

Times have changed in more ways than one and we are now supposed to stay in one persons head for the whole scene. This is not as easy as it sounds. If it was easy everyone would do it instead of looking for different ways to tell the story (i.e. first person).

I haven’t written in first person, but I’m going to try it on one of my books. I think it would be interesting and easier to write because you are always in the same persons head. I say easier only because I’ve never done it. I know that for me it will actually be hard to remain consistent and not fall back into writing in third person.

Wish me luck.



They was about to hang his brother.

Harry’s stomach roiled with nausea. From the alley next to the saloon, he watched the Ranger, Sam Colter, march Frank up the gallows steps. Watched the hangman put a noose around his brother’s neck and ask if he had any last words. Watched, helpless to do a damn thing about it.

It weren’t Frank’s doin’ that Colter’s wife and kids had died in that fire. They’d only wanted to have a bit of fun with the woman, make a little money, that was all. They hadn’t wanted to see her and those girls die. That was never the plan.

Fool woman. If only she’d waited. Her father would have paid the ransom. A bank president could afford it. Instead, she’d broken loose. Thrown that lamp at his head, trying to kill him and killed herself instead.

The fire had been fierce. It moved so fast like the house was made from kindling. He rubbed the puckering skin on his arm, feeling the sting of the flames all over again as his flesh charred. He couldn’t have saved them, not and gotten himself out in time. Harry clenched his fists. It wasn’t his fault. And it wasn’t Frank’s either. It wasn’t. She was to blame. Frank shouldn’t have to die for something she’d done to herself.

He had to stop this from happening. He had to save Frank.

Harry shifted away from the gloom of the alley and his brother looked at him from the gallows; met him square in the eye and shook his head. He didn’t want Harry to die too, trying to save him. He’d always been like that. Always looked out for him. Even when it could have saved his own life, he hadn’t given his little brother up. Swallowing hard, Harry slid back into the shadows, his heart pounding.

Time slowed as the hangman stepped up to the lever and gave it a sharp pull. His brother dropped through the trap door, kicking and struggling, his neck not broke clean. Fear strangled Harry, like he was on the end of the rope, trying to breathe, trying to live. Hot tears tracked down his cheeks and bile rose into his throat as his brother’s face turned purple and then his eyes bulged out, legs thrashing wildly at the air.

This weren’t right. None of it was. Damn Colter. Damn him to hell.
The bile in his throat burned all the way to his stomach. He barely got himself hid behind a pile of old beer barrels before he threw his guts up into the mud. Minutes later, shaking and sweating, Harry wiped the vile stuff from his chin. Fury and grief gripped him, making his chest hurt. His brother was gone. Dead. And Sam Colter was to blame for it.

He forced himself to look at Frank’s body, spinning almost lazily now from the end of the rope. He never wanted to forget what had happened today. He wanted to hold onto the icy hatred settling over him like armor–let it protect him and keep the awful feeling of helplessness away. He wanted revenge.

“I’ll get even for you Frank,” he vowed quietly. “Colter will pay for what he done today. He’ll pay for hangin’ you.”

21 thoughts on “Head hopping, is it okay?

  1. I am with you on the ‘head hopping’ controversy, Cynthia. I don’t think the powers that be give readers enough credit to follow the story on their own without artificial help through stringent POV rules. But that’s just me.


  2. Enjoyed the first…looking forward to reading the next. We really missed you and Jim at the party for Sean last December…!!! Patricia

  3. I LOVE the cover of your book! Anything with horses on it immediately draws my eye. And the excerpt was wonderful.
    As for the head hopping, I think you have to gain a certain level of mastery of the english language, make your name, THEN you can break all the rules you want. Is it Nora Roberts that headhops everywhere? Wasn’t she in the mind of a dog once even? Yeah, I’m not good enough to get away with that yet. 😉 Great post.

    • I love it too. Author Jennifer Zane did the cover for me. Her book is Gnome on the Range and is the funniest thing I’ve read. She also happens to be a very talented cover artist.

  4. Like anything, if head hopping is done well it works great. But when it’s done badly…

    I’m known to stick with a book to the end no matter what but I recently stopped reading one novel at Chapter Two because of the constant, unnecessary head hopping.

  5. Cynthia~

    WOW! What an excerpt! Tame a Wild Wind is gonna be a barn-burner for sure.

    Head-hopping? OMG. I was beaten senselss by my first critique group over my constant POV switches. I’m a total nazi on the issue now. I hate it when authors (even my faves) head-hop; pulls me right out of the story. And I’m not a fan of first-person either, unless you go into both h/h’s heads. (Ya, I’m a little picky. LOL) Like you I HAVE to know how the characters are relating to each other. To be in only one head throughout the entire book and see/feel only that one perceptive just ain’t for me.

    • Thanks Lynda. I got a critique from a wonderful woman who put me into deep third person POV and helped me so much with this prologue. Her critique comments have helped make this book so much better. I’m very pleased with the way it’s turned out. I hope my readers are too.

  6. Head-hopping is something that if not done properly, can and does ruin a story.

    I believe head-hopping should be left to authors who have earned their strips–by writing multiple books over the years. And even then, if it isn’t done properly, it can and does become jarring and tosses me out of the story.

  7. Head hopping is distracting. Though some people can carry it off in a good omniscient POV, most of the time it’s unnecessary in my opinion. I’d rather be in deep third or even first and change scenes if the writer must show me two viewpoints

    Like a couple of others have said, it throws me out of a story.

    Good luck with your book. The excerpt is awesome. 🙂

  8. Thanks Tamara. I am still learning to get into deep third person POV. It is something that doesn’t come out in my first draft at all. I have to go back and put it in.

  9. I think head-hopping troubles writers more than readers, as do adverbs, overuse of adjectives, use of tags other than ‘said’. I notice all those things now. I do tend to think it’s fashion, in a way. I guess I’ve been indoctrinated, though. I find head-hopping distracting and I don’t do it myself. I also find that NOT revealing what the other half is thinking can be a valuable tool to increase tension.

    But at the end of the day, do what works for you. It’s your story.

  10. I love your cover, and head hopping was a big problem for me when I started to write. I also agrea, I really notice it now when I read. It son’t keep me from my favorites but it does stop me sometimes.
    Great information.

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