Thursday, July 30, 2009
From Where I Stand, or Head Hopping
One of the earliest lessons I learned in writing fiction is to pay careful attention to POV: that important position from which a story is told. Stick closely to the Point-Of-View you've chosen; don't switch nilly-willy from third to first and definitely do not jump from head to head. It confuses the reader, who wants to identify with the person who's telling the story.
It's true that head jumping is disorienting, and I get irritable when an author tells me things that the POV person shouldn't know, and it seems like a lazy thing to do.
But when can rules be broken? When did Picasso start deviating from drawing people as they looked to the rest of the world, and deciding that things seen from multiple perspectives are more interesting? Perhaps after he's mastered the basic "rules" of his art form?
Roxana Robinson has a masterful grasp of language (although it's pompous for me to pronouce that; like a violin student telling Joshua Bell he has a masterful grasp of his art form.) In her book, Cost, she shifts POV frequently. In chapter four, for example, we see the scene from the viewpoints of Edward; his wife, Katherine; their daughter, Julia; and Julia's grown son, Steven. The transitions were smooth; I never had any doubt whose head I was in; and no hint of irribility is detected anywhere within my reader/writer brain.
Rules are meant to be broken: when the rule breaker has mastered the rule and can break the rule without violating the idea/spirit behind said rule.
Agree? Not? Vehemently?
Tomorrow I'll ask some follow-up questions, such as:
What rules do you find you violate, but with justification?