Point of View

One of the most common problems I encounter in manuscripts these days is head-hopping. If you’re not sure what this means, it’s when an author changes from one point of view to another within the same scene. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if this is just another name for third person omniscient. Can anyone enlighten me? 

I know from the courses, lectures and talks I’ve attended and the books I’ve read on the subject that head-hopping is considered a big bug-bear with publishers at the moment, but for the life of me I can’t really see much difference between this and third person omniscient.

Third person omniscient was used quite a lot prior to 2000 and I’ve even found it in a number of more recent books written by famous authors, most notably, James Patterson, the crime writer.

Recently a friend showed me a list of the most frequently borrowed books in our libraries and a book by James Patterson not only headed the list but his books also featured many times down the list of about fifteen, hence the reason for me reading his London Bridges at the moment. What struck me immediately was that he uses third person omniscient for many of his scenes, then switches to first person for the Alex Cross sections. It’s an interesting method, and I couldn’t help wondering whether, if he wasn’t already a bestselling author, he’d be asked to change the omniscient third person sections to one character’s point of view?

I’d love to know what you think, but in the meantime my advice would be to stick to one character’s point of view per chapter or per scene.

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