Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hopping Heads

"With ice-blue eyes, he checked his handsome, bronzed visage in the mirror and with large, tanned hands, he combed his dark, curly hair, making sure each strand was in place. He nodded his approval and turned toward the stairs. On well-muscled legs, he descended, his tall, built body masterfully groomed." 

The guy sounds yummy and conceited, because in this overdone paragraph, we are in his point of view. While some people might think of themselves in such glowing terms, heroes in romance novels don't. A lesson hard learned for a first time writer.

As writers, we paint pictures with words, so our readers are brought into the story. We want them to recognize the places we take them to - know them, feel them. More importantly, we want them to know our characters as we do and appreciate them for who they are and what they do within the context of the story.

In our zealousness to create the right picture, new and sometimes even seasoned authors, fall out of character, or as editors call it, head-hop. Now, admittedly, when I first heard the term, it reminded me of the Whac-A-Mole game. I'm not sure why, but it did.

I read constantly and had never noticed anything wrong with a story from various points of view. Therefore, when I wrote my very first book, one that is yet to be published, EVERYONE in the book had a point of view, right down to the scullery maid. I contend today, the reason I never noticed, is because the myriad points of view simply didn't exist in books that I read.

One of the most valuable statements ever made to me came during the edits on Serenity's Dream, my first published book, was, "Your character wouldn't think that about himself." Hmm. Simple enough words, but today, it's like a mantra to me. I measure each statement by those words.

Another statement, which I apply, having made it up myself, is "He thinks WITH his cock, not about it, unless he's trying to decide what to do with it." For example, "Veins bulging, his long, thick cock begged for relief." I sincerely doubt guys think in those terms. Other than the long part maybe, but then, when they are concentrating on what to do WITH it, the rest pretty much goes along for the ride, so to speak. 

Most guys are single-minded, having seen their equipment millions of times and are only interested in burying it somewhere out of sight. They probably aren't going to stop to ruminate on the length, girth and, heaven help them, whether their veins are bulging. By virtue of the fact that they are thinking about their cock, we can be assured their veins are indeed bulging.

If our hero thought of himself in the above glowing terms, he wouldn't be much of a hero, would he? He'd be conceited, pompous and wholly unappealing. However, when seen from another point of view it all makes perfect sense.

She watched as his ice-blue eyes checked his image in the mirror. With large, tanned hands, he combed his dark, curly hair, appearing to make sure each strand was in place. Of course it was, she knew enough about him to know he wouldn't have it any other way. After a last tug on his jacket sleeve, he descended the stairs on muscled legs, his tall, well-built body masterfully groomed. Her mouth watered, as she thought of his long, thick cock. Before the night was over, she'd make him beg for relief. 

Okay, not Shakespeare, but you get the point. 

I'm one writer who would like to write bedroom scenes from both (or all) points of view. It can be done and it is allowed if done well, but I'm not sure if I'm up to the task quite yet. I've read some very good scenes done in this manner. They were truly smooth and seamlessly done, a real give and take with the characters. To me, that is the way a sex scene should be.

I sometimes laugh when I'm writing them, only because one partner is busy thinking and the other moaning or answering questions, groaning a word or two and basically laying back and enjoying it. Then I go back and take out all the bits that make it that way, and add something more realistic and soon you have a sex scene, with two partners fully engaged, as seen from one point of view.

The advent of head-hopping will break a story. Likely, the story won't see the light of day, because editors won't accept it, particularly if POV switches are rampant. Reading stories like that is a manic experience. You need scorecards to keep the players straight.

To overcome the head-hopping tendency, there are three things to remember – "Would the character think of him or herself that way?" If not, take out the flowery prose when in that character's point of view. 

The second thing is, when writing a scene, write it from the point of view of the person who has the most to gain or lose by what happens. If a writer remembers those two things, staying in the proper point of view won't ever be a problem again.

Lastly, don't forget my little adage with reference to guys and their cocks. Gives a whole new meaning to head-hopping, doesn't it? (Yes, Mom, I said cock.)

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