Head-Hopping–Writing Tip of the Day

Instead of doing the letter I today, I’m jumping back to H with a Writing Tip of the Day.


What is head-hopping?

Lori’s definition: Gaining God-like powers to see into someone’s mind and read their thoughts and intentions. Also, acquiring the ability to feel someone’s emotions.

I can’t do it. You can’t do it. Your main character, whose eyes you’re looking through, can’t do it.

So why do we write as if we can?

First, let’s talk about your POV (Point of View) character. This is your main character—or the person whose head your reader will be in for the scene. Imagine your reader peeking out the eyes of this character, feeling what he feels, smelling what he smells, hearing what he hears and only observing what he sees.

If you have multiple POV’s, we’ll talk about choosing which one leads the scene later under the letter M.

As the writer, immerse yourself in your POV’s head. Now, anything you describe can only be what you can take a picture of or feel with your senses.

My POV is Kate. I write her in first person. Now I’m living the scene through her. She is watching a reaction from one of my other main characters, Rane. Here we go.

Head Hopping Example:

Rane slid down the wall, wary, ready for the day to end. Exhausted beyond exhausted.

Why is this out of POV? Kate can’t feel Rane’s tiredness. She doesn’t know he wants the day to be over because he’s only thinking that. Side-note: This is also telling vs. showing—more on that when we hit the letter T.

How can I get the same thing across without Kate morphing into God—‘cause that’s not going to happen.

I can use dialogue. I can have Kate “read” his body language and interpret what she “thinks” he’s feeling. She may interpret incorrectly, but that’s okay because it can open the door for conflict due to miscommunication.

Fixed Examples: (she’s reading his body language and projecting her thoughts)

Rane slid down the wall and hit the floor as if he couldn’t stand anymore. The lines on his face deepened in a way I’d never seen. He looked like I felt—exhausted beyond exhausted and so ready for the day to end.

Using dialogue:

“This day needs to end.” He slid down the wall and landed hard on the floor.

Using both:

Rane slid down the wall and hit the floor as if he couldn’t stand anymore. “This day needs to end.”

The lines on his face deepened in a way I’d never seen. He looked like I felt—exhausted beyond exhausted and so ready for the day to end.

Why did I separate my paragraphs in the last example? Style and because I went from his action to her internal thought.

Using the words as if shows that Kate is reading his body language and interpreting it for herself.

Apply It:

Ask yourself, if I were inside my POV’s body—what would I really know about the other characters I’m describing? And go from there.



More A to Z Blogging Writing Tips of the Day

Head-Hopping Woes

Multiple Points of View

On The Side: Etiquette for Finding A Mentor
Paragraphing Just for Fun
Telling Versus Showing or the Perpetual Thorn in a Writer's Side













  1. You did such a nice job of explaining head-hopping and giving illustrations that make sense.

    I never feel that your emails are self-promotion.

    Thanks. Carole

    • Lori Freeland |

      Thank you. I just want to be helpful! But I hate it (especially on Twitter) when people are always saying “Read my stuff…”

  2. This is a great post. I must say I’m guilty. Also, that image with your blog post is a little scary, so I want to stop doing this!

  3. It takes an experienced reader/writer to pick up on head-hopping problems, and I had no idea I was doing it when I first began. I still struggle, at times, when writing in third person, because the narration offers many insights. But we can offer the occasional insight without hopping all over the place, with time and practice and patience. Thanks for your tips. I wish I didn’t need them…but you know how that goes….

  4. Great explanation and examples. I am having to be very conscious of this as I write a YA novel with three points of view. (Argh! What was I thinking? There is a good reason for it.) Thanks for the reminder and suggestions for correcting the problem.

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