One of the “rules” of fiction-writing that I learned while A Gift of Ghosts was getting critiqued at critiquecircle.com was that you should pick a point-of-view character and stay, absolutely consistently, in their point-of-view. Don’t show thoughts of other people, don’t show actions that they can’t see, don’t mention knowledge that they don’t have. (Critique Circle was extremely useful for me, so don’t take this a criticism of the site, please. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants useful feedback on their own writing.)
I wish I had never learned that rule.
It’s a good rule, actually. Since then I’ve read a number of works by beginning writers where head-hopping makes the narrative hard to follow and confusing. And it’s enormously helpful when writing description or setting a scene to be able to focus on what your POV character would notice or care about or feel. I stopped getting stuck on writing descriptions when I got better at remembering to think about what the POV character cares about and to use scene-setting as an opportunity to develop character. And I’m fairly sure my descriptions got a lot better, too.
But it’s also really limiting. I’ve been stuck on Grace (I know, I know, you’ve heard this so many times!) so I’ve been reading and revising early chapters, trying to figure out where this story could go. Should go. Is going? I was close to deciding to give up on her again, because even getting an ending — a good ending, a romantic ending, a charming ending! — wasn’t getting me through TO the ending. But there’s so much in it that’s fun. Their first kiss is just great. And Grace is a riot — pragmatic and romantic, efficient and flustered — she might not work for everyone, but I love her.
But I realized about six chapters in that flowing between points-of-view, not just switching at scene or chapter breaks, but actually flowing from one point-of-view character to another, would really help the narrative. All the points where it’s confusing are times when switching to Dillon for a while and seeing out of his eyes would make everything so much simpler. And most of the fun belongs to Grace and Noah, but most of the tension belongs to the ghosts. Right now, it feels like it seesaws between fun chapters and tense chapters, and if I blended — no, head-hopped, if I head-hopped — it would be much easier to keep both the fun and the tension going at the same time.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with this realization. NOT go back and start Grace over. And not revise the whole thing either. But I think I’m going to start breaking the rule about no head-hopping and write what I want to write, where I want to write it, focusing on what makes the story easier for me to tell. And if it gets confusing, well, I’ll confront that issue when I get there. Words on pages are a lot easier to fix than words that don’t exist.
Writing this reminded me that back in October I was thinking that POV was my problem with this book. I did get freer with POV after that, but not within scenes — I stuck to switching POV characters using breaks. I wonder if I’d started head-hopping back then if I’d be done now? And that’s not a useful thought so I’m not going to pursue it. But someday soon I’m going to get back to writing 1000 words a day, whether they’re good or bad, and I really hope that eventually those words add up to a story I feel good about.
Meanwhile, a few lines that were alone almost enough to keep me writing yesterday:
“You can’t escape destiny with a to-do list, Grace,” Lucas said.
Grace gave him a cold stare. “Perhaps you can’t, but I certainly intend to.
Interesting rule… might go back and re-read some of my work with that rule in mind.
Judy, Judy, Judy said:
Love the line. BTW JD Robb aka Nora Roberts headhops all the time in the In Death series. Especially in the scenes that involve both Dallas and Roarke. And I haven’t had any trouble following it.