Head Popping

Before I start, let me say most of my short writing career is in romance. I’m not at all familiar with other genres, so I can’t so the idea of head popping applies to them. Although, I think they should at least in some part.

In my mind, romance is a highly emotional genre. A decent romance draws the reader into the story and creates an empathetic bond between reader and character. Part of achieving this affect is to use a deep point of view (POV). That means being deep into the head of the character—knowing what the character is feeling, his/her motivation, and experiences with the world.

Head popping interferes with this concept. So what is head popping? Head popping is changing the POV to the point it’s difficult to determine who exactly is doing the thinking. Other times it prevents the reader from really forming that connection with the character. Sometimes its subtle, sometime obvious. I feel like I’m rambling, so I’ll just give an example of head popping.

Bryan checked his watch. Two thirteen—just enough time to catch the next subway. He paid the toll and walked onto the platform. A woman rushed past. He jumped back, but not before she jostled him to the side, knocking him into the wall.

“Excuse me.” She glanced over her shoulder without missing a step. Her red cropped hair fanned in a semi-circle as she turned away.

“Watch it,” he called after her.

“You watch it.” Mandy pushed through the crowd. She knew that little street rat had to be here somewhere. The little punk had snatched her cell phone right out of her hand.

“Some people.” Bryan straightened his clothes and took his place amongst the throngs. The train approached, the low buzz growing louder as it screeched to a stop in the tunnel. He shuffled forward, just part of the crowd.

Okay. So, we start in Bryan’s POV. Then somehow the story pops into Mandy’s POV before switching back to Bryan’s again. That’s head popping. If we’re in Bryan’s POV, we should NEVER EVER know what Mandy is thinking unless she says it aloud. Furthermore, we shouldn’t even know Mandy’s name, since it wasn’t introduced to Bryan.

Let’s use the same example, but make the shift in POV a little more subtle. Just going to truncate it a bit.

“Watch it,” he called after her.

“You watch it.” The aggressive redheaded pushed through the crowd to make her way to the front.

“Some people.” Bryan straightened his clothes and took his place amongst the throngs.

The underlined phrase, just that little slip switched to Mandy’s POV. I see it all the time. Bryan does not know why she’s  pushing through the crowd, he’s just assuming. Substituting the underlined with “and made her way to the front” or just deleting it would fix that issue. While in deep POV, the MC doesn’t see the intent of others, he/she only sees the actions.

So that’s it for now. Later, I hope to talk about writing styles which distance the reader from the story—a trait a writer does not want to do. Stay tuned for my weekly Friday posts.