The other day, after seeing a number of publishers calling for short romance stories, I decided to dig out some of my old favorites for some style refreshing. (Or brain stimulating. You know how it is.) As I read a few of the short, sweet stories, I found myself coming to a conclusion I didn’t know I needed to reach.
There was a time when I couldn’t read these stories, or books by certain authors, because of my own mounting frustration with changes in point of view. But now, I read these books again, with a more experienced, more objective eye. And I realized that what I believed was head-hopping (in this case) was actually an omniscient point of view, and it was done well.
But, you ask, what’s the difference?
An omniscient point of view is one that appears to the reader as an entire picture. It gives readers the power to see through the eyes of a number of different characters, all during the same scene. Like watching a show on TV. But because we are not strictly in the head of one character, each of these characters is able to keep secrets from the audience, where in a tighter, closer point of view, that would be much more difficult.
Head hopping is taking that tighter, closer point of view (be it close-third or first) and giving voice to more than one character in a single scene. This tends to be disorienting, because it’s like looking at the same scene from several different angles, all at once.
It’s a very technical, hard to understand concept, and an extremely difficult skill for most writers to master. Personally, I prefer to avoid writing in omniscient simply because it is SO HARD to get right. (And also, that’s not how I write.)
So in going back and rereading these books that have been slowly gathering dust, I remembered that there really is a place for omniscient, and that I really enjoy reading it when it’s done well.
What about you? What recent reading discoveries have you made?