Being that I'm interested in all sides and want to look at all angles, I took this reader's comment seriously and have dug into this concept in an effort to either put merit behind it or debunk it, in a manner of speaking.
Before I continue, I will say that after reading other blog posts about this subject, I think a lot of people, authors and readers alike, misunderstand what head hopping really is. Head hopping is not when an author uses a break (either a scene break or a chapter break) to change from one character's point of view to another. That is simply referred to as a POV shift. Head hopping is where an author does NOT use a scene or chapter break and instead jumps from one character's POV into another's without warning the reader, oftentimes mid-sentence or mid-paragraph. Call it whiplash.
[NOTE: For those who try to say they're not head hopping but writing in omniscient, think again by reading this post by Jami Gold.]
I've always been told I think too much, but 1) I can't help it, and 2) how can someone think too much when we only use 10% of our brain power to begin with? and 3) I love thinking and debating sides in my own mind, which is why I'm thankful for the reader's comment on this subject.
I've heard this head-hopping-is-okay-because-they-do-it-in-the-movies argument before, and it has never sat well with me, stewing on my mind as I've tried to figure out what doesn't make sense about it. So, anyhoo, now that I've thought about this and read a bit more on the subject, and tried to give it an objective mind-scouring, here are my thoughts on how head hopping in novels is not the same as watching a movie:
To begin with, when we watch a movie, we are receiving input to one of our senses that doesn't get to partake as deeply when reading a novel, our sense of sight. While reading, we see the words, but that's as far as our sense of sight goes. With movies, our sense of sight is allowed to feast in a way it doesn't get to at many other times.
Following is an example of how powerful visual images in movies are:
Why? Because the medium a film uses to convey the story is mostly visual images. Powerful visual images that show the reader exactly what to think. There is no guesswork. There is no need to ask, "Who's talking?" We see who's talking. We see who's taking off their shirt or loading the gun. We can deduce by the acting and film direction what the story is. But, if you take away the visual images and rely solely on just the dialogue and the sounds of that scene I just mentioned from No Country for Old Men, you'll have no clue what's going on.
With novels, the medium of communication is words, not visual images. Try doing in a novel what No Country for Old Men did in that scene, and take away the primary medium of communication (words). Try using no words whatsoever, only blank pages, to convey to your reader what is happening, and see how successful the book is. As with a movie where the visual images are taken away, readers won't have a clue what's going on if you give them blank pages, or even mostly blank pages with just a couple of lines of dialogue on them.
My point? Simple. My point is that readers read your words and create the pictures in their minds from what you tell them. If you can't paint clear enough word pictures, they will lose interest. We, as authors, must convey through the written word what is happening, because we don't have the luxury of visual images and movies in our books. We must paint that picture in our readers' minds through words alone. Otherwise, readers will not be able to see our stories, and they will not engage. Additionally, if you lose them through poor storytelling or poorly structured scenes, they will not engage, and a disengaged reader is bad, bad, bad, because they're the ones who don't finish your book and may never buy another one. And, like it or not, hopping from POV to POV is disruptive in the written medium, especially if it done poorly (see the link I've included below for more information).
As I was researching this topic for this post, I came upon a blog post written by Jami Gold, and she hit the nail on the head in more ways than one and said it better than I ever could:
Jami Gold - Why Is Head Hopping Bad?
After reading Jami's post, I found myself saying, I agree. Before I learned what head hopping was, I didn't consciously notice it, but I did subconsciously, and I remember being uber-aggravated by it more than once. I remember reading books where I got so lost in who was doing and saying what that I gave up trying to figure it out.
One of Christine Feehan's books did that to me, and I remember going back and re-reading several pages at a time more than once to try to figure out who was talking and doing the action. I never read another Feehan novel after that, because that one frustrated me so badly that I didn't think it was worth the trouble. I'm not even sure I finished that novel, but I do remember being extremely irritated. At the time, I had no idea what head hopping was, but I clearly reacted to it in a negative fashion. So, I agree, a reader doesn't have to know what head hopping is to be frustrated by it.
My other observation about head hopping in movies is that I really can't see how it's possible. We are the fly on the wall watching those characters on the screen as the action unfolds. We aren't inserting ourselves into one character's head and then into another's and another's and back-and-forth we go. We are made aware of only what the director or writer of the film (because, yes, movies start off as written scripts) wants us to know when they want us to know them. We are led by visual storytelling, not word storytelling.
Additionally, movies do have scene breaks. Equate them to chapter or scene breaks in a novel. Both movies and novels flow from one scene to the next and so on. And when those scenes break, oftentimes, a different character's POV becomes more dominant than another's, both in books and in movies. John McClane in Die Hard is likely the dominant POV character in the scenes he appears in, but he still interacts with other characters in those scenes and can deduce by their actions and words what's going on. But that is not the same as head hopping. Dialogue with those characters is not head hopping, nor is watching another character unbutton her blouse or answer a telephone call, which is more a result of POV, not head hopping.
In fact, we lose more POV and inside information in movies than in books, which, if head hopping were taking place, would not be the case. This is one of the biggest complaints of books-turned-into-movies. How many times have you heard someone say, "The book was better."? They say it was better because they were able to see more of what was going on inside the character's or characters' thoughts in the book than in the movie.
So, you can look at this a couple of ways: If you believe head hopping is going on in movies, and yet books are more often than not better-received than the movies they're made into, then obviously head hopping doesn't work very well. Or, head hopping really isn't taking place in movies, and the clearly defined POV shifts in books work better to tell the story.
So, is the movie still in Bella's POV or not? Are we, in fact, head hopping in the movie, whereas in the book we were firmly fixed inside Bella's head?
No, I don't think we are head hopping. What is happening is that we are seeing in the movie what Bella saw in the book. We aren't hopping into Edward's head and changing POV in the movie. We are merely seeing the action how Bella saw it, hearing the conversations with Edward and Jacob and everybody else the way Bella heard them. That is not the same as head hopping, otherwise Edward would give away to the viewers immediately that he is a vampire and we would never get to the big scene in the woods where she finally announces that she knows what he is and he says, "Say it. Out loud." Pause. "Say it!" then goes on to call her his own personal brand of heroin after the cat's out of the bag about his vampirism. If head hopping was going on in the movie, we'd know all about Edward early on, and the climax of the big announcement would be more or less a tiny squeak of insignificance.
There is a scene in the movie where we get to see the trio of bad vampires kill Charlie's friend, but again, that is not the same as head hopping. Bella couldn't see this scene in the book, but she was made aware of what had happened by talking to her father and Edward, so we were able to find out in the book from her POV that this had happened because Edward and her father told her. In the movie, we actually get to see that scene rather than just read about it through conversations with characters who know what's going on.
So, does head hopping really happen in movies or not? I don't think it does, and I don't think using that as support for head hopping in books is a good argument. Furthermore, comparing film techniques to book techniques is like comparing apples to oranges. Both films and books are ways to entertain people, but each goes about creating that entertainment in two very different ways. What works in movies won't work in books and vice versa, because each uses extremely different media to entertain.
In five or ten years, the rules might change and head hopping could be all the rage in fiction, but I'm not betting on it at this point, simply because I firmly believe it takes real talent to pull off the head hop without disrupting the reading experience for the readers. But that's just me. If head hopping becomes the vogue thing to do, I doubt I'll be able to do it. Like readers who love to seep themselves into a good book, I love seeping myself into the POV character I'm writing from. It's fun, and I use POV as my "twelfth man," as I wrote about in my last post, working POV like an extra character to elicit specific reactions from my readers and to reveal things in a logical sequence for the best effect.
Opinions? Thoughts? Can anyone show me an example of head hopping in a movie (I'm an avid movie-goer and can't think of any where actual head hopping occurs)? If anyone has other knowledge that I'm not aware of, I am greatly interested in seeing it. Thank you.
Happy reading and writing.