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February 08, 2017


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Yes, it bothers me. First, I have a slow mind and am easily confused so headhopping tends to really annoy me. Not if each whole chapter is from a different POV. Gives me time to adjust. As for giving me the POV of everyone but the killer? CLUE! Got it! Unless the book has other compelling reasons to read it, it's proverbial trash can time. Major exception was the Brother Cadfael books. I always knew who probably did it very early on but wanted to know how Cadfael would figure it out.

camille minichino

I question your slow-mind designation, Priscilla (!), but switching by chapter is fine with me also, as long as I know from the start who's turn it is. And as long as there's a good reason -- such as, only that character can give me what I need at that point.


Having only innocent internal thoughts from the killer is definitely not fair. I don't know that I've ever read a book like that, but that kind of ploy would keep me from reading anything else by that author.

Michael A. Black

Excellently written, Camille. You've summed up why third person limited has become the preferred POV, and why a writer should choose those POV's carefully. Any author would go into the head of the killer without disclosing that the character is indeed the villain isn't playing fair with the reader.

Claire M. Johnson

I don't understand why this is a fad because every single review that I've read in the last few years has been that multiple POVs confuse people. That they can't switch back and forth. I think this is partly because if you've read ten mysteries, in a way you've read them all. Most of us who are devoted readers can spot the killed by page 30. This feeds into MY PET PEEVE, which is the unreliable narrator. So if you have all these competing POVs, including the killer, and you have in this mix the unreliable narrator, it puts the reader in the position of believing that there is no center to a novel. No moral imperative driving the plot forward because everyone is a suspect. This seems to be the new norm. Hence the head hopping. It's supposed to create a sense that ALL characters are potential killers. All characters are potential victims. It's all chaos and only the writer knows the solution. I also think this is a way of hiding lazy writing. But that's another topic!

camille minichino

Lazy writing -- I second that, Claire. The question remains: how come readers don't mind? Or do you, LadyKiller readers out there, even know what we're talking about?

Margaret Lucke

Head hopping is a peeve of mine, too, Camille. Thank you for the links to those good articles -- very timely, because at the end of this month I'm speaking to two writers organizations about the mastering the fine art of point of view.


For me, it's "flat voice" and "cadence." By "flat" I mean that if you pick a page... any page... erase character names etc., the voice sounds like any one of umpty-ump writers. No distinctive voice.
The other thing that drives me nutz is if the flow of language is "clunky" and/or repetitive.
Whew! Got that off my chest! ;-)
Thanks, Camille!

Dani Greer

Inner dialogue - or technically monologue. It rarely serves any purpose, and often sounds like the author creeping into the character's head.

camille minichino

Yes, Dani. And have you noticed that the "random thoughts" at stressful moments happen to be complete, grammatically perfect sentences?

camille minichino

And those flat voices are alike even though the umpty-ump characters are supposedly all different.

Ellen Kirschman

Wow! Good discussion. Lots of comments. It's late in the day, but here's my pet peeve. Lousy writing and poor editing. As for POV, last year I read THE WHITES by Richard Price. I'm not sure of my terms, but he used close-in third person for all characters. The chapters were numbered, except - spoiler alert - for the killer whose chapters bore his name. I loved it.

Donna Howard

As a reader, I never really thought about "head hopping" too much. But just after reading your post, I got the latest edition of one of my favourite authors and her latest book and lo and behold, she is doing it. In every second paragraph we get to read what is in the character's head and it is driving me absolutely mad! So, I am not enjoying the latest book and I have hung in there with 17 so far.

But my biggest pet peeve is an author killing off a major character after a long run. This has happened to me with about 3 of my favourite authors and I have never picked up another of their books since. And not caring about the victim is another pet peeve. I realize murder is wrong and should not happen, but when someone is murdered and not filled out particularly well beforehand, I do not care who killed them. Am I being picky?


Hi Donna... I also don't care overly much for when the victim is just a cardboard figure. I don't mind waiting for the crime as long as I get to know the people involved along the way...

Mar Preston

It doesn't seem to bother me at all, though I do notice it.

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