Shifting Point Of View Without Head Hopping

How To Avoid Head HoppingIf you shift point of view within the same chapter or story, you risk being  criticized for “head hopping.” But often you need more than one point of view for your novel.

In fact, in some genres, such as fantasy, most readers expect it.

Plus, showing a story through more than one character’s eyes allows you to explore scenes, emotions, and knowledge that you couldn’t otherwise include that will intrigue readers.

So why is head hopping frowned on? And how do you change point of view without the dreaded head hopping label?

The Drawback Of Head Hopping

The biggest issue with shifting points of view is the risk of confusing the reader.

If not done well, the reader suddenly wonders why this character knows something they shouldn’t, or who exactly the viewpoint character is, or what on earth just happened. (That’s what usually results in complaints about head hopping.)

At best, the reader will go back to clarify what’s going on. If they can figure it out, they may keep reading. But if it happens too often, they’ll put down your novel and never return.

Also, you’ve just reminded them they’re reading a book rather than living in and experiencing your fictional world firsthand.

But you can avoid confusion. The key is to transition without jarring your reader. Some ways to do that are below.

You Need More Than A Break

Readers are more likely to understand a point of view change when it occurs after a scene or chapter break. But a break alone isn’t enough.

Cue your reader in at least one other way within the text itself. For example, if you’re writing in third person, include the new viewpoint character’s name and an internal thought or emotion in the first sentence:

Once she got out of the house, Eleanor raced to the DMV, afraid she’d missed her last chance to renew her driver’s license before it expired.

If the last scene or chapter was in Juan’s point of view, the above sentence quickly cues the reader that this one is from Eleanor’s, as we get not only her name and what she’s doing but why she’s doing it. And how she feels about it.

These types of cues can make all the difference.

You can also add the new POV character’s name in italics or parentheses below the Chapter title or number or after the scene break. But even if you do, I recommend cues like those above. Some readers (including me) tend to read right past chapter titles or parentheticals. You don’t want to lose them.

Switching Mid-Paragraph

Some literary authors switch points of view mid-paragraph. Here’s an example from my favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice:

That she should have walked three miles so early in the day in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced that they held her in contempt for it. She was received, however, very politely by them; and in their brother’s manners there was something better than politeness—there was good-humour and kindness. Mr. Darcy said very little, and Mr. Hurst nothing at all. The former was divided between admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion and doubt as to the occasion’s justifying her coming so far alone. The latter was thinking only of his breakfast.

The above excerpt includes at least 3 points of view, which I’ve color coded. Elizabeth’s, Darcy’s, and Hurst’s. Note that the two men are named in the sentence before the shifts to their points of view and the author tells us they said nothing. The author then clearly states what each is thinking.

The vast majority of readers now, though, find switches like the above too jarring, as they are so rare. For that reason, if you plan to switch mid-scene, it’s better to do it when you start a new paragraph.

Shifting POV Mid-Scene

Using actions and emotion (the same type of cues as in my first example) helps any shift of point of view. If you are mid-scene, though, you want to be especially clear.

A few ways to do that include:

  • starting the paragraph with the new POV character’s name
  • beginning the paragraph with the new character’s dialogue followed by a tag with the character’s name
  • describing the new POV character’s movement at the start of the paragraph (using their name), followed by an internal emotion or thought

For example:

Juan slammed his hand on the table. “No way are you leaving.” They were in the middle of an argument, and he couldn’t believe his wife was rushing out without answering his last point. 

“I have to,” Eleanor said. She grabbed her coat. Her driver’s license meant everything to her. Without it, she’d never see her daughter again. Her ex certainly wasn’t going to drive a hundred miles to bring the girl for a visit. 

Juan blocked the doorway, crossing his arms over his chest and squaring his shoulders. He knew how much her daughter meant to Eleanor, but in the two years they’d been married she’d never made him the priority. He was starting to think she never would. And that wasn’t going to work for him. 

As you can see (I hope), these cues make the shift into a different character’s viewpoint less jarring and easier to follow.

I hope you found this helpful!


L. M. Lilly

P.S. For a refresher on points of view, check out these articles on Writing As A Second Career.

The Sound (And Value) Of Silence When You’re Juggling Multiple Jobs

I love podcasts. There’s a list of my favorite ones at the end of this article. If you read my Friday recommendations, you know I learn a lot from them. I also find them entertaining. The same is true for audiobooks.

Not only can podcasts and audiobooks be fun or entertaining or both, listening allows me to make good use of time spent doing mindless tasks like scanning records to store for my law practice, putting away clean dishes, or sorting through and disposing of emails in my spam inbox.

Being able to multitask that way is particularly helpful for anyone juggling writing and other types of work and obligations. Otherwise, many of us would never have time to hear or watch, for instance, a 30-minute explanation of how best to use Facebook ads to sell books.

Recently, though, when a couple of my favorite shows ended, I briefly found myself listening less. To my surprise, I discovered that sometimes silence is better. Better for my creativity, better for my health, and better for my peace of mind.

Here’s why and how:


While doing mindless tasks like folding laundry in silence, I often come up with good ideas for plots, discover the backstory of my characters, or solve problems I’m facing in fiction or life. But I don’t do those things by trying. Instead, as I smooth out the wrinkles in a T-shirt or fold sheets, my mind wanders. Soon, without any real effort on my part, ideas and solutions filter into my consciousness.


Because most of my work for writing, teaching, and law involves using my laptop, I get a lot of neck and upper back strain. I also tend to sit or stand in the same position for long periods. To ease that, I do a series of stretches at night before I go to sleep. I discovered that doing those in silence, while it can be a bit tedious, helps me sleep much better.

Instead of feeding new information into my brain right before trying to sleep, I let my brain slow down along with my body. That means I’m much less likely to wake during the night or to wake in the morning feeling stressed.


Multitasking should make a person more efficient, particularly when it involves learning and listening while doing tasks that truly don’t require a lot of attention. Paradoxically, though, when I was listening to audiobooks or podcasts all the time, I felt more stressed and busier. I think it’s because that added to my feeling that I must be productive times two every minute of every day.

It was as if I was sending myself a message that I could not spare even five minutes to unload the dishwasher or make a cup of tea without also learning something new.

When I allowed myself instead to do some of these tasks in silence, I actually felt like I had more time. And when I did sit down to do tasks that required mental effort, I felt less stressed and so was able to focus more, think more clearly, and accomplish my goal more quickly.


This reason is really a combination of all of the above. When I let myself do just one thing, whether it’s stretching before I go to sleep or unloading the dishwasher, I can actually feel my muscles loosening and tension draining from my body.

Given all of the above, will I stop listening to podcasts or audiobooks when I’m folding laundry? No, not entirely. I love learning and I love listening to stories. Sometimes the prospect of one or the other is the only thing that motivates me to do tasks I’d otherwise put off, like cleaning out the email inbox.

Also, I live alone and work mainly from home now that the bulk of my workday is writing. On a day when I haven’t gone out, which occasionally happens, it’s nice to add some other voices besides my own and that of my parakeet (who does talk) to my day.

I have, however, stuck with leaving the phone off for 30-45 minutes before I go to bed. I also do at least one task during the day, whether it’s cooking or scanning documents, without any audio accompaniment.

Already because of this I’m making better progress on the first draft of The Worried Man, the first novel in my new mystery series. I’m feeling more relaxed while accomplishing as much or more than before.

What’s your experience with multitasking? Please share in the comments.

Until Friday –


L.M. Lilly

P.S. Here’s the list of my favorite podcasts:

The Journeyman Writer (no longer being produced, but many great episodes are available)

Self Publishing Formula

The Creative Penn

Sell More Books Show

Dusted (analyzing Buffy the Vampire Slayer from a story perspective episode by episode through the middle of Season 6)

Still Pretty (picking up where Dusted left off)


When To Use Brand Names In Your Fiction

This Friday I recommend a 6-minute episode of my favorite podcast on writing, The Journeyman Writer. In Nobody Says Flying Disc, host Alastair Stephens talks about when you should and shouldn’t use brand names in your fiction.

Wondering whether your characters should stop at a Starbucks or a coffee shop or drink soda versus Pepsi?

Alastair has the answers.

Until Sunday, when I’ll talk about how to decide which self-publishing tasks to do yourself


L.M. Lilly