Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Great Writing Spoils You

I'm still in overdrive from all the wonderful information from conference. Picked up several new books and I'm looking forward to reading them.

With all the talk around different writing loops, workshops on the topic, and great articles, why is head-hopping still being seen and used? I'm not talking about old books, but recently published ones. After reading so many great writers, I shudder when I run across head-hopping.

I started a book the other day and the first few chapters were fine, the story moved along and it caught my interest. Then the head-hopping began without anything to denote the change. It just happened. I kept going back to check in whose point of view the chapter had been written and why suddenly the POV switched back and forth between the two characters in the scene. Also, instead of stating the thoughts, the author is putting them in italics. One or two sentences may work, but whole paragraphs may stop my reading of the book.

May be it was just that book, but then I picked up another one by the same author. By the third chapter, the head-hopping had started again. This time the story didn't appeal to me all that much, so I set it aside. I may or may not finish the first one as I've now lost interest in it.

I asked a friend of mine about this and explained the term to her. She thought a minute and commented, "Oh, that's where I have to stop and check to see what happened to the other character." She grinned and said, "If I have to stop too often, I usually don't finish the book. I think some of the books you've loaned me by...(she named several authors) have made me more aware of what makes a really good book."

Poor use of POV and using participial phrases that have a character doing two things at the same time that are impossible are two of my pet peeves in writing. They can really turn me off to the writing.

Do you have any "pet peeves" about writing that make you stop and reconsider finishing the book?


Debby Mayne said...

I just like a good story, but when someone tries to hard to be "writerly" and gets too flowery in description or overuses long words that aren't necessary, I lose interest. Most of the people I read now are seasoned or have been well trained by ACFW, so I rarely run into these situations.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I'm reading a manuscript by an unpublished Christian author, and she has lots of headhopping. I'm trying to get her to understand the concept of single POV. If it's not used, usually the reader isn't drawn into the life of the character as well. It's more emotionless.

Nancy Kimball said...

Language. Especially in CBA fiction.

S. said...

Martha, what bothers me most these days is the RUSH. Too much action too early, "jump cuts" from scene to scene, and what appears to be an obsessive fear of being dull. An exciting opening is okay, but the rush must be balanced with character development--and it takes a little time to get to know someone. If I can't keep the characters straight, then the writer is in too big a hurry. In my opinion, Christian publishers fail here more often than their secular colleagues, and the industry suffers from a glut of books that are exciting but in the end, forgettable. Just my opinion. --Steven Wales

Martha W. Rogers said...

Yes, Steven, that does happen, and it annoys me, too. Our stories must be balanced with action and fast pace as well as a slower pace and getting to know people.

Darrel Nelson said...

As always, Martha, your comments are spot on. I appreciate the fact that we share the same editor and that you and Lori are both so well versed in the mechanics of writing. Thanks for the timely reminder on POV.