I just read a very good police procedural at the request of the author. He asked me to review his book. The book was quite well done except for the occasional head-hopping. The author wrote the book in the third person point of view from the standpoint of the lead policeman. That is the usual approach with police procedurals. However, when he began describing a romantic involvement with the policeman, he jumped from one head to the other. I ignored this oversight in this instance. Normally when an author violates point of view, I stop reading.
Many new fiction writers make this mistake. Why? In the past writers wrote in the omnipresent point of view. In the omnipresent point of view, the author is the main spokesperson for everything. All a character sees, hears, feels is filtered through the author. Modern-day fiction shuns the omnipresent point of view because it’s stilted. Furthermore, modern readers prefer to get closer to the characters. When everything is filtered through the author, there’s a barrier between the reader and the characters.
Writing in the third person creates more problems with point of view than writing in the first person. It does, however, give the author more flexibility.
Here are some basic rules to help you keep from violating point of view.
Ask yourself if the character can know this. In other words, if what you just wrote is something your main point of view character could have discovered or felt.
Allow your character to read other character emotions but they can only surmise feelings. This, of course, is like real life.
We must make judgements by the person’s behavior. That’s the job of the writer.
Don’t write “He didn’t know this now, but…” or “He didn’t notice or see…” How can your character not notice or see? How can he or she not know something that may happen in the future? These are the techniques of the omnipresent point of view and not appropriate in the third-person.
If you did, simply re-write the scene from the point of view of your principal character.
Good luck and happy writing!