“Head-hopping” is not a Sin

This is an edited excerpt from Snowed In. It’s the beginning of a sex scene, but I imagine if you’re on my site you kind of expect that:


Hunter Dane came awake suddenly … something … a dream … gone.

He was curled on his side with his butt snugged up against Cam’s hip. He smiled with his eyes closed.

There was no point opening them. Cam’s bedroom loft was pitch back at night, far removed from city lights. Unless there was a moon. There were no curtains over the floor-to-ceiling window walls of the huge A-frame in the Colorado foothills. Moonlight through the thin air at altitude lit up the interior in grayscale.

But not tonight. Not with the sky and landscape blotted out by the blizzard, while they slept in the quiet darkness.


Had the blizzard ended? When they’d gone to bed the wind  roared through the trees, shrieking in the eves. He listened carefully. There it was—a tsunami of wind and snow ten feet over his head, muffled into a faint rush and moan by what must be a deep blanket of snow on the roof.

No chance dispatch could reach him. No bodies, no crime scenes, no politics. No one shooting at him.

No one he had to shoot.

Detective Lieutenant Hunter Dane was dark and damaged and no one of note, except perhaps to a few he’d served well. Camden Snow was a 7-medal national treasure—handsome, winsome, charming, shy—a notorious BDSM Alpha male.

Hunt resisted the urge to roll over and throw an arm over Cam’s strong, solid body, tuck his fingers in under Cam’s waist and snug his now half-mast cock into the valley where Cam’s thigh met the mattress.

But it would wake him, and Cam needed his rest.

As he relaxed back into sleep, the memories washed over Hunter: finding Cam at the club, dropping to his knees just inside the entranceway. Inside his pajama pants, his fingers tightened on his cock. He moved down, cupping his balls, thumb stroking his taut shaft.

A strong hand clamped down on his.

“Need something, Hunter?”

Cam had a vise grip on him; he couldn’t move. “Sorry I woke you.”

“That’s not an answer.”

Cam rolled up onto his elbow. “You’re in my way.” He loosened just long enough for Hunt to pull his hand away. Cam tightened down, feeling the pulse in Hunter’s substantial thickness. He didn’t need to see to know Hunt’s harsh breaths came from parted lips.

“I’m not going to ask you again.” He didn’t shout or snarl or harden his voice. Camden Snow didn’t have to. He just … informed.

Hunter knew there was only Cam’s way, or Cam’s way. There were no highways to take. He would comply or Cam would act. Both options made his stomach hollow and the itching heat behind his sac deepen. His cock would have jumped if Cam’s grip allowed any movement.

Cam skated a thumb around Hunt’s ridge, spreading the precum. His interest at this point was not sexual gratification. Hunter needed something from him. Cam would know what that was.

That’s 3rd person. Some would say “close 3rd” or subcategorize it as omniscient or limited or head-hopping. But like sexuality, POV is a spectrum. Also like sexuality, it is subject to strong opinions presented as facts. Rules. Inviolable truths. Edicts and mandates, no less.

Which is simply a few million years of biology demanding we categorize everything.  Carolus Linnaeus wanted to categorize the world. And he did, pretty much, so biologists and paleontologists et al had a hell of a time figuring out where viruses went.

Finally some smart person—probably a professor’s wife—asked: “Why can’t you just make a new Kingdom?” WHAT?!!  It has to be a plant or an animal!!

Why? ‘Cause Linnaeus never saw a cell?

Your book doesn’t have to use the same POV all the way through.

A writer named Harold Robbins made millions of dollars not staying in the same POV.  Your 3rd Person doesn’t have to be some hazily-defined subspecies like “distant” or “close” or “guided” or “invisible.” Nor does it have to be a rigidly defined “limited.”

You can hop into all the heads in your MMFFMFM scene as long as you don’t confuse your reader. Though some readers will insist on becoming confused if you write anything more subtle than

See Spot run.

See Spot hump Dixie.


1st person

is probably the most restrictive. It can seem personal and still be distant and impersonal, depending on how much the character reveals. It’s the voice of hard-boiled detective novels. Or gently simmered ones. It’s quite popular with the Archive of Our Own writers. It works in romance because it’s so easy to seed the misunderstandings.

It’s the voice of blog posts and confident writers with great voices and irritating newb screenwriters who think they are Shane Black who wrote an entire award-winning screenplay in his own voice.

2nd person

is tedious to read. Rarely chosen. It’s the least used and simplest to define. Everything is “you.” Second person books are like the carnival tent with the bearded lady. 2NDPERSONThey are the freaks of publishing.

Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City is a well-known second person book.  The image at left is a screen grab of the opening from the Amazon Look Inside.

You can read about the book here. Essentially, Second Person is someone talking to themselves or to someone else. Books that comprise a series of diary or journal entries, and sometimes use 2nd. It’s also used  as a device to keep the identity of the narrator a secret. Who is speaking to whom?  Is it a shrink speaking to a patient?  A victim to his killer from the Other Side? An interesting and challenging voice.

3rd person

Now we’re getting to it! Except we pretty much already did:

 Your Third person doesn’t have to be some hazily-defined subspecies like “distant” or “close” or “guided” or “invisible.” You can hop into all the heads in your MMFFMFM scene as long as you don’t confuse your reader.

3rdP is about the writer’s relationship with the characters. You approach and draw back and circle and close. You focus on one or on the environment or on what happened long ago or far away or on both or either or all of the characters.

You’re God.

The excerpt at the top was the writer in bed with the MCs, moving from one to the other and back and not breaking the scene apart. In On His Knees, the same thing happens, except the parts are removed from one another. Hunt and Cam’s 1st encounter. But now our guys are not almost strangers to one another. Now they seek intimacy. The style reflects the state of their relationship. But it’s still 3rd.

One of my reviewers, who gave Snowed a lovely review, referred to my “head-hopping” style. But it’s not, really. It’s just 3rd Person. In fact, it’s a very traditional style of 3rd Person.

If a very limited 3rd, (one blogger called it “3rd Person First”) is most comfortable for you and your stories, go for it, of course. Aways feel free to make your own choices about your own writing. But you don’t have to change chapters to write everything going on if you don’t want to. Just keep your reader oriented.

The writer doing it correctly is the writer whose readers enjoy the read and come back for more.



  1. Thank you for this! I’ve been trying to figure out the difference between head-hopping and third person for years. I did read something that had a scene written in several ways and I could ‘feel’ a slight difference between the head-hopping one and the third person but I couldn’t see a ‘rule’ to follow.


    1. Hi, Mara! I’m pretty sure there’s only one rule: write a good book people like reading. Some people. anyway—there are plenty of people we never please. Stephen King in his excellent book On Writing said you had to do two things to be a writer: read a lot and write a lot. If we do the “read a lot” part, especially if we read a lot of 20th century writers, I think it’s the best school because we see so may ways of telling a story.

      My own process is listen to Beta readers I trust. If they don’t know where they are in terms of POV, I need to make it more clear. But critics in reviews who hate the “head-hopping” style, really need to go find someone else to read they like better. Allow yourself the freedom to find your voice and style. That last thing to worry about is some rule. (That’s what editors are for. And you can ignore them, too.)

      Liked by 1 person

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