Point of view is on my mind this month. My friend Vaughn Roycroft wrote an excellent post on head-hopping that you should read. And as I am deep in the midst of my own head-hopping with my current book, I thought I’d share my favorite tips here for any writers who might be going through the same process:
Give each character her own book. Go through your manuscript and cut and paste each character’s story into a single document. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain to do (easier in Scrivener than in a regular word processing program) but it will help your writing in several ways. I find I’m much more likely to see inconsistencies this way — Trudy hates the color blue in chapter five but wears her favorite blue sweater in chapter 17, for example — than I would if I were just reading through each chapter in the larger document. Plus, creating a separate ‘book’ really helps you nail the voice of each character. And mixing up your work this way will help you with the overall editing, too.
Now read each character’s story aloud. You can do it yourself or paste the copy into a words-to-text program. Are the intonations, the slang, the speech patterns different? They should be. Can you close your eyes, listen to the reader, and know immediately who is speaking?
I’m not saying to go crazy with odd word choices or verbal tics to distinguish your characters. But think of it this way — if an email from a good friend arrived in your in-box with the sender’s name stripped out, you’d probably be able to figure out who sent it based on the way they ‘talked’ in the email, correct? You should be able to do the same thing with your characters.