The magic of reading and how head hopping can break the spell

I’ve just finished reading a book in which about 90% of the story was from the point of view of the central character, Jo, (limited third person narrator) then every now and then it would slip into the mind of someone else (omniscient narrator).

I’d be right there with Jo as she was struggling to navigate her relationships with her moody teenage daughter or her new man, then the narrator would tell me what her daughter or lover, or even a minor character, was thinking, and the spell was broken. I became aware of the writer’s presence and Jo became a character rather than a person whose journey I was sharing.

If I were the editor of this book, first I would lavish it with praise for its fresh energetic voice, its rounded characters and its magnificent sense of place, then I would gently ask the author why she chose to tell us what was going on in other characters’ minds, rather than hinting at it through their actions.

The contract a writer enters into with a reader is a delicate one. Your reader agrees to believe in the characters you have invented, and you promise to take them on a journey with those characters. For the magic to happen, you need to trust your reader (and the power of your writing) to find their way and make the connections, just as the reader has trusted you to tell them the story in the first place.

It’s tempting to direct your readers every step of the way, but the reading experience can be so much more powerful if you melt into the background and allow your reader to become fully immersed in the story and the characters’ experiences.

Good luck intrepid writer, keep making the magic.

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