Head-hoppin' and author intrusion -- my way

Or...when rules should be broken

Probably to the horror of writers, editors and other POV purists everywhere, I write in what I call modified omniscient POV. That means the POV switches between an invisible, impersonal narrator and one character per scene. That's what keeps it from being head-hopping.

Photo by C. Ward
I think I developed this method from being a boomer, i.e, first generation TV watcher. My impersonal narrator is like a video camera. The reader sees what's going on through the camera's lens. Usually it's in a neutral location and can pan and cut between characters. It can zoom into microscopic level and zoom out all the way across the universe. Now and then during a scene, it moves to the POV character, above or beside his head, so the reader sees what that character sees; and when the "camera" is there, the reader can know what the character is thinking and feeling.

Follow this link for an example of a scene told from this dual viewpoint: The Candidate Excerpt. (Use your browser's back button to return here.)

In this scene, the impersonal narrator is the one describing the three men's physical appearance. The narrator shares POV with Randy. We can see what he's thinking (he wants his friends' help and support with his run for Congress). The camera/narrator never tells us what's in Shelby's or John Mark's head. We have to interpret it through their words and actions, as seen by the camera and/or Randy.

As a reader, I find blatant head-hopping as annoying as anyone else, but subtly switching the POV "camera" between the impersonal narrator and one character per scene isn't head-hopping, in my opinion. And it removes what I consider to be an arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive "rule" that engenders some workarounds and remedies that can be as annoying as the original headhopping.

Being omniscient, the impersonal narrator also knows things the POV character might not know--or knows but might not be thinking of at the moment. The narrator can pass along information that the reader needs in those circumstances. Here's an example of narrator-supplied information, also known as author intrustion (in bolded and italicized text). Purists no doubt hate it, but I've never had a reader even mention it:
When his plate was cleared, Troy checked the lunch bag to see if a small dessert was tucked in there somewhere, but there was nothing. Patty must be planning a high-calorie dessert for supper if she was depriving him at lunch.

His attention was caught by a piece of paper protected in a plastic sandwich bag and he took it out. It was a small, cream-colored envelope, cool to the touch from having been in a compact refrigerator in his office all morning. Inside was one of his wife’s notecards, a pine bough and her first name printed in gold on the front. The cards were blank, for writing personal messages.

This one had no written message, though. When he opened it, a smaller folded paper about the size of a business check fell out and barely missed his plate. He unfolded it, looked at it a few moments, cut his eyes away and stifled a smile.

“What is it?” Max said, bristling with curiosity.

“It’s a gift certificate.”

“She’s kinda jumping the gun on your birthday a little bit, isn’t she? Anniversary, too.”

The Stevensons’ tenth wedding anniversary was coming up at the end of June, and Troy’s thirty-third birthday in early July.

“She wouldn’t give me a gift certificate for either one of those.” He put the certificate and card back in the envelope and slid it into his inside breast pocket. “It’s a no-occasion gift certificate."
From Southern Man by Connie Chastain              

Story-telling isn't mathematics. There isn't a formula that must be followed. It is an art form, and when the rules create a solution worse than the problem, that's when rules can be, and should be, cirumvented.  In my ever so humble opinion