I'm giving my newest story a bit of break before I go back and fix the tense issue in it, and going back to the story I started last April.
I am unfortunate enough to have about 180k words of novel (still unfinished) sitting on my HDD (plus multiple local and remote back ups) that was written with no concern for tense or whose reference frame the narrator is using. I am now editing that mess. Fortunately, it's written in a the past tense style using present tense verbs. Easy fix. The issue of head hopping, however, isn't.
In many cases I can simply say "that character doesn't have anything especially significant to add," and simple remove that character's explicit thoughts and feelings from the narrative and rely on "showing" that they are angry by the color of their face, or that they are shocked by a stutter in their voice. However there are those cases where more than one character has something meaningful going on up stairs.
I have come up with three potential solutions
- Remove one character's frame of reference from the narrative and make it a flash back.
- Remove one character's frame of reference from the narrative and have them give a long exposition, detailed in a later scene.
- Just clean it up and make the head hopping as clear as possible with frequent scene breaks.
Of these, I favor the long exposition, but I can see how some readers may tire of that. My least favorite among the options is the flashback mostly because I just don't like them. I think they are trite and gimmicky even though I am aware they can be used effectively. The third option would be the easiest and the only one that isn't certain to require significant amount of rewriting. However, I feel it is likely to lead to the most confusion for the reader and also end up feeling choppy from all the scene breaks. I for one dislike scenes shorter than 300 words unless they are at the beginning or end of a chapter.
I haven't actually read any books that utilized the last two options, and first has only been used sparingly, so I don't have much personal reference. I've read amateur fiction that has taken all manner of approaches including ignoring the issue all together and head hopping all over the place. Google hasn't been much help. It gave results which told me how to write a proper flash back, or how to handle multiple reference frames in a single story. I did find a reddit thread comparing flashbacks and exposition, but in the context of a movie. In the case of a book the reader's eyes can actually start to glaze over and skip words or whole paragraphs, which is worse than simply zoning out during a film.
I intentionally left off baton passing as a way of handling this issue. First off, I don't trust in my ability to pull it off. Secondly I'd be doing it so frequently it would still end up jarring. Better than what it is (I have paragraphs with three reference frames), but that isn't to say it's good.
In my new story I tackle this by avoiding it all together. Those character who are likely to have something interesting bouncing around their brains are kept apart from one another so that it's a none issue by design. This story, however, by design, frequently has two or more especially interesting and distinct characters in the same room at the same time.