When you decide to write a story, you must determine who is going to tell it. At this point, you start thinking about point-of-view (POV). What would be more interesting for the reader? Generally speaking, there are two possibilities, telling the story in the first person or telling it in the third person.
After that decision, it’s time to get to the details. If you go with the first-person option, who would be the one telling the story? Why?
Even if you choose to have an external narrator to the story (third-person), you must decide if he would be omnipresent or follow a specific character or group of characters. Perhaps, your narrator is trapped in one place and can only observe what’s happening there.
This is, usually, what I prefer for my novels. You choose one character, and he or she is the one telling the story.
The benefits are in the emotion and the connection with the reader. The reader accesses the interior monologue and emotions directly by your character’s voice. This way, you make your reader build a very close relationship with one specific character and see the whole story through its eyes.
On the disadvantage side, you only access to his own thoughts and emotions. You see what he sees; you listen to what he listens… and nothing else. You have no clue about who the other characters are or what they are thinking, except through the interpretation of your narrator’s character.
In the third person, you have a completely different narrator and options. The narrator is someone outside the story, telling what is going on.
With the third-person point of view, you may also have interior monologue and emotion, but its told by a different person from the one having the feelings. This gives you the possibility of summarizing some thoughts, which might be the best course of action at some points.
A fascinating advantage of this POV is the fact that you can use your own voice to tell the story instead of using your character’s voice. When you’re using someone else’s voice, you have to focus on what he or she would think, how would that specific person tell this or feel that.
More important, your narrator can see and know everything about everybody. The omniscient narrator knows things that none of the characters know yet, and that can be a very interesting way to explore the story in some genres.
Head-hopping is a technique inside the first person category, and it’s surrounded by controversy. This technique is about switching POV characters within a single scene.
Many writers defend that this will be a less powerful emotional experience for the reader. This group claims that first-person POV is about seeing the scene through the eyes of a single character, see what he sees, smell what he smells… In short, the reader interprets the world through his eyes.
However, other authors believe head-hopping can make the emotional experience even more powerful. You have access to the most profound thoughts and feelings of a character, but you are not limited to one single character.
I, personally, don’t have a definitive opinion about it. I tried it before, and honestly, it didn’t work. Nonetheless, I like the idea of being able to give voice to multiple characters about a specific event, while it’s happening. So, I believe that, if well-done, it can work perfectly for some stories.
Which one is the best for me?
Choosing the right POV is vital when you’re writing a novel or short story. Yet, it’s not an easy thing to do. You must have a good knowledge of each option and train with each one of them. It’s essential to be comfortable writing in both first and third person. Otherwise, you’ll be limiting yourself.
Other than that, it will depend mostly on the story itself and on how do you think it should reach your readers.
My advice is, if you are not sure about which POV is better for your story, then write a few scenes from each POV and see what feels right for you.