When it comes to choosing a certain point of view for a story, the best advice anyone could give you is the following: you should only write a first person narrative if your narrator has a unique enough voice to carry the story forward. Let me elaborate on that.
The thing is that in first person narratives the story is sifted by the narrator. We have a biased account of what happened, but the narrator is ultimately going to be the one who has to provide enough momentum for the story. His voice is what traps readers, maybe even more than plot.
And this narrator doesn’t necessarily have to be a Messiah type of character, or a superhero. He doesn’t even have to be the main character. He doesn’t have to be strong in order to grab the reader’s attention.
Let me give you an analogy. Imagine listening to a shy person delivering a speech or a toast – his quirks and reactions would undoubtedly be laughed at, but everyone will pay attention to him. Average doesn’t cut it in the world of fiction. An average character won’t be enough to drive the story forward.
There’s a fine line between whispering, shouting, and boring the reader to death. The first two are good at capturing someone’s attention. It depends on which one you choose.
And then there’s this idea that for a first person narrative to work, there has to be something in the way readers perceive the story. It must, on at least one or two occasions, show how not knowing everything about the story and characters is a good thing. As I said earlier, first person narratives offer a biased view of the story, and thus, that view has to be different enough from what we as readers would consider factual truth.
Most writers think first person is easy. It’s not. It’s very tricky to get right, and even though it limits the story, thus giving the impression that it’s not as difficult as third person, the voice of the narrator, the tone of the story, and all other stylistic choices matter more than, let’s say, in a third person narrative.
Third person, on the other hand, omniscient, limited, you name it, has the great disadvantage of making the reader aware that he’s reading a story. This God-mode of literature is just a convention, and it takes a while longer for the reader to trust the story, to trust the narrator, than it would require him if he were reading a first person narrative.
And at the same time, third person isn’t the best way to write anything psychological in nature – I believe that the fine mechanics of the human mind are best displayed in a first person narrative.
But third person narration does have its benefits: first, it offers a detached view of the story, it’s like observing the action from a high place rather than peering through a keyhole, then there’s the fact that you can easily alter point of views of characters (not that you can’t do that in first person).
Then there’s second person, my favorite, but that one gets tiresome really fast for the reader, it’s difficult to pull of, and the sheer number of the pronoun “you” that can occur in as little as a paragraph can be more than jarring. But it’s a fun way to write a short story, and I’ve tried it on more than one occasion — I’ve even tried writing a novel, alternating point of views between third person limited and second person. One chapter each. But that was just me being all crazy and experimental.
So, yeah, today’s question is pretty damn obvious: What’s your favorite POV? And why? You can answer as a reader or as a writer, whichever you prefer.