(image © Mylène Bressan)
Daniel over at The Anonymous Antagonist just did a blog post about point of view (which I suggest you read.) Actually, POV is something I've been thinking about for a while.
When I'm writing, the point of view I choose depends upon the story. Some stories need to be told in third person, while other stories just have to be written in first person. It's a matter of what best fits the story, what adds the most emotional or dramatic impact.
The Hunger Games couldn't have been written in third person - it needed the up-close, emotional right-inside-the-action punch of first person present to make us really care about Katniss and really worry about her. Harry Potter, on the other hand, worked with the third person limited. It focused on Harry, of course, but third person gave us a wider scope to his world, a range in which we could feel more part of Harry's world.
Of course, each POV has its pitfall. First person narrators can begin to sound all alike if you're not careful. To write a story in first person you need a character with a really strong voice. That doesn't mean you necessarily need a character with a strong personality, but it does mean you need a very real, three-dimensional character.
Third person, on the other hand, can distance a reader from the characters because you can't see their actions as clearly. A hard-to-love character (think Mr. Darcy) is dislikable partly because at first we don't know why he is the way he is.
Sometimes switching POV when you're writing can be good for writers block, or if you're unsure which tense fits the best. But when a story is written in a point of view, it's told that way for a reason. Find your reason for writing in a certain POV, and that may just bring you closer to the reason you're telling the story in the first place.
And yes, I know I've left out second person. The only reasons I can see for writing in second person are if:
a) You want to shock or surprise the reader with something different.Actually, I did use second person in a story once. The story started:
b) You're trying to remind someone who has lost his memory of his past life.
c) You're writing a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story.
You open this book and are instantly transported to a cold, gray tunnel.From there, "you" are guided around the story by a "literary guide" who explains everything to you.
I never finished it, though.
Do you have a favorite or preferred point of view when reading or writing? Why is that?