The first workshop I took at Craftfest was on Point of View (POV), run by Steve Berry who wrote a book on my TBR (to be read) pile, The Templar Legacy. I'd heard good things about the book and I was (am still) struggling with POV, so I hiked my way to the Broadway meeting room to get his views on POV.
Several of the things he said were things that I already had an idea of – omniscient is too distant and rather confusing for a whole novel. And the most intimate voice is first person, but it's difficult to pull off a thriller in first.
The best take-away from this workshop that I got was the concept of distance in POV. The most distant is omniscient, the most intimate is first, but you can use POV to move farther from your character and then closer.
You do that with how you refer to the character. If you're looking at him from a distance, refer to him by his full name: Major Tomas Santos sat on the bench out in front of the mess hall.
This sets up a long shot, but it certainly doesn't get into the character's head. We don't know what he's thinking and he wouldn't be thinking of himself as "Major Tomas Santos".
If we were in close third, we can get into his head: Tom barely noticed the breeze or the cold of the metal bench, worrying about what his mother would say. He'd signed up for another four years in the Army and he wasn't coming home.
This is much closer. We're feeling the sensations that Tom is feeling and we're privy to his thoughts.
In first, the character probably wouldn't even think of his name and we're even closer. I knew I'd have to talk to my mother eventually. She still worried about me, even though I wasn't in Afghanistan any more, and she wanted me home. Somewhere, though, home had become the Army. I'd signed up for another four years.
That's probably enough for one blog post.
How do you decide which type of POV to use for a story?