Losing the point of view in a novel or short story is very similar to real life. You have to have empathy with your characters if you want them to act like real people. If you want them to be real players in their own story, they have to have an individual and realistic point of view.
I write predominantly in 3rd person limited (also called ‘close’). If you want a visual, think of it as the character walking around with a video camera on his or her forehead. Everything in the story comes from his or her point of view. I think 3rd person limited gets the reader more interested in your character. After all, the reader knows the character better that way.
Choosing the right point of view is vital, and it can totally change the story that is being told. Take a look at these two examples. Same story, different POV (point of view) character.
The nerve of him. Expecting her to refill his coffee cup every time he took a sip was one thing, but sewing on his buttons in her own time was something else. Sue bit her lip to keep from screaming. She needed this job. Oh lordy, how she needed this job. She fixed the image of her son’s holey sneakers in her mind and plastered a smile on her face. “Yes, Mr. Jordan. I’ll get that done for you this evening.”
He gave her the report as slowly as he could. He explained everything he wanted her to do in minute detail. Well, not everything I want her to do. Come out to dinner with me. Smile just once for me – a real smile. His mind went one step further and he quashed the thought with a scowl. That kind of thing got you in trouble these days – sexual harassment – when all he wanted to do was stay in her presence a little bit longer.
His jacket! He whipped his jacket off the back of the chair. “My button,” he said. “It came off in the taxi this morning. Could you fix it?” He held it out to her and she bit her lip. God, she was cute when she did that!
“Yes, Mr. Jordan. I’ll get it done this evening.”
He watched her walk out and sighed. If he couldn’t get up the guts to ask her out himself, at least his jacket could spend the night in her presence.
Same story. Different point of view.
Play with it. Try out different ones. And then choose the best for your finished story.