Very useful, must-read post here on Nicola Morgan's blog on Point of View.
Now we all know and understand POV don't we? But it never hurts to be reminded, and to do an exercise to prove you really understand it.
At my writing class last week, Della Galton talked about POV, and then had us do a really interesting exercise. We wrote a short snippet (3 minutes-worth) in third person POV. Then we each read our work out, and discussed at what point does it become irrevocably the character's point of view.
Here's the very rubbish piece I wrote at the time:
Skirt, blouse, jacket. Mary had laid them all out the night before. With shaking hands she dressed, then cursed as she put a fingernail through her only pair of un-laddered tights. Never mind, she'd wear her long boots instead of shoes, that would cover the ladder. But would boots seem too casual, she wondered. Maybe she would have time to buy a new pair of tights on the way to the interview...
So, when does this become definitely Mary's POV, and can no longer be someone else's, or omniscient? Fourth sentence, I'd say - the point where we go into her thoughts with 'never mind'. Before then, it's possible there could be another character in the room, observing Mary, shakes, curses and all, and there's nothing to prevent the story continuing in his POV.
With short stories, it's essential to get into POV as quickly as possible. It anchors the reader, and sucks them in. You need to know who you're reading about, and who the main character is within the first few lines. Generally speaking the first character mentioned needs to be the main character, and the story should be in their POV (there are exceptions to every rule of course!)
I found this an extremely worthwhile exercise. The better writers in the group all seemed to establish POV in their first sentences, and that is something I will try to do with the next story I write.
Another tip, to make a story stronger and more emotional, is to write it in first person and then change to third person afterwards. You'll end up with a very close third-person story, probably closer than if you'd started out writing in third person. I must try this too!