Below is the final post in my series on the choice of viewpoint in fiction.
Choice and consistency
I appreciate that by now you may have the impression that choosing the best viewpoint to use for a short story (or a novel) is a decidedly tricky business. But it isn't really.
If you are planning to write a story at all, then you will presumably have some sort of an outline in mind. Have a look at that material, and as often as not you will find that the best viewpoint pretty much suggests itself. The choice is frequently instinctive, and may well be dictated, or at least suggested, by the nature of the material.
However, at some stage it will probably be wise to take a look at your instinctive decision on viewpoint, and decide whether it really will provide the best method of telling the story.
If you get stuck, and aren't quite sure which viewpoint to use, then here is a series of questions which will enable you to reach a decision.
To repeat, you may not always find yourself needing to work through this checklist in any conscious way, because the answers to the questions listed above will often be implicit in the material that you have already developed. Nevertheless, it can sometimes help you to strengthen what material you have by thinking about some of these possibilities.
As for consistency in the use of one viewpoint well, that is a matter of personal choice and taste. I myself make it something of a point of honour to stick rigorously to the selected viewpoint. Genette, on the other hand, argues that strict observance of this rule is unnecessary.
Will anyone complain if you do vary the viewpoint? Suppose, for example, you are writing a story from the major-character viewpoint, in the third person. If, for a paragraph or two, you forget to be consistent and suddenly tell the reader what a minor character is thinking, are your readers going to feel upset?
Probably not, is the honest answer. Most readers won't even notice. At least, not consciously. I am inclined to think, however, that readers will notice such a shift of viewpoint unconsciously, and that is why I avoid it.
My advice is that you should choose, consciously and deliberately, to write each story from one particular viewpoint and then stick to it.