First or third person?
If first, present or past?
When I started Fingerprints, I actually wrote several pages in third person before it started screaming at me that it wasn't working. Go back to the beginning, change it all to first person ... ah, that's better. It never occurred to me that present tense was an option. It was my first novel—what did I know?—and I'd hardly read any novels written in present tense up to that point.
Three manuscripts later, I began my Recently Finished New Novel. I'd learned a lot in-between, read a ton of current YA work, and felt like I almost had a coherent idea of what I was doing. The RFNN (uh-huh, that's what I'm gonna refer to it as) is in third person. There was never any question about it, partly because I needed my MC to withhold quite a bit of information in the early parts of the story. I knew from first person, it would've been really obnoxious. Also, I briefly considered telling the story from several POVs, but never from my MC's POV. I quickly decided I wasn't that
Now, I'm about to embark on a Shiny New Novel (SNN ... yeah). For the first time, I went through this active, conscious, stressful thought process. I could see pros and cons for doing it any of the three ways (third person, first past, or first present). For about ten minutes, it felt like choosing what college to go to: This decision will impact the rest of my life!
Well, okay, not quite. Making the "wrong" choice would just mean major rewriting once I decided it was, in fact, wrong. And depending on how long it took for me to make that decision, the rewriting could be a right pain.
Worse things have happened.
In this case, I started thinking about my MC. Her personality, what it would mean to be right up in her head, or have a little distance. Then I thought about the general plot as it's formed so far (in my head)—what things might happen outside my MC's presence, how to deliver those things if I'm in first person, etc. Settled on trying first person, then thought about whether the plot warrants the kind of immediacy I always associate with present tense. In combination with certain personality quirks of the MC, I think present might fit.
So my decision is to get in there and start drafting. If I get a page or a chapter (or five) in and realize it's not flying ... back to the drawing board.
That's how we learn, right?
How do you guys make these types of decisions? How do you know whether the story will be best with one POV character, or two ... or more? I'm still a newbie (in some ways), so I want all the learnin' I can get.