The last few nights I've been re-reading some of Stephen King's short stories, revisiting some old favorites like Jerusalem's Lot, Gray Matter, and Crouch End. In some ways I like King's short fiction better than his novels. He just seems to have the knack for that story length.
I was telling my pal Cliff that one of the things that amazes me about King is his ability to completely inhabit a character. The narrator of Jerusalem's Lot is an old New Englander in his seventies, and the entire time I was reading that story I believed in that character. It never occurred to me that Stephen King was lurking behind that voice. I can tell you as a writer that this is NOT an easy thing to do. But King does it all the time. When I was reading Joyland a couple of weeks back, I believed in the 21 year old who was narrating the story, just as I believed in the narrator of Bag of Bones. When writing in first person it's much harder to create a character rather than the narrator just sounding like the author with a different name.
Third person is easier, giving the writer some distance and allowing he or she to view the character from outside to some degree. There is a version of third called "close" third person where the writer never leaves the protagonist's viewpoint, but I've never really cared for that voice. At that point you might as well be writing in first person since you lose most of the advantages of third.
Anyway, I came away reminded yet again what and awesome story teller Stephen King is.