And now for something completely different! An actual informative post, courtesy of me.
If you're writing a story, you need someone (or something) to tell it. That's a fact. That person or thing is called a narrator. A story's narrator can be a character within the story, or even the author as an all-knowing presence. The narrator also functions within the world of the story that's been created.
There are a few ways to tell a story; these were actually pretty confusing for me when I started writing, and can still trip me up. For brevity's sake, I'm only going to touch on the following types of narrators: First Person, Second Person, and the billions of kinds of Third Person. If anyone's curious or wants more information, search Wikipedia. Though not all their information is correct all the time, stuff like this is pretty reliable.
First person narration is told from the point of view of one person at a time, speaking for and about themselves. You'll be able to tell a story is in first person because you'll see the narrator referring to themselves as "I". The audience will see the plot and actions from the point of view of this character, including their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on what is happening.
One thing to keep in mind when using first person, is that it's a very skewed perspective. Everything that happens in the story is filtered through your character's eyes; if your character misinterprets something, that's what the reader is given. So, not everything in a first person story should necessarily be taken as fact. Some authors hop narrator to narrator (head to head) when writing in first person, and though uncommon, it's not a bad thing. You just need to keep in mind that you can't have a scene in a first person story that the narrator is not in, because they won't witness it.
This is probably the least common way to narrate the story, because the narrator is referred to by second-person pronouns, namely, "You." Because this is a little tough to wrap your head around, here's an example from Wikipedia's entry on second person narrative.
You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. —Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984)
Frankly, in my opinion, second person is awkward to read, and makes you feel like you're reading an instruction manual. It makes it seem as the "you" being referred to is the reader, and that's odd to me, and apparently a lot of other people agree because it's not used that often.
There are a few methods of third person narration, so I'll break them down as easily as I can.
Third Person Limited
Here, the reader experiences the story through the senses of one character. This is almost always the main character, and has similar limitations to first person narrative: the narrator can't tell the reader things that he or she doesn't know. Literary example: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway, and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
Third Person Objective
With this type of narration, the story is looked at objectively by the narrator. It's often referred to as the "fly on the wall" or "camera lens" approach, and only records observable actions, not interpretations. This is most commonly associated with news articles, scientific journals and biographical documents. It's also called third person dramatic because the narrator is like the audience of a play...it has no effect on the plot and is an innocent bystander, watching the show happen.
Third Person Omniscient
A common form of narration, "the reader is presented the story by a narrator with an overarching, godlike perspective, seeing and knowing everything that happens within the world of the story, regardless of the presence of certain characters, including everything all of the characters are thinking and feeling. 'Third-person omniscient' should not be confused with "third person limited" or 'third person intimate' in which the narration is restricted to relating the thoughts, feelings about knowledge of a 'point of view character.'"
Wikipedia explained it very well in a nutshell. Examples from popular works include The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Also, unlike first person and third person limited, third person omniscient is the type of narration that is least capable of being biased. It is the most objective way for narrator to tell the tale.
How does a writer know which type of narrator to use? I'm not sure. I always let the story choose for me. If one sticks out to me before I begin writing it, then I'll use that, but sometimes I actually have to write short pieces of the same story in first person and in third person limited to see which one fits better. Allow the story to drive which narrator you use; don't try to cram your story into one that won't fit. It's like square pegs and round holes, and the end result could be a disaster. Personally, I like the biased perspective and intimate thoughts you get with first person, but that's personal preference.
Well, that should do it. As much as I like posting about fact-y things, I can't resist throwing in a little funny.
So here you go: