Creating your story: when you first bring your ideas to the table -- plot, plot line, characters, character problems... it may not occur to you that P.O.V. and verb tense should be given just as much consideration as those other elements. Now, some of you may decide that point of view, for instance, doesn't need to be discussed when choosing your options. After all, if you've always written in the third person, then why change? Or, maybe you believe that it is the best and most comfortable match for you. I'm not going to try and change your mind. Instead, why not consider the following information like a buffet -- lots of dishes to choose from? Even if you always go for the chicken, maybe today you will decide to spice things up a bit and pick out seafood. Who knows?
3rd person/past tense: If you choose third person and place the story in the past tense, you will achieve a certain distance from the character's actions and thoughts while creating a definitive account of events as they happened. It's very natural in its effect, rather like you observing someone you know or learn about and watching what happens to them. The disadvantage may be lack of character development where the character is rather flat and lifeless. Caution in this situation would be to make sure and have that balance of inner thought and outer action I previously posted about. The use of past tense, while the most common and natural, can be flat. The advice would be to make sure your dialog is lively and your narrative scenes should use vocab to address those sensory details such as seeing, hearing, etc. Have others read your work and then ask them what emotions they felt, if they felt close to the character, have emotional investment in that character.
1st person/present tense: First person is difficult to pull off successfully. At least that's what I keep reading and hearing. I personally enjoy reading and writing in the first person. First person point of view lets you know the character's most intimate thoughts, like you are inside them. Add to that the present tense, and you have a very upclose, intensely powerful story. It's a very immediate account of events. Just how immediate and intense you make it is what will determine how successful you are. Too much internal thought, too many "I this" and "I that" can result in major irritation for the reader. Sometimes the writing may even sound fake, unrealistic. In fact, the use of the present tense can have such a loud and powerful kick that it may tire your readers and they will quit reading out of shear exhaustion! Still, I think this combination, or even 3rd person/present, is well suited for short stories. I have written shorts with 1st/present and kept the story in a very brief time frame. It works when done well. Although I think the 1st person/past tense brings a better balance to it.
There are more combinations, but I will keep it to the ones I have stated above. So lets sum it up:
1st person: intimate, very close and personal view; careful of too much intimacy
3rd person: more removed, less personal, more natural; careful of flat, lifeless characterization; use internal thoughts along with outer action
Present Tense: immediate, intense, but can be too powerful or intense - reader becomes worn out; may want to change some passages to past tense
Past Tense: somewhat distant, natural, authentic; can be mediocre, needs imagery, great dialog and action scenes to liven it up
I hope this helps. I won't tell you one combination is the overall key to success. If only it were that easy! It's an individual decision. based on your taste and thought. Whatever works best for you and depending on what type of story you are writing -- you decide! Let me know your thoughts and comments. What kind of story do you enjoy writing and is your p.o.v. and verb tense choice a perfect match? Hope to hear from you :-)