It would be accurate to say that I spent most of my childhood in the third person.
Growing up in a household where there was mental illness, violence and uncertainty led, not surprisingly, to fear and distrust. I began to fear my surroundings (and with good cause) but often did not directly interact with them because much of the mistrust, I think, was of my own view of reality.
To escape, I hid under the weeping willow tree and read books. From the time we moved to Albuquerque when I was 10, I lived only blocks from a small branch library. I began by reading the “colored” fairy tale books –The Rose Book of Fairy Tales, The Red Book of Fairy Tales, etc., all the Wizard of Oz books, all the Nancy Drew books, many of the classics – and then devoured every single book, for a child or adult, about American Indians and Egyptology.
To my recollection, every book I read (except Black Beauty and that narrator was a horse, of course) was written in the third person, so I began to think in the third person. Though I kept a sketchy diary (a couple of lines a day, mainly speculating on family situations or that unknown territory of teenage boys), my real writing output was poems and stories.
In many cases, I would view situations around me with some degree of literary dispassion, as the recorder of a scene. It provided safe distance.
Perhaps that’s why I have been so reluctant to focus on personal experience in my own non-fiction writing. Writing my first published novel, Latter-day Cipher, was challenging but at least it was in the familiar native tongue of third person.
But it’s real problem for me in my present WIP, which is a first-person narrative.
Now, since it’s fiction, every reader will pick it up knowing it’s me supposing the first-person view of someone else. And that person is a real historical figure whose unknown history I am, well, supposing. I have to fight the sense that I am being presumptuous or even fraudulent.
And then there are the mechanics of recording someone else’s words. Anne Rice, in Interview with the Vampire, used the device of interview. Others have used the device of a long-lost last manuscript written by the first-person narrator.
Man, this is hard.
Does anyone else struggle with any such issues regarding writing in the first person?