Ten Notions About Persona in Nonfiction:
1. “Truth is subjectivity.”—Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript.
Every human experience is first passed through the scrim of emotion. A vital tool in our kit. Consider the jury system.
Art is made from emotion, about emotion, elicits emotion.
But for making art from experience, like Kierkegaard did, craft is required. Techniques that tell the reader a wiser intelligence is at work to wrest something shapely from the quotidian, from chaos, from mere moods. Part of this craft of presentation is the creation of a palatable, truth-telling persona. Witty or somber. Earnest or flip. Glimpsed in the margins, or all over everything like white on rice.
This is an approved practice. Rock solid. Take it to the bank.
2. “A sensibility we construct into some kind of figure is what keeps the reader going.”—former Atlantic editor Richard Todd, to a workshop I attended.
This emphasizes Persona 1: the person telling the story, someone come to testify or entertain. Both, really, always.
Often as well there’s Persona 2: the former self in the experience being depicted or discussed. Behind these, there’s the writer creating each persona. Is that Persona 3? Or is that “you”?