I'm writing a literary analysis essay in which the author, Tim O'Brien, uses a fictional version of himself to tell the stories in the book. How would you suggest I help keep the reader from being confused as to whether, when I say "Tim O'Brien" or "O'Brien," I am referring to the fictional version or the real version?

I'm thinking about inserting a sentence in my essay that says something like "When I say 'O'Brien' or 'Tim O'Brien,' I am referring to the fictional character, unless otherwise indicated."

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I would suggest referring to the author as "O'Brien" and his fictional self as "the narrator."

That way, you can speak to his fictional self with sentences like "When the narrator describes Rat Kiley..." or "When the narrator returns home from the border of Canada*", you can avoid confusion. Additionally, you can have a setup in your intro paragraph that says something along the lines of "The narrator in The Things They Carried acts as Tim O'Brien's fictionalized self..."

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    I agree. The correct terms are "author" and "narrator". Tim O'Brien is the author, i.e. the real world person who wrote the book. O'Brien told the story from one of many possible perspectives, and this perspective - which in some books is given a name, character and history, in others will remain purely abstract and nameless - is called the narrator.
    – user5645
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 14:35

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