It’s been used a few times in a number of books I’ve read, and, yes, guilty as charged I’ve used it too.
Used after being surprised, annoyed, or when you’re having a bad hair day, it can also be used when the enemy is dying and, with the addition of the word ‘just’, as it implies he or she is curious about who has beaten him or her.
Or it can be a question, out of right field, in an interview.
My initial reaction was to say, “I’m a writer.” But that wasn’t the answer the interviewer was looking for.
Perhaps if she had asked, “Who are you when you are writing your stories?” it would make more sense.
Am I myself?
Am I some fictional character made up from a lot of other people?
Have I got someone definite in mind when I start writing the story?
The short answer might be, “I usually want to be someone other than what I am now. It’s fiction. I can be anyone or anything I want, provided, of course, I know the limitations of the character.”
“So,” she says, “what if you want to be a fireman?”
“I don’t want to be a fireman.”
“But if the story goes in the direction where you need a fireman…”
“What is this thing you have with firemen?” I’m shaking my head. How did we get off track?
“Then I’d have to research the role, but I’m not considering adding a fireman anytime soon.”
She sighs. “Your loss.”
That other question, who would I like to be if I could be someone else?
A writer in that period between the wars, perhaps like an F Scott Fitzgerald or Earnest Hemingway, in Paris, or if it is a fictional character, Jay Gatsby.
He’s just the sort of person who is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.