At the turn of the century a French teen named Marcel Proust answered a series of questions in an English language journal titled "An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc.", it was1890. Young Proust titled his own answers "by Marcel Proust himself,". Proust’s answers were later uncovered in 1924. His recorded answers were left un-noticed until 2003 when they was discovered and auctioned, then gaining some notice by the media as Marcel Proust had gone on to become a noted French writer.
Since 2003 the questionnaire has been adopted, in whole or in part, by many writers and actors to explore the depths of their characters. In France, Bernard Pivot used the list of questions in his television show Apostrophes. Inside The Actors Studio hosted by James Lipton used pieces of it in some episodes also. The questionnaire has been posed to notable actors in the United States with answers printed in Vanity Fair Magazine. And in Canada, Canadian writers on the radio program The Next Chapter have answered questions from what has since become known as the “Proust Questionnaire”.
Although I have never fully implemented this list of questions in character development I do see great merit in this list to create believable persons within a story line. All good writers do their best by the means they employ to create a believable cast in their writing.
Here I submit the 35 questions reportedly answered by the teenaged Marcel Proust.
Where would you like to live?
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Who are your favourite heroes of fiction?
Who are your favourite characters in history?
Who are your favourite heroines in real life?
Who are your favourite characters of fiction?
Your favourite painter?
Your favourite musician?
The quality you most admire in a man?
The quality you most admire in a woman?
Your favourite virtue?
Your favourite occupation?
Who would you have liked to be?
Your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
What is your principal defect?
What, to your mind, would be the greatest of misfortunes?
What would you like to be?
What is your favourite colour?
What is your favourite flower?
What is your favourite bird?
Who are your favourite prose writers?
Who are your favourite poets?
Who are your heroes in real life?
Who are your favourite heroines of history?
What are your favourite names?
What is it you most dislike?
What historical figure do you most despise?
What event in military history do you most admire?
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
How would you like to die?
What is your present state of mind?
What is your motto?
If you write this is a useful tool to get to know your characters. If you like you can answer these questions yourself, and in your own measure gain a better view of your own character, or just have a bit of fun at Marcel Proust’s expense.
Write on…Christine F.