Proust Questionnaire

by limebirdlaura

Sometimes I’m tempted to say something like, “as Marcel Proust would say,” but I have no idea what Marcel Proust would say; I could say, “as Michael Crichton would say,” but it doesn’t really have the same effect.

-Lorelai Gilmore, The Gilmore Girls

I just had to throw out a Gilmore Girls quote, because I’m insanely obsessed with the show… Anyway, before I go all fan-girl crazy over a show that has been cancelled for 5 years…

In screenwriting courses, no matter how short of a script we were writing, we were always required to answer a character questionnaire about our main character. It would consist of things like “What is your worst nightmare?” or “What is your happiest memory?”

The questions aren’t things that would particularly end up in the script, but could potentially help you figure out how your character would react in a “fight or flight” situation, or how they’d react to a wedding proposal, or what they’d say if they saw an alien invasion descending upon their farm house.

I was just bumbling around ye-olde-internet and came across thisΒ questionnaire, which first gained popularity after French author Marcel Proust answered the questions about himself. If only Lorelai Gilmore had read the Proust Questionnaire, she’d know exactly what Marcel Proust would say!

While these are questions that Proust answered about himself, they could easily be questions to interview a character with, in order to gain some insight into their psyche.

Marcel Proust Questionnaire

What is your favorite virtue?

What are your favorite qualities in a man?

What are your favorite qualities in a woman?

What is your chief characteristic?

What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

What is your main fault?

What is your favorite occupation?

What is your idea of happiness?

What is your idea of misery?

If not yourself, who would you be?

Where would you like to live?

What is your favorite color and flower?

What is your favorite bird?

Who are your favorite prose authors?

Who are your favorite poets?

Who are your favorite heroes in fiction?

Who are your favorite heroines in fiction?

Who are your favorite painters and composers?

Who are your heroes in real life?

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?

What characters in history do you mist dislike?

Who are your heroes in world history?

What is your favorite food and drink?

What are your favorite names?

What do you hate the most?

What historical figures do you despise the most?

What military event do you admire the most?

Which reform do you admire the most?

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

How do you wish to die?

What is your present state of mind?

What fault have you tolerated the most?

What is your motto?

Have you ever used a questionnaire like this to help you develop a character? Was it useful, or a waste of time? Would you ever consider interviewing your main character if you have never done so in the past?

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33 Responses to “Proust Questionnaire”

  1. Ohh interesting post Laura! This would be so handy to do to get to know our characters a bit better. I’ll definitely keep this in mind.

  2. Interesting tactic, Laura! I like to get a firm feel for my characters’ likes, dislikes, and motivations. I find myself asking a lot of these questions of them internally (because I love doing research into local food, drinks, music, fashions), but this is a very handy list! I’m not certain what *I* would answer to any of these, at any given moment! πŸ˜€

    Thanks for posting!

  3. Love Gilmore girls! That banter she and her daughter keep up is hilarious!

    • Oh gosh I love that show so much. I just cycle through the seasons almost constantly, when I get through the end I’ll go back to the beginning. I wish I was half as clever as Lorelai is!

  4. Things I love: questionnaires, Gilmore Girls, writing exercises. This post is an explosion of awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    • I don’t know why but this just reminded me of a time I was at a restaurant and the waiter was explaining a cake to me and he said “It’s an explosion of flavor in your mouth”, I cracked up. HAHA I’m glad you enjoyed, thank you for commenting πŸ™‚

  5. I haven’t yet done this myself, although it’s also advice I’ve seen for writing novels. But I am trying it as I work on my sequelsβ€”although maybe that’s like shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped. Still, I think it will help with new characters and those who only had supporting roles in the first books. And maybe it’ll reveal some new insights into my original main characters and help me see how they’re moving forward in their lives.

    Good post!

    • I think it could still be handy probably (not that I’ve ever written a sequel to anything) but maybe it could aid in a bit of character development for your main? Good luck on your sequel!

      Thank you πŸ™‚

  6. Yes, Gilmore Girls! Love it love it love it. And what an awesome idea with the questionnaire! πŸ™‚

    • Gilmore girls are the best! Do you think it would be weird if I renamed myself Lorelai and my mom Emily and my dad Richard …. hehehehe I knew you’d like it. Every time I hear mention of Marcel Proust, I think of Lorelai Gilmore.

  7. Ditto on the love for Gilmore Girls and greatness of this post!

  8. I never understood why that show got cancelled it was awesome! Love the questionnaire too. πŸ™‚

    • Me either Kourtney! I’d like if the show would just keep going until they are both in a retirement home together! Could you imagine the fun they’d have with old man Luke! hehe. Do you watch Parenthood and Supernatural? The only way to see some of the old Gilmore characters now.

      • I never got into Parenthood. I watched a few seasons of Supernatural. But it wasn’t enough. I miss Rory. 😦
        I think that show deserved at least 1 more season, though I’d have like to see Rory into retirement too. πŸ™‚

      • I know what you mean. I’d love to actually get a resolution on the Luke and Lorelai thing, and I’d like Rory to randomly run into Jess since he cleaned up his act and he could follow her around while she’s being a journalist and write awesome books. Well, in my head that is what happens!

      • Parenthood is just brothers and sisters with slightly different characters (I always quite liked it as I have lots of siblings)! I don’t know her name, but the insipid blonde woman who looks a little bit like Julia Roberts and plays mom to the boy with autism is sooooooooooooo whiny and annoying. I haven’t seen Supernatural. Not sure if I get it on any of my channels.

  9. Oh my god, I’m totally going to use this. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  10. I love Gilmore Girls. Watched an episode yesterday, where Lorelai goes fishing to impress a guy she likes. πŸ™‚ Very useful post. Thanks.

    • Silly Lorelai! I always felt bad for Luke in that episode because it’s like you can tell he likes her and is disappointed he’s helping her for a date.
      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

  11. Well, I think I might know how my characters would answer, but I don’t think I could answer most of those for myself. Perhaps that’s something I should work on…

    • I’m with you Shannon! Some of those seem a lot easier to make up an answer for a character than actually figuring out for myself.

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