Monday, August 12, 2013

Proust's Thirty-Five Questions to Ask Your Characters

I’ve been reading the Write Practice for several months and always find the posts informational and provocative. I was particularly taken with today’s post about delving into the lives of your novel’s characters. I’m in the midst of the first revision of my novel and I’m looking for ways to round them out. Marcel Proust’s Thirty-five Questions to Ask Your Characters will definitely help. Here’s his list, written in the late nineteenth century. By the way, his answers sold in auction for 102,000 in 2003.

1.   What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2.   What is your greatest fear?
3.   What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4.   What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5.   Which living person do you most admire?
6.   What is your greatest extravagance?
7.   What is your current state of mind?
8.   What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9.   On what occasion do you lie?
10.    What do you most dislike about your appearance?
11.    Which living person do you most despise?
12.    What is the quality you most like in a man?
13.    What is the quality you most like in a woman?
14.    Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
15.    What or who is the greatest love of your life?
16.    When and where were you happiest?
17.    Which talent would you most like to have?
18.    If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
19.    What do you consider your greatest achievement?
20.    If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
21.    Where would you most like to live?
22.    What is your most treasured possession?
23.    What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
24.    What is your favorite occupation?
25.    What is your most marked characteristic?
26.    What do you most value in your friends?
27.    Who are your favorite writers?
28.    Who is your hero of fiction?
29.    Which historical figure do you most identify with?
30.    Who are your heroes in real life?
31.    What are your favorite names?
32.    What is it that you most dislike?
33.    What is your greatest regret?
34.    How would you like to die?
35.    What is your motto?

And as Joe Bunting (@joebunting)of the Write Practice asked:

Which questions do you ask your characters to get to know them better?


Who is the Write Practice?

Joe Bunting is the founder of the Write Practice. Joe is a ghostwriter, editor, and an aspiring fiction author and writes and edits books that change lives. He loves the sound of a good sentence and would like to think of himself as a literary snob but can be kept up far too late by a page turner meant for thirteen year old girls. He would like for you not to know that though. He and his wife, Talia, enjoy playing backgammon and Angry Birds on her iPhone. You can view his website and follow on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Liz is on the left
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she’s not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. She occasionally blogs at, but only when she feels like it.

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