The Mark Blog

The Proustian Approach

There has been much talk in the past month or so, within the Mark Program, about interiority of character. In my struggle with this, I've performed some writing exercises meant to unearth my own emotional experiences, which are useful for developing character. This is not to say that my characters are now more autobiographical, only that, in giving the writing access to my real emotions and personal experiences, I've better served the characters on the page.

At some point in this emotion-culling process, I Googled my way to the Proust Questionnaire. And off to write I went, answering the questionnaire for each of my characters. Answer these timeless questions from the perspective of your characters, and you're bound to discover things you never knew about their interior lives.

Here are the questions and Proust’s answers at the ripe ol' age of twenty:

  • Your most marked characteristic?
    A craving to be loved, or, to be more precise, to be caressed and spoiled rather than to be admired
  • The quality you most like in a man?
    Feminine charm.
  • The quality you most like in a woman?
    A man's virtues, and frankness in friendship.
  • What do you most value in your friends?
    Tenderness - provided they possess a physical charm which makes their tenderness worth having.
  • What is your principle defect?
    Lack of understanding; weakness of will.
  • What is your favorite occupation?
  • What is your dream of happiness?
    Not, I fear, a very elevated one. I really haven't the courage to say what it is, and if I did I should probably destroy it by the mere fact of putting it into words.
  • What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
    Never to have known my mother or my grandmother.
  • What would you like to be?
    Myself - as those whom I admire would like me to be.
  • In what country would you like to live?
    One where certain things that I want would be realized - and where feelings of tenderness would always be reciprocated. [Proust's underlining]
  • What is your favorite color?
    Beauty lies not in colors but in their harmony.
  • What is your favorite flower?
    Hers - but apart from that, all.
  • What is your favorite bird?
    The swallow.
  • Who are your favorite prose writers?
    At the moment, Anatole France and Pierre Loti.
  • Who are your favorite poets?
    Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny.
  • Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
  • Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
    Phedre. Berenice.
  • Who are your favorite composers?
    Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann.
  • Who are your favorite painters?
    Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt.
  • Who are your heroes in real life?
    Monsieur Darlu, Monsieur Boutroux (professors).
  • Who are your favorite heroines of history?
  • What are your favorite names?
    I only have one at a time.
  • What is it you most dislike?
    My own worst qualities.
  • What historical figures do you most despise?
    I am not sufficiently educated to say.
  • What event in military history do you most admire?
    My own enlistment as a volunteer!
  • What reform do you most admire?
    (no response)
  • What natural gift would you most like to possess?
    Will power and irresistible charm.
  • How would you like to die?
    A better man than I am, and much beloved.
  • What is your present state of mind?
    Annoyance at having to think about myself in order to answer these questions.
  • To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
    Those that I understand.
  • What is your motto?
    I prefer not to say, for fear it might bring me bad luck.