Category Archives: Proust Questionnaire

David’s Proust Questionnaire

Colonel David Vaughn, USAF Spec Ops,  Counter-terrorism Joint Task Force, Classified.
Last time, we looked at Jillian’s Proust Questionnaire to give a little back history on who she was and how she came to be. While I had difficultly with Jillian, I had a much better handle on our hero, Vaughn. Maybe it’s because I based him off of two amazing male characters: Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS and Colonel Jack O’Neill of Stargate. He’s sort of an amalgamation of both of them however, without the angst of losing a child. Their honor, loyalty, determination and vigilance for what’s right. Of course, Vaughn’s morphed into his own man, but as a die to cast from, those two are incredible heroes. 
So Vaughn was easy. I got him. His motivations are pure: do the job and do it well, no matter the cost. He has a quiet sensitive side,  a sarcastic side and a creative side. He has a weakness for younger, beautiful badass women (psht, would I love him if he didn’t?) and it has gotten him into trouble in the past. His body is starting betray him and he has a tendency to mix his painkillers with alcohol, but that’s in his blood. Apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, if you know what I mean. Dad was an alcoholic and abusive. And in that vein there is a darkness inside of him, one that he suppresses, but comes out sometimes when he makes the decisions that no one else wants to make. He’s a trained killer and he lives by a code of violence, even if it is for the greater good. His personal life is about sacrifice and he’s no stranger to living alone.

Here is Vaughn’s questionnaire:

·  Your most marked characteristic? Work and duty always come first, self-sacrifice.

·  The quality you most like in a man? Can take it on the chin and then ask for more.

·  The quality you most like in a woman? The real answer or the politically correct answer? (Real one: Young, beautiful, can kick your ass with a pair of high heels on and shoot you between the eyes from a hundred yards away) (Politically correct: A woman who can do her job effectively).

·  What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty.

·  What is your principle defect? Work-a-holic.

·  What is your favorite occupation? Like to remodel my house.

·  What is your dream of happiness? I don’t know, I don’t really look toward the future.

·  What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? To lose a member of my team on my watch.

·  What would you like to be? A small-town handyman, no pressure.

·  In what country would you like to live? I’ve been all over the world. Every place has some good and something bad about it, even the shitholes of the world, but none of it really compares to here.

·  What is your favorite color? Hmm, that shade of mahogany that’s almost brown, but has red inside of it… it’s great on wood and even better on Jillie when she’s standing in the sunlight. Ahem… yeah, don’t tell her I said that. Strictly need-to-know…

·  What is your favorite flower? Syrian Jasmine, smells incredible when it’s mixed with spice. Shit, that woman is way too imbedded in my head. Also, need-to-know….

·  What is your favorite bird? Birds are a pain in the ass… they always get in the way and give away our position.

·  Who are your favorite prose writers? I used to read Tom Clancy when we were holed up in a room waiting to do a drop but I lost interest. Clive Cussler can be fun.

·  Who are your favorite poets? Dr. Seuss

·  Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Silver Surfer, Batman

·  Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. Man, if a woman actually ran around a jungle in tight little shorts like that, I’d have had my head blown off a long time ago.

·  Who are your favorite composers? I usually tend to go for classic 70s rock… but on the rare, and I mean rare occasion… I put on some Opera – Puccini. That’s also need-to-know.

·  Who are your favorite painters? Painters no, but I loved the Silver Surfer comics when I was a kid.

·  Who are your heroes in real life? General Burt Cole, best damn soldier, mentor I’ve ever worked with. He’s a great man.

·  Who are your favorite heroines of history? The one I’m working with right now… I’d want her watching my six any day of the week.

·  What are your favorite names? That’s an odd question. I have a favorite alias, but that too is need-to-know.

·  What is it you most dislike? Men who are cowards.  (My son of bitch old man).

·  What historical figures do you most despise? Too many to recall, nameless men I’ve killed for crimes against humanity.

·  What event in military history do you most admire? Classified.

·  What reform do you most admire? The Homeland Security terrorist mandates.

·  What natural gift would you most like to possess? Toss-up: the ability to read women’s minds… or special vision that identified who was a terrorist and who was an ordinary civilian.

·  How would you like to die? With my boots on.

·  What is your present state of mind? My shelves are calling me… they need to be sanded.

·  To what faults do you feel most indulgent? Heh, my taste for younger women, I guess I’m a dirty old bastard.

·  What is your motto? Air Force Spec Ops motto: First There

·   What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? SERE training… simulates being captured by terrorists, they use your darkest weakness against you to break you and everyone breaks… it’s only a matter of time.

So, what did this tell me about Vaughn that I didn’t already know? It gave me things to put into his history, stuff that may never come out in the books, but help me to identify the major themes in his life. It was easy to answer his questions. It was easy to hear his tone and the cadence of his voice when he spoke. Little exercises like this can only help to breathe more life into your characters. If it’s not easy then maybe you need to go back to the drawing board and really look at who your character is. Maybe the questions you can’t answer are the aspects of that character that need to be examined and filled in. Look closely at them, peer into their darkest secrets; they will tell you what they need.


Happy crafting!
~Indigo Grace

Jillian’s Proust Questionnaire

Jillian Craig, ex-CIA agent, burned spy

I made a cardinal mistake when I first started writing the Overwatch series a year and a half ago. My lead female, suposed badass heroine, former CIA agent and munitions expert, Jillian Craig, was tragically boring.

I had no idea who Jillian Craig really was!

Sure, when I started, I had a glimmer, an idea of who/what I wanted but I really didn’t know her. Everything that came out on the page felt hollow. She had no drive or motivations. She was going through the motions. And I hated her. Because I had no reason to like her. Or root for her. She was a badass shell with no soul. Who the hell wants to read about that?!

One day, I had a flash of inspiration. Not sure where it came from, but it was a cool, blue miracle. I decided that she needed to be likably unlikable. She needed to be a little vain, sleep around with rich Mediterranean men, and have PTSD because she did something REALLY bad that got her burned from the CIA. Oh, and she has an unquenchable shoe obsession.

A friend of mine had done a Proust-like questionnaire for her characters in her current WIP. Ding, ding… I decided to do one for Jillian… and then for David.

The Proust Questionnaire is a nineteenth century personality test developed by French novelist and essay writer, Marcel Proust. They didn’t have a Cosmo Quiz back then to figure out what their thoughts and feelings were about life, so Proust made his own. It has stood the test of time and is still used today. My personal favorite is the slimmed down version on Inside the Actor’s Studio that James Lipton asks his guests at the end of the interview. My favorite word in the English language is Fuck. It can be verb, noun, adjective, adverb etc… Again I digress…

So. This is Jillian’s questionnaire:

·  Your most marked characteristic? I can be selfish and self-indulgent.

·  The quality you most like in a man? Loyalty, but if we’re talking just sex? Then tall, dark, rich and Mediterranean – French, Italian, Spanish, Greek – take your pick.

·  The quality you most like in a woman? I don’t have many women friends, I do much better with men.

·  What do you most value in your friends? Comfort.

·  What is your principle defect? That I’m searching for love and acceptance, serious Daddy issues.

·  What is your favorite occupation(way to spend time)? Shopping for shoes… it’s a pacifier/addiction. In that case, so is sex.

·  What is your dream of happiness? To be loved for who I am, evil parts and all.

·  What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? To never had had the opportunity to get to know my father again, even though I hate him for abandoning my mother and me.

·  What would you like to be? Sometimes, anyone but me; or Katherine Hepburn, she was a ballsy woman.

·  In what country would you like to live? France, Italy, Spain, seeing a trend here?

·  What is your favorite color? Pink, don’t tell anyone.

·  What is your favorite flower? The little blue flowers on the side of the road, ironically they’re weeds.

·  What is your favorite bird? Birds annoy me.

·  Who are your favorite prose writers? It’s shameful… I don’t have the patience to read.

·  Who are your favorite poets? Same as above.

·  Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Han Solo, hot and rakish, boyish smirk with a swagger and a sense of humor. Reminds me a little of someone I know.

·  Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Wow, I really need to hand in my feminist membership card… is it wrong to not be able to think of a single one?

·  Who are your favorite composers? Once I heard David listen to Turandot, it freakin’ made me cry. I think I was premenstrual.

·  Who are your favorite painters? A saw little painting done by a street vendor once in Cairo, simple and elegant, but I couldn’t buy it because I was undercover.

·  Who are your heroes in real life? Colonel Vaughn and the guys on my team.

·  Who are your favorite heroines of history? Women of the Isreali army, those women are fearless.

·  What are your favorite names? Fifi LaFlame, its has a je ne sais qua…

·  What is it you most dislike? Men who abuse women and children.

·  What historical figures do you most despise? Hitler, Hussein, Quadafi

·  What event in military history do you most admire? When women were given the right to fly in combat missions.

·  What reform do you most admire? Women who are standing up against female circumcision in Africa.

·  What natural gift would you most like to possess? The ability to lift a man over my shoulder.

·  How would you like to die? Saving someone’s life.

·  What is your present state of mind? I’m bored.

·  To what faults do you feel most indulgent? My weakness for shoes.

·  What is your motto? When sad, buy shoes.


After doing this, with my new knowledge of the PTSD and the tendency toward self-indulgence, the answers came out fast. She became more well-rounded. She had depth. I finally felt like I had an idea of who this woman was. And the story grew in richness because of it.

If you’re struggling with who your character is personality wise, try this. And don’t be afraid to go to a place that you think people might not like. People have flaws and weaknesses and do bad things, sometimes with good intentions. Badass females have these in spades.

Go forth and question!
~Indigo