Writing a Memoir using a Confession Album

+ free printable

The confession album + Marcel Proust questionnaire

What is a confession album?

It was not until I looked up the Marcel Proust questionnaire that I learned what a confession album is because it is from one of those albums that we have the questions and his answers. When I was young I grew up with friendship books that are built on the same principles. It is a set of written personal questions with room to write down the answers. The question I remember best is “what do you want to do when you grow up”? For many years I wrote a veterinary.

The questionnaire has a lot more and deeper questions than what is your “favorite hobby” which is also why I think it found its way into proper interviews.

But I like the idea that the confession album grew out of the tradition of parlor games. I think this form of game could be a fun way to supplement with some more interaction in writing groups and perhaps surpass some of the loneliness that can arise from the solitude task of writing.

If you want to add this form for game to your writing practice here are the questions.

The questions

  • what is your idea of perfect happiness?
  • what is your greatest fear?
  • what is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  • what is the trait you most deplore in others?
  • which living person do you most admire?
  • what is your favorite occupation?
  • what is your most marked characteristic?
  • what do you most value in a friend?
  • who are your favorite writers?
  • who is your hero of fiction?
  • which historical figure do you most identify with? 
  • if you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
  • what do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • if you were to die and come back as a person or a thing what would it be?
  • where would you most like to live?
  • what is your most treasured possession?
  • what do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  • what is the quality you most like in a man?
  • what is the quality you most like in a woman?
  • which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  • what or who is the greatest love of your life?
  • when and where were you happiest?
  • which talent would you most like to have?
  • what is your greatest extravagance?
  • what is your current state of mind?
  • what do you consider the most overrated virtue?
  • on what occasion do you lie?
  • what do you most dislike about your appearance?
  • which living person do you most despise?
  • who are your heroes in real life?
  • what are your favorite names?
  • what is it that you most dislike?
  • what is your greatest regret?
  • how would you like to die?
  • what is your motto?

3 ways to compile a confession album for writing a memoir

  • Use it for taking notes when reading memoirs

    • Imagine interviewing the narrator of the book. How could you fill out the answers from this imagined interview after having read the book?
    • Used this way I sink more deeply into the structure of the memoir.
  • Use it for each draft of the memoir

    • Ask yourself the questions in each draft of the writing process. What has changed? What makes the front stage and makes other things move to the background? What surprised you?
    • This helps me to keep the story I want to tell front and center.

  • Use it to interview your younger self

    • Ask your younger self the questions. How would the answers differentiate in ten years intervals?
    • This helps me reveal forgotten memories and details.

A non-linear way to write your memoir

+ free printable

You can compile your own confession album by printing out this free printable as many times you want. My suggestion is to fill it out yourself to get familiar with the questions and then use the suggestions above during the process of writing your memoir.

Make a confession album with the Marcel Proust questionnaire for when you are writing a memoir

A final way to inspire your writing is to cut up the filled out questionnaires and put the different answers in an envelope or some other form of container and now when you need a writing prompt you can draw one out and write for 5-10 minutes. In this way, you jump right down into different scenes and the unconscious mind.

Action step | Print out the questionnaire (best result – A4 without border) and start compiling your confession album.

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