PDA

View Full Version : A question on Mary-Sues



LOG
11-07-2009, 09:56 PM
Hmmm, I'm hoping someone doesn't snap my head off when I finish posting this...>.>
Do you think it is okay to have a Mary-Sueish character in a story, as long as they are not the total focus of said story and there are non-Mary-Sues to balance the MS out?
The Universal Mary Sue test tells me that one of my main characters is a Mary-Sue, and while I disagree with the test on some areas, I think that people could interpret the character as such.
He does have several Mary-Sue characterisitcs, but he is almost a side-character. He is seen alot, but he does not move the plot along much in the book. I have other characters who are most definitely not MAry-Sues for that.
It's all in the formulation stages still.

ChristineR
11-07-2009, 10:11 PM
Those tests are pretty much meaningless. For example, it doesn't appear that anyone has bothered to give the test to a thousand characters and determine what percentage of them are Mary Sue, let along what percentage of characters that are in well-regarded works of fiction that have or have not been cited as Mary Sue by reviewers and bloggers. Nor has anyone justified giving enormous numbers of Mary Sue points to, say, a character whose name is similar to the author's, as opposed to say, a character that dies and comes back to life more than once.

If the test were scientific, they'd be able to justify these point values by showing that these choices are most likely to give the "right" answer when the test result is compared to an expert's opinion of the thousand characters.

If your character is too good, and he just occasionally shows up to save the day, then ask yourself whether this feels jarring or artificial. You can consider ways for your more important characters to save the day instead, or make the Mary Sue more and important and give him some flaws, or just make him unreliable.

veinglory
11-07-2009, 10:11 PM
The Mary Sue test is a joke, the results are not to be taken seriously. If you are not sure I would suggest having some readers look at it to get an outside opinion. IMHO a lot of great characters have Mary Sue charactersistics, but if the execution is good it really doesn't matter.

Libbie
11-07-2009, 10:12 PM
If I'm understanding the definition of Mary-Sue correctly, a Mary-Sue is a character who is universally adored and/or jealousified (yeah, it's a word now) by all the other characters, can really do no wrong, doesn't have any real flaws (at least none that aren't endearing), and always comes out on top.

Why is a character like this interesting? To you, or to a reader? Surely you didn't make even a relatively unimportant character this...boring, did you? Of course you didn't! So be realistic: What sets this character apart and makes him interesting? I'm sure you've got an answer to that question, and so long as you do, you can rest assured that you don't have a Mary-Sue.

LOG
11-07-2009, 10:22 PM
People don't like him, he's very well-known for his exploits, but he's also very rude and uncaring to the majority of people so most people avoid him. He's nice to his mother...and...that's about it.
The other main characters got stuck with him because other people wanted to torment them >.>

TheIT
11-07-2009, 10:24 PM
Write the story. Decide if the character is off-putting after you see the whole picture.

Libbie
11-07-2009, 10:31 PM
Well, I liked pretty much everybody in The Lies of Locke Lamora, and I think basically every single character was like that.

It's all in how you present it, I suppose.

Ruv Draba
11-07-2009, 11:53 PM
He does have several Mary-Sue characterisitcs, but he is almost a side-character.This is too vague to really answer, JJM. We don't know what sort of character, what sort of Mary-Sue characteristics, what the story's about or what the role of this character is in the story.

Readers of escapist stories are far more tolerant of Mary-Sueish characteristics than readers of grittier tales, for example. A Mary-Sue side-character might be entirely worthwhile for comedy, or to shame/irritate a main character. Or it might be a well-balanced, surprising character with tonnes of interesting internal/external conflicts but still have a few Mary-Sue characteristics. Or, as in Grisham's The Firm, maybe the Mary-Sue elements are too good to be true.

Vein's advice is to get a couple of writers to look at your design. I think that's probably best.

BigWords
11-08-2009, 12:18 AM
I've just looked through a few versions of the Mary Sue Litmus Test, and I scored so low that I have nothing to worry about. Even if there are superficial similarities to me (smoking, gambling, drinking, profanity, irreverence) the character stands as an interesting enough figure on his own. People worry too much about these stupid online tests for the 'worth' of a character or story.

Write it well enough and nobody will care.

dgiharris
11-08-2009, 02:25 AM
This is too vague to really answer, JJM. We don't know what sort of character, what sort of Mary-Sue characteristics, what the story's about or what the role of this character is in the story.

Readers of escapist stories are far more tolerant of Mary-Sueish characteristics than readers of grittier tales, for example. A Mary-Sue side-character might be entirely worthwhile for comedy, or to shame/irritate a main character. Or it might be a well-balanced, surprising character with tonnes of interesting internal/external conflicts but still have a few Mary-Sue characteristics. Or, as in Grisham's The Firm, maybe the Mary-Sue elements are too good to be true.

Vein's advice is to get a couple of writers to look at your design. I think that's probably best.

PRetty much agree. Look at the Flaunders in the Simpsons. They are a great example of an extreme Mary-Sue which serves as a great source of conflict with the Simpsons...

*snip long rant*

The only thing that is relevant is the story. Is this character the best character for your story?

Anyways, as i'm writing a story, I'm constantly thinking about conflict. Whatever produces the most conflict 'usually' produces the best story. And that is the problem with Mary-Sues, they usually are the antithesis of conflict.

My favorite stories are those in which the MC is bombarded with a bunch of conflicts.

For example, I read Basket Case by Carl Hassen. His MC was a slacker/asshole and his attitude kept getting him into trouble. Now, if he had been a normal person, he would have cruised through the story with little problems. But it was his eccentricities that made for a bumpy fun ride.

*sigh*

anyways, sorry to be so vague, that's all I got. Good luck

Mel...

Lady Ice
11-08-2009, 05:08 PM
A Mary-Sue is a badly-written character: one who garners praise without any clear reason. Why would you purposely want to write a weak character? Negative feelings towards your characters can be dangerous.

Nivarion
11-10-2009, 10:48 AM
Don't buy into those mary sue tests. I took the test on myself and it gave me a "Absolute Mary Sue" score so they're a load of bull. If they asked one very important question.

This is the most important question for making your character a non-mary sue.

Did they earn it. One of the questions on the test asks if your character can speak more than 1 language. If they never did anything to really earn it then this is a sign of mary suism. Now if they had parents that spoke both languages or went to school or lived in a place where the other language was the norm, then they deserve that skill and are not mary sues.

So if you suspect your character of being a mary sue, go over all of their skills and see if s/he earned them. If they have earned them then let them keep them. If they haven't then take them away till they do earn them.

/rant]

kaitie
11-10-2009, 02:30 PM
That struck me as well. Granted, my character scored like a 7, but he speaks three languages fluently other than English. The thing is, that was what he was chosen for. He got his job because he was a fast learner when it came to languages. Before that he had been studying to be an ambassador. So for him, it makes perfect sense and that's one of the main points of the story and who he is.

The ironic thing is that one of my characters is actually pretty similar to me. Not spot on, but relatively similar in terms of certain viewpoints and just the type of person she is. Kind of bookish, not really a go out and party kind of person, more of a follower than a leader. She also doesn't score at all on that scale, which surprised me, though I suppose if anyone was going to be a Mary Sue it would have been my main character.

I agree completely with Libbie. I think what stood out to me as being the Mary Sue questions on the test were the ones that said things like, "...because I think it's cool," or "Do I wish I could be my character?" A lot of the other ones are pretty subjective depending on circumstance.

Brutal Mustang
11-10-2009, 03:43 PM
People don't like him, he's very well-known for his exploits, but he's also very rude and uncaring to the majority of people so most people avoid him. He's nice to his mother...and...that's about it.
The other main characters got stuck with him because other people wanted to torment them >.>

That doesn't sound like a Mary Sue at all!

JimmyB27
11-10-2009, 04:03 PM
Some of Pratchett's characters have a lot of Mary-Sue characteristics (Lord Vetinari, Granny Weatherwax, for example), and he seems to scrape by ok.

DamaNegra
11-10-2009, 06:54 PM
Don't worry. Anna Karenina got a seriously high score on the Mary Sue test.

DeleyanLee
11-10-2009, 07:17 PM
Hmmm. Having "Mary Sue" characters doesn't seem to have hurt Laurel K. Hamilton's sales in the least. Actually, seems like her sales have shot through the roof and into the stratosphere once she got seriously honest about them. Then there's Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. Also doesn't seem to be doing too badly in the ratings there.

Seriously, don't worry about it. Readers don't care, as long as they have a great, fun, interesting story to read. This is one of those things that only writers fret about.

Jamesaritchie
11-10-2009, 07:20 PM
Havong a main character similar to the writer is not a bad thing in any way. Having a main character actually be the writer in disguise is not, in any way at all, a bad thing. There are huge numbers of famous novels where this is the case.

A problem only arises when the main character is too good, too smart, too handsome, too clever, too well-liked, etc. In other words, the character isn't modeled on the writer at all, but on a distorted, unrealistic view that the writer has of himself.

maestrowork
11-10-2009, 07:28 PM
Robert Langdon is Dan Brown's Gary Stu. Didn't hurt him at all.

CaroGirl
11-10-2009, 07:34 PM
If a character is a "perfect" version of yourself, I do think it's bad. Mainly because, I believe, perfect characters are not only unrealistic but incredibly boring.

maestrowork
11-10-2009, 07:42 PM
Mainly because, I believe, perfect characters are not only unrealistic but incredibly boring.

QFT.

To me, that's a given whether the character is based on the author or not. But if it's also based on the author, then not only is the character unrealistic, but it's also narcissistic. That turns me off.

Claudia Gray
11-11-2009, 02:58 AM
The term "Mary Sue" came from fanfic and was meant to apply to new characters slotting into an existing universe. A lot of the same characteristics that are Mary Sueish/unfortunate in that scenario are not only acceptable but desirable for the lead character in original fiction. I wouldn't sweat it too much, though if your MC has violet eyes, a wonderful singing voice and the name Raevyn, you might want to tone it down just a touch.

Phaeal
11-11-2009, 03:02 AM
Or emerald green eyes, the ability to speak all languages, and the variant spelling "Raven." Dying heroically to the unending grief of all the other characters is also right out.

MDei
11-11-2009, 03:25 AM
The term "Mary Sue" came from fanfic and was meant to apply to new characters slotting into an existing universe. A lot of the same characteristics that are Mary Sueish/unfortunate in that scenario are not only acceptable but desirable for the lead character in original fiction. I wouldn't sweat it too much, though if your MC has violet eyes, a wonderful singing voice and the name Raevyn, you might want to tone it down just a touch.
That's pretty much what I was going to say about it Claud.

ChristineR
11-11-2009, 03:32 AM
I've taken some of those tests on behalf of Harry Potter, Gandalf, and Aragorn son of Arathorn. Note that if you're living in a magical universe you get a lot of extra Sue-points. All of them set off the Sue-Alarm, and Harry got "Kill it dead."

Now to be fair, a lot of the questions were based off Harry Potter and their purpose was to catch out those characters who are actually just Harry the Second. But pretty much any heroic character in a magical universe scores Sue.

I took it on behalf of a character of mine in a book series I'll probably never actually write, and it scored uber-Sue. I say "it," because the character is actually a genetic hybrid without genitalia, and its life story goes downhill from there. Its main claim to fame is being a psychopathic killer who regrets its past and being magically all but impossible to kill, in the sense that if you shoot at it, your gun will backfire, jam, or just explode in your face. I'm not seeing this in the same category as Raevyn with emerald eyes, sorry.

Mr Flibble
11-11-2009, 03:34 AM
Dying heroically to the unending grief of all the other characters is also right out.


NOW you tell me!

/cast resurrect

Okay only two people actually care but...