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View Full Version : What is the difference between writing about yourself and being "Mary Sue"?



Celia Cyanide
12-11-2006, 10:19 PM
I'm not really familiar with the term "Mary Sue" enough to know. Maybe it's a simple answer, maybe it's not.

Celia, the posting fool

veinglory
12-11-2006, 10:23 PM
A Mary Sue is an idealised self. Like rather than writing about me, it would be someone very like me but gorgeous, speaking eight languages, rich, reverred and with a young Rudger Hauer as my personal love slave.

JeanneTGC
12-11-2006, 11:01 PM
Also, a Mary Sue is considered someone who comes into a story and makes it ALL better. She/he solves everyone's problems, is adored by everyone, etc., etc.

However, I would tell you not to worry about it. One person's Mary Sue is another's Scarlette O'Hara, if you will. It's more the quality of your writing that will determine if you come off as "Mary Sue" or really engaging protagonist.

Soccer Mom
12-12-2006, 12:29 AM
Hey, Nancy Drew was a Mary Sue, but I read those books like crazy as girl.

MajorDrums
12-12-2006, 12:35 AM
This is the first time time I've heard of "Mary Sue." Is it basically the same as an alter-ego?

Ol' Fashioned Girl
12-12-2006, 12:46 AM
This is just one of the links available in a google search for "Mary Sue", but it's got the basics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue

MajorDrums
12-12-2006, 12:52 AM
Oh, okay. Thanks, OFG. I may have inadvertently created a Mary Sue in my WIP.:(

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 12:53 AM
Okay, so let me see if I got this straight...I can write about myself, as long as I remember to cherish my flaws, and keep the Edward Furlong-esque love interests to a minimum.

Thanks, guys. I've never understood this, because if I were going to write an idealized version of myself, I would not name myself Mary Sue.

Azure Skye
12-12-2006, 12:55 AM
I learn something new everyday here. Never heard of this until now.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 01:04 AM
I learn something new everyday here. Never heard of this until now.

Congratulations. You're not an expert on Trekkie fan fiction! ;)

TrickyFiction
12-12-2006, 01:32 AM
A fun Mary Sue quiz.
http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm

maestrowork
12-12-2006, 02:48 AM
What is the term to describe a character that is modeled after myself but with nothing but FLAWS? Meaning, it's not an idealized version of me, but a "bastard" version.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 02:50 AM
I don't know if there is a name for that, but there should be.

WildScribe
12-12-2006, 02:52 AM
Thank you all, you learn something new every day.

veinglory
12-12-2006, 02:55 AM
We should invent a name. Like a Eusy Ram. No, that's not even a name. Damn.

maestrowork
12-12-2006, 03:02 AM
How about Dick Buster?

I'm writing a Dick Buster book, and the main character dies tragically at the end...

JeanneTGC
12-12-2006, 03:33 AM
Oh, okay. Thanks, OFG. I may have inadvertently created a Mary Sue in my WIP.:(

Is it well written and your (supposed) Mary Sue character an engaging protagonist who the reader will root for? If the answers are yes, then who cares if someone calls said protag a Mary Sue?

Like a lot of terms, I heard this one first in fanfiction. Fanfiction is not going to be or going for publication.

If you take most of the Mary Sue "rules" and apply them to any story where the protagonist is a "hero" and you'll find there are a LOT of Mary Sue's out there. So what?

This is one of those issues that good writing solves. The only place where I've really seen the Mary Sue/wish fulfillment type of writing is in fanfiction. If you're not writing fanfiction, I'd say stop worrying about this "issue". There are better, far more relevant writing issues to worry about. :)

WackAMole
12-12-2006, 03:36 AM
Never heard about this either, interesting info.

Bufty
12-12-2006, 03:37 AM
With a name like that I imagine she would. :snoopy:

How about Dick Buster?

I'm writing a Dick Buster book, and the main character dies tragically at the end...

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 03:50 AM
If you take most of the Mary Sue "rules" and apply them to any story where the protagonist is a "hero" and you'll find there are a LOT of Mary Sue's out there. So what? :)

Yeah, that was always my problem with it. Everyone says, If you don't write about yourself, you're not really writing, but if you DO write about yourself, the MC might be a Mary Sue. It just seems like a silly thing to complain about. What matters is if the character is interesting and likeable.

ChaosTitan
12-12-2006, 04:01 AM
Yeah, that was always my problem with it. Everyone says, If you don't write about yourself, you're not really writing,

If I wrote about myself, I'd put my readers to sleep. I'm not that interesting. That's why I create interesting characters to write about. ;)

*fondly remembers another alter ego: Martha the Mary Sue Slayer*

maestrowork
12-12-2006, 06:10 AM
I have no problem with Mary Sue stories as long as it's well written, because seriously, I don't know the author. I wouldn't know one way or another if the character is a Mary Sue. I only care about the story and the characters.

And there are some really great Mary Sues...

veinglory
12-12-2006, 06:12 AM
Mary Sue is the name for when it *doesn't* work.

Tallymark
12-12-2006, 10:13 AM
Like JeanneTCG said, Mary Suism is primarily a phenomenon in fanfiction. Like, lets say some young writer was doing a Lord of the Rings fanfiction, and they include an original character, maybe a young woman. Sounds good.

But then, this young woman turns out to secretly be a beautiful elven princess! And she's descended from a lost tribe of Spirit Elves, so she's got super special extra powers that she doesn't even know about yet, but are totally as strong as Gandalf's! And she runs into Sam and Frodo and saves them, leading the way into Mordor, and, in Frodo's moment of failure, realizes that in fact she can resist the power of the ring and control it, and defeats Sauron! And then she marries Legolas, who is madly in love with her. The end.

Basically, all too often self-insertions in fanfictions are total Mary Sues--the author is basically writing a fantasy about themselves in the set universe where they are the glorious superstar who saves the day whom everyone loves.

Alas, nobody in the audience loves them.

(Think that was bad? Try, "a new transfer student from America arrives at Hogwarts and meets Harry..." ..it all goes downhill from there).

In writing, one just needs to be careful that a self-insertion is really a self-insertion, and isn't just you writing about a cool superhero adventure you want to have. Characters need to have flaws, and sometimes they need to have stuff go wrong. I don't like reading about perfect characters; I can't relate to them.

WildScribe
12-12-2006, 10:19 AM
I used to do an oline roleplaying group, but there were too many "god" characters. That is Mary Sueism.

Medievalist
12-12-2006, 10:32 AM
If it worked it wouldn't be MarySue. Here, go read this (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004188.html).

JimmyB27
12-12-2006, 06:38 PM
The problem with a Mary Sue, IMHO, is not that she is based on the writer, but that she has no conflict. Mary Sue (and her brother, Gary Stu) is more attractive, more intelligent, stronger, faster, etc etc, than any other character and as such, she simply blasts through any opposition put in her way.
It makes for very dull reading.

C.bronco
12-12-2006, 07:03 PM
interesting stuff... I'll have to use the litmus test to get a better handle on it

PeeDee
12-12-2006, 07:59 PM
Star Trek fan-fiction Mary Sue stories are particularly fun to read, so long as you take your brain out first and remove all sharp objects that you could use to open your wrists with.

Actually, the funny bit is the author and how seriously they take it. It used to amuse me no end.

(my main character of my novel spends the story beaten battered broken and burnt, his wife dies, and he keeps turning into a monster which results in him being naked. I hope to god he's not an idealized version of myself......)

engmajor2005
12-12-2006, 09:54 PM
There are PLENTY of Mary Sues/Marty Stues (the male equivalent) in best-selling fiction. Richard Cypher from the Sword of Truth series is a shameless Marty Stue. Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake? Mary Sue.

I don't think there's anything wrong per se with an idealized version of yourself; my gripe with Mary Sues is when they start testing the limits of the story's reality and start becoming God-like. Take Anita Blake for example--she's so freakin' poweful there's really no need for any other character to exist. There is no foil for Anita, hence no great character conflict.

I don't know; maybe a bad experience from a person from my past has tainted my opinion of Mary Sues. Said person was working on a novel, that was supposed to have an ensemble cast of characters, but EVERYTHING happened to the female lead. EVERYTHING. She was at the center of every plot-point, and all the characters reacted to this main character. It was boring to read because it was like reading a biography by an a**hole waxing about how great they are.

aadams73
12-12-2006, 10:22 PM
I've only just started on the Anita Blake books, and ugh, MAJOR Mary Sue.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 10:25 PM
I don't think there's anything wrong per se with an idealized version of yourself;

If I'm going to write about myself, which most people seem to think I'm expected to do, it's going to be idealized. My real self is so boring it puts me to sleep. And I know people read a non-fiction piece I posted at SYW and thought it was the opposite for boring, but when it happened to me just like that, it's a snooze-fest to write down.

janetbellinger
12-12-2006, 10:55 PM
My novel, Tracing Raindrops is a dumping ground for all my undesirable characteristics. I put all my undesirable characteristics into my female characters. I'm like a dog shaking the snow off its fur or as though I've been treated by a psychic shaman or salve.

greglondon
12-12-2006, 11:20 PM
Here's another way to look at it:

Mary Sue's do not evolve as characters
because they're already the best possible people in the universe,
so there's nothing they need to improve.

If there is anything for them to overcome it is always external.
Someone else is getting in their way and Mary Sue must vanquish them.

But Mary Sue doesn't evolve, or improve, or anything like that,
because she starts out perfect.

Which is why Mary Sue stories are so damn boring.

PeeDee
12-12-2006, 11:28 PM
I wrote about myself, it'd have to be a Marty Stue. *I* wouldn't be very interesting.

CENTAUR: Excuse me, I--

PETE: AAAAAHHHH!!!! *messes self; runs away screaming

The End.

Celia Cyanide
12-13-2006, 12:41 AM
That might be a really funny exercise. Have everyone write a very short story about themselves, to illustrate why they idealize themselves in fiction.

LeslieB
12-13-2006, 04:29 AM
Another hallmark of Mary Sue/Gary Stu (another common term for the male version) is that the action = consequence sequence is often broken. And the story is usually all tell, no show.

Mary Sue can break Star Fleet regulations with impunity because, well, she's Mary Sue! She can smart off to a dragon and not get eaten. She can be a 'rebel' and suffer no social stigma - except from the obvious meanie characters, who are just jealous of her awesomeness.

Everyone loves her but you can't figure out why, because she doesn't have a particularly attractive personality. She's described as witty and intelligent though her dialogue never rises above, "I know you are but what am I?" She has amazing combat skills though she's a fifteen year old orphan raised in a convent.

In other words, Mary Sues are more than just versions of the writer. They are just plain bad creations.

Oh, and I've never written a MS of myself, but on the City of Heroes MMORPG I have a character that is a highly idealized verion of what I would like to look like. I started to name it Mary Sue, but I figured nobody would get the joke.

Kentuk
12-13-2006, 10:38 AM
A fun Mary Sue quiz.
http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm

Off the scale at 78, think the quiz is biased against androids.

PeeDee
12-13-2006, 06:14 PM
Oh, and I've never written a MS of myself, but on the City of Heroes MMORPG I have a character that is a highly idealized verion of what I would like to look like. I started to name it Mary Sue, but I figured nobody would get the joke.

In my Sims 2 games, I try to make idealized versions of myself. They're in better shape, they have a better haircut (as in: they have a haircut) and a nice house and so on.

Except....mostly, they wind up sitting quietly at a computer writing a novel, and they don't like people to come over, and they don't do dishes, and they don't have a night life.

So I'm sitting at a computer watching my character sitting at a computer writing a novel, when I could be just sitting at my computer and writing a novel. Hence, I stopped playing.

(just a side note. And now, back on topic.)

maestrowork
12-13-2006, 06:22 PM
So, in short, the difference between a story about yourself and a Mary Sue is simply how well it's done?

PeeDee
12-13-2006, 06:32 PM
I guess, yeah. A well done story about yourself would include both flaws as well as positive traits. A story about Mary Sue would be only the good traits (or what you perceive as good traits, anyway).

Anyway, why write a story about yourself, for Pete's sake? I'm with myself all day long, I don't need to write about me too. There are many people I can write about, and none of them existed before I started writing them. I'd rather find out more about them.

Celia Cyanide
12-13-2006, 06:44 PM
Anyway, why write a story about yourself, for Pete's sake?

That sentence is funny, Pete!

Anyway, I've heard many times here at AW, if you're not writing about yourself you're not really writing.

PeeDee
12-13-2006, 06:48 PM
That sentence is funny, Pete!

Anyway, I've heard many times here at AW, if you're not writing about yourself you're not really writing.

All stories have pieces of yourself in them, of course. To an extent, every story and every character is an aspect of you. That's unavoidable.

I mean, why sit down and go "I'm going to write a story about....Peter...um....Tzinsky! Yeah, no one will know. Now, He goes to hollywood and he meets up with Angelina Jolie....yeah...."

greglondon
12-13-2006, 07:50 PM
So, in short, the difference between a story about yourself and a Mary Sue is simply how well it's done?

Well, a Mary Sue story doesn't have to be about yourself. It is a wish fullfillment version of yourself, perhaps.

A Mary Sue is simply a perfect, idealized person who does not evolve because they are perfect. They are a little bit better than all the other characters around them. Even if all the characters are special in some way or another, mutants with superpowers for example, the Mary Sue character will have "more special" powers.

Mary Sues also don't usually make mistakes. They may be tested by the people around them or their circumstances but the mistakes they make are the sort of thing that makes for a funny little scene that has no negative consequences.

Mary Sues are often persecuted, for no reason. Someone has a grudge against the Mary Sue character, but the Mary Sue character did nothing wrong to deserve the grudge. The grudge holder simply doesn't like Mary Sue because of how perfect she is, the color of her hair, the fact that she's always happy, her little dog too, whatever.

All of which tie back to wish fulfillment, or a adolescent or younger mindview of self versus world. You'll actually find a lot of Mary Sues or Mary Sue traits in kids stories, because kids identify themselves as being in a world that "just doesn't understand them" or they are being teased and tormented through no fault of their own.


A story about you, on the other hand, could show some problems you have and how you overcome them by realizing that you were part of the cause of the problem and dealing with that. The story could start off with you as an equal in the world, just your problems are different. And then follow you as you overcome that problem. and in the end, you get the girl (or boy), get the job, save the day, and so on.

Celia Cyanide
12-13-2006, 09:32 PM
A Mary Sue is simply a perfect, idealized person who does not evolve because they are perfect.

When someone says, "this character is a Mary Sue, because you're writing about something you would like to happen to you," is that incorrect? It seems to me that playing "what if?" is part of being a writer, and saying, "what if this happened to me?" would be fair game.

PeeDee
12-13-2006, 09:34 PM
"what if this happened to me" is a wonderful way to start a story. "What if I got everything I wanted because of how cool I was, and then some jerk was jealous, but he was evil and no one liked him anyway" is not so much. :)

Celia Cyanide
12-13-2006, 09:42 PM
"what if this happened to me" is a wonderful way to start a story. "What if I got everything I wanted because of how cool I was, and then some jerk was jealous, but he was evil and no one liked him anyway" is not so much. :)

I agree, but in the past when I have started stories with "what if this happened to me?" People have told me it was stupid because the character was a Mary Sue. Not because the character was perfect (she wasn't) but only because I was writing about something I thought might be interesting if it happened to me.

They're probably just jealous because I have better ideas and everyone likes me best, and I have no character flaws, even though I was gracious enough to invent some for my character.

PeeDee
12-13-2006, 09:45 PM
That's got to be. THose jerks.

It's why I generally don't tell people where a character comes from, if it's based off something that would get laughed at. Just let them read and decide what it is for themselves.

greglondon
12-13-2006, 09:57 PM
When someone says, "this character is a Mary Sue, because you're writing about something you would like to happen to you," is that incorrect? It seems to me that playing "what if?" is part of being a writer, and saying, "what if this happened to me?" would be fair game.

"What if this happened to me?" is certainly a neccessary part of writing. The more you can empathize, the more you can write other POV's that readers can empathize with.

And that's different than simply writing about your idealized self in some other setting.

Mary Sue isn't about "me" so much as its about some idealized, wish fullfillment, can-do-no-wrong, special-for-no-special-reason, character.

And I'll have to stop now. Any more and I'll start ot repeat myself.

JeanneTGC
12-13-2006, 10:59 PM
You can do anything you want, Mary Sue included, if you do it WELL.

greglondon
12-13-2006, 11:05 PM
You can do anything you want, Mary Sue included, if you do it WELL.

Doing it well is the final measure, certainly. you can write anything if you do it "well".

For writers who are trying to understand the difference between Mary Sue and, say, autobiography, the term "well" may not be a sufficient distinction.

Celia Cyanide
12-13-2006, 11:21 PM
You can do anything you want, Mary Sue included, if you do it WELL.

If we define Mary Sue not just as a fictional version of the author with a more interesting life, but as a character with no identifiable flaws, and one who does not grow as the story progresses, can you give an example of a Mary Sue that has been rendered well in fiction?

JeanneTGC
12-13-2006, 11:22 PM
If we define Mary Sue not just as a fictional version of the author with a more interesting life, but as a character with no identifiable flaws, and one who does not grow as the story progresses, can you give an example of a Mary Sue that has been rendered well in fiction?

David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. For starters.

greglondon
12-13-2006, 11:53 PM
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. For starters.

Ooh. Good one. Dickens has a number of stories involving flawless characters who are subjected to all manner of bad circumstances through no fault of their own that they must overcome.

JeanneTGC
12-14-2006, 12:04 AM
Ooh. Good one. Dickens has a number of stories involving flawless characters who are subjected to all manner of bad circumstances through no fault of their own that they must overcome.

And, let me say that Dickens is one of my favorite authors of all time. I realize he's not "in vogue" right now, but he's one of the masters as far as I'm concerned.

greglondon
12-14-2006, 01:11 AM
Poor Bob Cratchit. Not a mean bone in his body. And look at all the tragic things that befall him. And Tiny Tim, he's crippled and will die, but he's as happy as Jiminey Cricket. Neither will say a bad thing about anyone, even mean old Mr Scrooge.

I think Bob's a Mary Sue. Tim too.

Then again, Ebenezer is the protagonist, so if Dickens put in some cardboard characters to surround Ebenezer with to make a point, fine. It makes for warm fuzzy feel good TV specials in December. I think I like Bill Murray's version "Scrooged" best.

Oh, sure. I like it. When I'm in the mood for hot chocolate feel good stories, I'm all about Christmas Carol. And it's full of Mary Sue's.

;)

Celia Cyanide
12-14-2006, 02:11 AM
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. For starters.

Good one.

So what is the verdict? Is Mary Sue not a valid reason why a story sucks?

veinglory
12-14-2006, 02:18 AM
Mary Sue is a description of a way in which a story sucks.

It's like saying 'this book sucks because it is self-indulgent'. Maybe other ojectively similar books are gloriously introspective and self-aware, but this one is not--it just sucks.

All kinds of book can be good and bad, but we tend to have sifferent names for each outcome. Reading a random cross-section of works at fanfiction.net will probably explain why people are in such agonies about this issue in particular.

engmajor2005
12-14-2006, 03:08 AM
I don't like that Mary Sue quiz thingie. The questions are a bit unclear. My character got a 29, and I don't think he's a Marty Stu.

I think that there should be an equivalent for a character that has nothing but flaws. They can be annoying; not EQUALLY annoying, but annoying.

PeeDee
12-14-2006, 03:32 AM
David Copperfield

Sherlock Holmes

Lord Vetinari (Terry Pratchett)

The reason that both Sherlock Holmes and Lord Vetinari work (I can't remember enough about David Copperfield to comment on that) is because you aren't writing from the POV of the flawless character, nor is the viewpoint character at all flawless. I think that's the important thing for writing a "mary sue" character well.

LeslieB
12-14-2006, 03:51 AM
I don't like that Mary Sue quiz thingie. The questions are a bit unclear. My character got a 29, and I don't think he's a Marty Stu.

I think that there should be an equivalent for a character that has nothing but flaws. They can be annoying; not EQUALLY annoying, but annoying.

Every character is going to ring some bells, so I wouldn't get too worked up about it. My protag racked up a few points because while she is generally well liked, one person she dislikes gets smacked around a bit in the story. Of course, that might be because he is based on my obnoxious next door neighbor...

PeeDee
12-14-2006, 04:54 AM
I forgot to mention the biggest Gary Stu character of all: Harry Potter. :)

veinglory
12-14-2006, 05:07 AM
The quiz is just someone's little take on it, I wouldn't take it as definitive.

Personally I do think Potter is a Mary Sue, but that's because I don't like thise books much ;) I rather doubt that keeps JK awake at night.

Celia Cyanide
12-14-2006, 05:14 AM
I don't understand that test. How is being a cross breed supposed to mean that your character is an idealized and flawless version of yourself?

veinglory
12-14-2006, 05:20 AM
Mary Sue is a fanfic term, the test has an implicit fan-fic context. It isn't typically a term used to refer to original fiction because, frankly, it isn't such a big problem there. Mary Sue-ism is a natural extension of people writing about other people's characters from their own fannish POV. (I am a ficcer, so I say that with love)

PeeDee
12-14-2006, 05:20 AM
I don't understand that test. How is being a cross breed supposed to mean that your character is an idealized and flawless version of yourself?

It doesn't, but ti does indicate Mary Sue-ness. That was a big thing. Mary Sue would be a cross breed between....um....a Vulcan and a Klingon, forever at war to calm her violent nature, hard to do even though she had an intellect beyond anyone else in the galaxy and was the Chosen Savior of Xandor, or something.

Birol
12-14-2006, 05:23 AM
Yeah, it's like when you've just seen Star Wars for the first time and you imagine yourself running around dueling the evil Sith Lords alongside Luke Skywalker. It's a type of role playing or wish fulfillment.

veinglory
12-14-2006, 05:25 AM
The options:

In a universe where hybrids are very unusual? <--relates to being special and wonderfully unique

A hybrid of more than two species? <--ditto

Does he/she possess the strengths of both species, but none of the weaknesses? <--relates to being super-powerful

Is your character part something furry, yet shows no sign of being anything but human save for a furry tail, animal ears, fangs, and/or claws? <--relates to being a cliche (anime-derived)

PeeDee
12-14-2006, 05:28 AM
Is your character part something furry, yet shows no sign of being anything but human save for a furry tail, animal ears, fangs, and/or claws? <--relates to being a cliche (anime-derived)

That particular branch, the furries, creep. me. out. Especially when they get into sex scenes.

I can put up with a lot, but count me out of the furries world.

Celia Cyanide
12-14-2006, 06:13 AM
Is your character part something furry, yet shows no sign of being anything but human save for a furry tail, animal ears, fangs, and/or claws? <--relates to being a cliche (anime-derived)

Isn't Mary Sue different than just being a cliche? I apologize for all the questions. I am not familiar with fan fiction. I apprecuate the explanations. It is difficult to keep all of my posts to five sentences or more.

PeeDee
12-14-2006, 06:23 AM
Really, the basis of Mary Sue is nothing but a cliche. it's the most basic example of a cliche there is. All manner of writers writing something original, except it's not and everyone else has already done it.

veinglory
12-14-2006, 06:30 AM
It's a cliche of gorgeousness, specifically (another Mary Sue quality). Cat's ears and a fluffy tail is the anime version of platinum blonde hair or red lipstick.

PeeDee
12-14-2006, 06:47 AM
And may I reiterate how deeply it creeps me out....? :)

JeanneTGC
12-14-2006, 09:28 AM
Isn't Mary Sue different than just being a cliche? I apologize for all the questions. I am not familiar with fan fiction. I apprecuate the explanations. It is difficult to keep all of my posts to five sentences or more.

I would just counsel not worrying about it. As Veinglory said, it's a fanfiction term and it comes out of that genre. It's used to insult someone's story when the author has clearly envisioned herself/himself as the new protagonist.

Also, keep in mind that a lot of fanfic readers feel that they "own" a particular character and so if a fanfic author presumes to have said character fall in love with her, then many times that story gets denounced as a Mary Sue.

If you are suddenly going to take up fanfiction for fun (and it can be fun) and absolutely no hope for profit (for, despite that story of that ONE gal who got a contract, it will never be profitable), I'm sure those of us who have experience there can offer you advice on avoiding being a Mary Sue. If you are writing mainstream fiction -- and by mainstream I mean "anything, anything at all, that has even a PRAYER of possibly, one day, if the stars align, getting published" -- then this Mary Sue issue is far less of a concern than, say, the issue of adverb and adjective usage, POV and prologues. And my take is that those are minor issues to the overall true one which is -- are you doing whatever it is that you are doing WELL? As in, well enough to make YOU happy and to make readers happy? Well enough to garner publication if that is your goal? That is the important issue.

batgirl
12-15-2006, 09:48 AM
For a more in-depth look at the problems with Mary Sues in various fandoms, check out Protectors of the Plot Continuum (http://www.misssandman.com/PPC/ppc.html), where valiant heroes hunt down Mary Sues, restore Out-of-Character Canon Characters to normal and generally save the worlds.
-Barbara

greglondon
12-15-2006, 06:48 PM
I don't understand that test. How is being a cross breed supposed to mean that your character is an idealized and flawless version of yourself?

Mary Sues are often born "special". There are usually things about them that set them apart from (and ABOVE) everyone else around them. The Mary Sue test picks up on a few of these. weird hair color, weird eye color, physical stuff about the character that makes them "special", not because of what they've done, but simply because of how they were born.

What better way to be special than to be the one and only Klingon-Vulcan child in the entire universe? You don't have to actually DO anything to be special, other than be born that way. But being born that way sets you apart from everyone else in the universe.

Yes, Harry Potter is a flaming Mary Sue (or Gary Stu). He was born of parents killed by the most evil man in the universe. He survived the initial attack because he was "specially" loved by his parents. He was marked with a scar that everyone can see that sets him off as different. Everyone in the magical world knows about him, knows his name, even before he has done ANYTHING in his life. He is destined to save the world. He is the only one who can save the world.

Yeah, flaming Mary Sue.

JeanneTGC
12-16-2006, 04:06 AM
Yes, Harry Potter is a flaming Mary Sue (or Gary Stu). He was born of parents killed by the most evil man in the universe. He survived the initial attack because he was "specially" loved by his parents. He was marked with a scar that everyone can see that sets him off as different. Everyone in the magical world knows about him, knows his name, even before he has done ANYTHING in his life. He is destined to save the world. He is the only one who can save the world.

Yeah, flaming Mary Sue.

If I am good, and tithe mightily, and bow down before them at all hours, maybe the Literary Gods will allow one of my characters to be as beloved and fanatically adored as Harry Stu Potter.

I can but dream...

greglondon
12-16-2006, 04:33 AM
Hey, I didn't say all Mary Sues are bad. You can do a Mary Sue, as long as you do it Well.

I enjoy the Harry Potter movies, and then find several dozen plot holes in them afterwards. I haven't bothered with the books, although I did leaf through one and JK's writing composition seemed better than a lot.

But if its bad Mary Sue, and you're trying to explain to the writer why it's bad, you both need to understand what a Mary Sue is. Or, Lucy, you got some 'splainin to do.

greglondon
12-16-2006, 04:37 AM
For example, in Harry Stu Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the massive "WTF?" is the fact that the bad guys went through all this trouble to enchant a trophy, then rig the choosing so Harry gets in the contest that kills students now and then, then go along and help Harry survive and WIN the contest, all so that in the last race, he grabs the enchanted cup and

poof, Harry's teleported in the evil one's dimension.

You know, they could have avoided a lot of trouble if they had simply enchanted his friggen tooth brush.

But hey, it's got good world building stuff, some good characters, some humor, some decent story telling, and what not, so you can glance over the massive plot holes and the fact that Harry is a flaming Gary Stu. It works.

JeanneTGC
12-16-2006, 05:21 AM
For example, in Harry Stu Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the massive "WTF?" is the fact that the bad guys went through all this trouble to enchant a trophy, then rig the choosing so Harry gets in the contest that kills students now and then, then go along and help Harry survive and WIN the contest, all so that in the last race, he grabs the enchanted cup and

poof, Harry's teleported in the evil one's dimension.

You know, they could have avoided a lot of trouble if they had simply enchanted his friggen tooth brush.

But hey, it's got good world building stuff, some good characters, some humor, some decent story telling, and what not, so you can glance over the massive plot holes and the fact that Harry is a flaming Gary Stu. It works.

LOL! I wasn't actually arguing with you (you make me laugh too often for me to EVER want to argue with you). I just function on the "cat" belief that it never hurts to ask for what you want. :D (Hear me, oh Literary Gods. I would like a character of mine to be as rabidly beloved as Harry Stu Potter. And, you know, a million buckaroos wouldn't hurt, either. Tomorrow's good for me and all.)

I could rant for hours (and I do mean HOURS) about Book 5, let alone the plot issues in Book 4. However, so many books have this issue. Christopher Stasheff's "Warlock" series is one I love, BUT it has time travel involved...and yet, no one EVER thinks to go back to when the main protag is just a baby and kill him then when no one would be aware that he was going to be important and save themselves all the trouble. But, I choose to believe that they can't and go along with it, because I enjoy his books.

I just go back to the point you and I are both making -- you can do ANYTHING if you do it WELL. "Well" is subjective in a lot of ways, but agents, editors, publishers and readers will let you know when it is "well enough".

LeslieB
12-16-2006, 04:20 PM
You know, they could have avoided a lot of trouble if they had simply enchanted his friggen tooth brush.

While I admit this made me laugh a lot, there are many reasons why that wouldn't be practical, but it would be impossible to know that from just the movies. For one thing, except for the occassional visit by the head of the house, teachers never enter the students' living quarters, so one strolling through the common room on the way to Harry's bedroom would have a large number of people staring at him or her.

You really can't judge the books from the movies. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite of the books, but the movie is basically a series of scenes from the book strung together without the connecting bits that are needed for it to make real sense. It is one of those 'if you haven't read the book you aren't going to get it' movies, and I think a movie should stand on its own. Goblet of Fire suffers because the book is *huge* and it was an impossible task to cram it all in, not to mention they took valuable plot time and replaced it with special effects sequences that didn't happen in the book.

With the books, a lot of people forget that the story is being told almost exclusively from Harry's POV. In the early books, everything is black and white/good and evil because how many eleven year olds think about nuances and shades of gray? As Harry matures, his outlook matures. And his scar, far from being his sign of uber-specialness, might be his death warrant. After what was in book 6, a lot of fans are wondering how he can survive book 7.

greglondon
12-17-2006, 03:14 AM
For one thing, except for the occassional visit by the head of the house, teachers never enter the students' living quarters,

with evil shape shifting wizards walking about looking like good aligned teachers, I think they could have found an easy way to enchant an apple and toss it to Harry in the classroom, or enchanted a letter and then wrapped it in a box and delivered it to Harry.

The police have sent letters to people who have warrants for their arrest telling them they've won a prize and to come to such and such a place to pick it up, and then bagged the bad guy when they show up.

I mean, wasn't the whole point that Voldemort NEEDED harry to get Harry's blood to restore Voldemort to flesh? And they risked Harry's life getting him there? If Harry had died, Voldemort would be forever trapped. Not a good plan from Voldemort's point of view. If harry was that important and required to return to flesh, I'd be treating him as if her were a piece of fragile crystal I was forced to ship parcel post: lots of padding, cushions, and flembots to keep him safe in a box several times too large to absorb any damage.

I certainly wouldn't use a plan that, were it to fail to deliver Harry's blood, it might also get him killed by a dragon and keep me from reanimating myself ever again.

Better to use a plan that if it fails, fails safely, so that Harry isn't harmed, and I can try to nab him again later.

But I used to do failsafe design stuff as an engineer, so that's just my thing.

inanna
12-18-2006, 08:32 PM
(I had to avoid the last several posts since I am Harry Potter unspoiled at the moment, so sorry for the abrupt change in subject)

Is there such a thing as the anti-Mary Sue? My character was born "special", I suppose you could say, but she's very flawed and is basically destined to ruin the world. I don't spend a lot of time getting angsty over what is mostly a fanfic issue (like others have mentioned), but now I'm curious. Or perhaps my MC is just Teh Darkside version of Mary Sue ....

greglondon
12-19-2006, 02:27 AM
Is there such a thing as the anti-Mary Sue? My character was born "special", I suppose you could say, but she's very flawed and is basically destined to ruin the world.

Flawed by birth or flawed by choice?

If she's flawed by choice, then she probably gets a point for being realistic. People develop as the realize their flaws and choose other ways.

If she was born flawed and can't help it, then she might get a point for being a Mary Sue. Or, if she's the antagonist, she might get a point for being a cardboard character.

Not really enough information to tell here.

inanna
12-19-2006, 05:24 AM
Flawed by birth or flawed by choice?

If she's flawed by choice, then she probably gets a point for being realistic. People develop as the realize their flaws and choose other ways.

If she was born flawed and can't help it, then she might get a point for being a Mary Sue. Or, if she's the antagonist, she might get a point for being a cardboard character.

Not really enough information to tell here.

I'd say she's flawed in a typically human way. She can be manipulative, and the choices she makes are sometimes selfish or based on warped perceptions. But she's not a martyr or anything like that.

I dunno - she has a couple of the Mary Sue tropes, but this is basically a vampire novel, so tropes abound regardless. What I tried to focus on was making whatever cliches I dusted off as multi-dimensional as I could, along with the characters. Oh well, I should get back to editing. I guess I'll dust off a cliche right now and say the proof will just have to be in the pudding :)

veinglory
12-19-2006, 05:35 AM
I like the idea of the anti-Mary Sue. I can see them seeing all the prophecies and struggling not to do it, but fate having the last laugh. Call me bitter and cynical but that's a story I would read.