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Dispelling the myth - the Mary Sue problem.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Kit', Aug 19, 2002.

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  1. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Looking through the ?Fan Fiction Pet Peeves? thread, I noticed that the term ?Mary-Sue? has been used by nearly everyone as something they dislike. ?Mary-Sue? characters are often something that people complain about both in original characters and canon characters. However, recently there seems to have been an explosion in people?s attitudes towards characters and their ?Mary-Sue? potential. People seem to have become terrified about creating one, or having a character seen as one.

    Now, I?m not saying that ?Mary-Sue?s don?t exist, or that people are whining about nothing. Neither am I saying that they are a prevalent problem in most peoples stories. However, I am starting to believe that the term is a little over-used at the moment and is being made into a much bigger thing then it really is. I think that too many new writers are being scared away from writing original characters because of the term. They are so scared that the character that they put on paper will be laughed at as a ?Mary-Sue? that they are turning away from writing Original characters at all. ?Mary-Sues? have, put simply, been made out to be a big boogie man hiding in the cupboard ready to spring on any unassuming author. This is an attitude that needs to be changed.

    The questions that I?m putting to everyone here is: ?When do you draw the line between what is and what isn't a ?Mary-Sue?? How many different things constitute a ?Mary-Sue?? What is a ?Mary-Sue? in the first place??

    There are simply so many definitions of a ?Mary-Sue?. Below I?m going to paraphrase a few of the definitions that I?ve heard over the years, I personally disagree with nearly all of them (for reasons that I'll post later on).

    ?A ?Mary-Sue? type character has only to be good most things, nice to people and good looking. The Character that all men drool over and all women want to be friends with. ?

    "They need only to have a huge range of talents and specials skills for which they save the day. A ?Mary-Sue? will always save the day no matter what. She?ll pull out some skill that no one knew she had right at the exact moment it is needed. She?ll then go on to save the day, even if she ends the story with her life hanging by a thread."

    "A ?Mary-Sue? just a character that isn't fleshed out - is flat instead of rounded."

    "A ?Mary-Sue? has all the attributes an author wants to have, but probably doesn?t."

    "?Mary-Sues? are ?perfect? people"


    So what can we do about it? There needs to be a solution rather then just a continual rant against them. Ideas need to be discussed and definitions made. Tips about how to get over ?Mary-Sues? should be given as well. Inherent problems in the literature and genre that we write in also need to be discussed. We have to realise that we all write in the heroic/epic adventure genre. There have to be heroes to save the day. There have to be climaxes that the hero gets over. Reading about someone who constantly fails at what they do gets boring and tired after a while. People need to succeed, and people like reading about people who succeed.

    So, to go back to the questions, how do we overcome the ?Mary-Sue?? How do we dispel and banish the myth of the inherent ?Mary-Sue? hiding in each of our characters? Most of all ? What is a ?Mary-Sue? in the first place?

    Edited: For clarity :)
     
  2. HaiGan

    HaiGan Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2000
    I could explain what I personally consider a Mary Sue. I could give examples of specific Mary Sues in film, television, published fiction and fanfic. I started writing a response along those lines, and realised it's been done before. So I tried to work out what I consider to be the 'Essence of Mary Suedom', and finally decided that a Mary Sue is any character that the author has written at the expense of the story and/or the other characters. A character is a Mary Sue when the world revolves around the character instead of the character moving through the world. The hero(s) should be the focus of the story as the vehicle by which the author shows us the world and the events occurring within it, but the reader should not gain the impression that there are no other stories going on beyond the written scenes. The story may be about the character, but the character should be subservient to the story.

    EDIT: I think there's probably a better word than 'subservient' to use, but I've blanked on it at the moment. Anyone think of a word that means 'less important than but still a part of'?

    How to solve the problem? I think it's sometimes just as simple as taking a step back from the work. Write your story or post, then put it away for a day, or a week, or a month, and then read it again as if you're a stranger to the writing. Is it a story, or is the the résumé of an implausible character?

    Watch yourself when writing a favorite character (and most Mary Sues I've come across do seem to be characters that are favorites of their creator). If you find youself thinking 'I've got to write in this special ability, or this event from the past', but it's NOT strictly relevant to the events of the story, then you're probably heading towards dubious ground. If you find yourself writing in incidents just to showcase your character when you could prune them out and the overall story would remain all but unchanged, you could have a problem. Similarly, if a character suddenly displays a previously un-hinted-at skill (not even hinted at to the reader, that is), when there are other characters that it would be far more logical to have performing whataver task is required, it's worth asking why and changing it if it makes sense to change it (and if it's been done for a good reason, make sure that the reason is going to be as clear to the reader as to the writer!).

    Okay, so now I'd better go make sure I follow my own advice. ;)
     
  3. obi-wannabe_1138

    obi-wannabe_1138 Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Thanks. Very helpful, guys. I'm planning on putting a fairly relevant OC into one of my fics but I'm getting Mary Sue paranoia here. I appreciate this thread very much.
     
  4. Julie

    Julie Moderator Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Aug 1, 1998
    Excellent descriptions Kit' and Haigan! :)

    I got a big laugh when a friend of mine showed me the source of the dreaded Mary Sue. I've pasted it below for your amusement. ;)

    Fan fiction author Paula Smith first revealed Mary Sue in "A Trekkie's Tale," a silly, short story she wrote to poke fun at the genre and published it in 1974 in a Star Trek fanzine. Here, in its entirety, is the story that coined the notorious term "Mary Sue":

    [blockquote]A Trekkie's Tale
    by Paula Smith

    "Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky," thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the
    bridge of the Enterprise. "Here I am, the youngest Lieutenant in the
    fleet-only fifteen and half years old."

    Captain Kirk came up to her. "Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly. Will
    you come to bed with me?"

    "Captain! I am not that kind of girl!"

    "You're right, and I respect you for it. Here, take over the ship for
    a minute while I go for some coffee for us."

    Mr. Spock came onto the Bridge. "What are you doing in the command
    seat, Lieutenant?"

    "The Captain told me to."

    "Flawlessly logical. I admire your mind."

    Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott beamed down with Lt.
    Mary Sue to Rigel XXXVII. They were attacked by green androids and
    thrown into prison. In a moment of weakness Lt. Mary Sue revealed to
    Mr. Spock that she too was half Vulcan. Recovering quickly, she sprung
    the lock with her hairpin and they all got away back to the ship.

    But back on board, Dr. McCoy and Lt. Mary Sue found out that the men
    who had beamed down were seriously stricken by the jumping cold robbies.
    Mary Sue less so. While the four officers languished in Sick Bay, Lt.
    Mary Sue ran the ship, and ran it so well she received the Nobel Peace
    Prize, the Vulcan Order of Gallantry and the Tralfamadorian Order of
    Good Guyhood.

    However the disease finally got to her and she fell fatally ill. In
    the sick bay as she breathed her last, she was surrounded by Captain
    Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott all weeping unashamedly at the
    loss of her beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence,
    capability and all around niceness. Even to this day her birthday is a
    national holiday of the Enterprise.[/blockquote]
     
  5. JediStarMoonstruck

    JediStarMoonstruck Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 19, 2002
    I am worried that she might come across as one before I put into place chaps. that might show her as not one.
    My character seems to borderline Mary Sue-dom. Here's a list:

    Mary Sue-
    Skills that save the day (she's a chemist, computer whiz, top of the line mechcanic, and a genuis)
    Is almost everything I wish I could be (chemist, computer whiz, top of the line mechcanic, and a genuis) :D

    Not Mary Sue-
    Has a tough adttude (If you're nice to her when you come across her, she might not throw you into a wall or break all your bones)
    Happens to be hated by a planet
    Not sure of the nice looking part
    One guy likes her
    Has a few friends
    Must be in control or she'll freak out
    Not perfect

    *looks at above list* Or maybe she's not.

    Oh, and I like that "Trekkie's Tale." It's so bad it's funny!
     
  6. HaiGan

    HaiGan Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2000
    Yes, that little tale was a laugh. :)

    You can't, unfortunately, always be sure that just because a character is smart-mouthed and/or downtrodden that they're not a Mary Sue. Tragic pasts are pretty common among Mary Sues. Mary Sue can have an Attitude. Other characters may take an inexplicable dislike to Mary because the author has a sudden guilty idea that this IS Mary Sue. Mary Sue has a few flaws tacked on just in case people think she's too perfect. Mary Sue's author sometimes throws all sorts of unfortunate experiences and events at her so she can triumphantly conquer everything and win everybody's undying admiration. Unfortunately, triumphantly conquering over adversity is a pretty standard plotline and it doesn't mean there's a Mary Sue at large.

    All a bit of a problem if you've got something that could fit the description and you're worried people will point the finger. The trick is to write characters that readers can identify with along the literary journey, and then nobody much will care if it might perhaps be a Mary Sue. Most readers are intelligent, discerning individuals. They'll spot implausibility a mile off, and it will pull them right back out of the story. Fiction is not real, but it should feel that way. Remarkable people exist in reality so they can exist within fiction, but they should exist in a way that fits the setting. Any character should feel to the reader as if he or she is a person, not a list of lifetime acheivements. The setting needs to be painted with similar detail and vibrancy or it will seem flat and unreal.

    Characters who apparently fit the usual definition of a Mary Sue can become popular with readers instead of invoking the more usual desire to apply a foot swiftly to their rear ends. If the author can maintain some sense of detachment and objectivity then Mary Sue is likely to be less of a problem. Place yourselves in the shoes of every character while writing- would they really react like that to the potential Mary Sue given their own personality, experience and responsibilities?

    People might like to check out a few Mary Sue essays if they haven't already, although perhaps people are coming to this thread because they've already read the essays and are now even more worried about whether they're doing something wrong! Melyanna has an article up in the Fanfic Archive, [link=http://fanfic.theforce.net/articles.asp?action=view&ID=33]here[/link]. Another one I found interesting is about 'Dark Mary Sues'- Mary Sues as villains rather than good guys, by Steven Savage, [link=http://www.sffworld.com/authors/s/savage_steven/articles/46a1.html]here[/link].

    Finally, form your own opinions and exercise your own judgement. I'm not an expert, just another reader who's already made mistakes and has tried to correct them, not always successfully. The best things I've found that help me to improve are trial and error, lots of practice, a willingness to listen to others, and trying to remind myself that writing is a skill to improve and not an exercise in ego enhancement.
     
  7. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Thanks for that story Julie! It's excellant! :)

    I totally agree HaiGan, it does seem a common thing for Mary Sue's to have come from a tragic background (Starts thinking about her characters and winces! :p ). However, just having a tragic background isn't always a prerequisite (as you pointed out) for a Mary-Sue, but it is certainly common.

    However, I am beginning to wonder with the whole Mary-Sue thing being blown out of proportion, are people becoming so scared of being accused of writing a Mary Sue character that they are just simply creating a character that has no redeeming qualitities whatsoever, as opposed to a character that better equates to reality???

    Kithera
     
  8. HaiGan

    HaiGan Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2000
    I'm just running a certain character of mine through my head and wincing along with Kit'! I'm far from innocent when it comes to Mary Sues, but it's not always inevitably a bad thing, it depends on the writing.

    I found another good essay [link=http://enterprise.mathematik.uni-essen.de/~bastian/Ranma/MarySue.html]here[/link] which has a down-to-earth explanation of the Mary Sue phenomenon that doesn't involve a list of faults. It also gives suggestions on how to avoid putting your readers off if you absolutely have to get that Mary Sue story off your chest. :)
     
  9. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Here's what I edited out of my post the other night to make it actually a decent length to read. :) These are the definitions I put up, and the reason that I disagree with them.

    ?A ?Mary-Sue? type character has only to be good most things, nice to people and good looking. The Character that all men drool over and all women want to be friends with. ?

    In that case I know several people in real life who would be ?Mary-Sue?s. Most heroes (I?m talking both Star Wars and other genres) meet the above criteria. Think Superman and Captain America. Both are good looking, both are nice to people and both are good at everything they are required to do.

    Changing the genders in the second sentence makes that sentence true as well for our hero examples. Women drool over Superman and Captain American (in their comic books and stories) and men either want to be their friend, want to be them or respect them. Does that make them ?Mary-Sues??

    Well, firstly that definition negates the fact that the characters might have flaws in their personality. By missing a definition of personality it means that you miss a large part of the character. You might have a character that *is* good at everything, is good looking and is nice to people but isn?t a Mary Sue. It is too general - most characters fall into that group.

    "They need only to have a huge range of talents and specials skills for which they save the day. A ?Mary-Sue? will always save the day no matter what. She?ll pull out some skill that no one knew she had right at the exact moment it is needed. She?ll then go on to save the day, even if she ends the story with her life hanging by a thread."

    Taking just the first line doesn't that then mean that nearly all Jedi Characters and all story heroes are ?Mary-Sue? characters? They save the day (eventually) and they have a huge range of talents and skills. Particularly the Jedi Characters. A Jedi (because of their skills and force powers) is immediately above any other normal character. They can do what other characters usually cannot. Due to the simple fact that they are Jedi means that they can do the whole "Watch me pull this out of my bag-o-tricks." Which normal characters can?t.

    On the other hand, people do have a point when they say that and it relates to normal characters. A character that outwits the Jedi, pulls out the fact that she is an excellent Sabbac player and wins the crucial game (despite the fact it her talent has never been mentioned before. Is what I would consider a Mary Sue. However, this again runs into problems. Taking real life as an example (and what better one to have :) ) You?ll always come across those freaky people who have many talents. The Jack-of-all-trade types who know information on every topic under the sun and who can do just about anything. However, this is often a completely different thing from a ?Mary-Sue? as the Jack-of-all-trade types also have flaws and there will often just be one chip in their armour of knowledge, something that they know nothing about.


    "A ?Mary-Sue? just a character that isn't fleshed out - is flat instead of rounded."

    ?Mary-Sues? are often described as not having flaws and if they do then they get over them at exactly the right moment. Once again, from real life people will often over-come their fears just at the right moment (especially when their child/partner/parents/life is threatened). However, two-dimensional characters will happen but if they are the main characters then they shouldn?t. Main characters should be viewed just like people, with their own set of flaws and problems, with their own talents and virtues as well. ?Mary-Sues? are just not confined to the two-dimensions and often sneak over into the three-dimensional characters too.


    "A ?Mary-Sue? has all the attributes an author wants to have, but probably doesn?t."

    This is true to some extent, but not all of it. To say that a character should have no attributes of its creator means that you would have very few characters
     
  10. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Hmmm... personally, my yardstick is:

    If a character is related by blood, marriage or romance to one of the canon characters, you are DEEP in Mary Sue land. And that alone is enough for me to stop reading. All the "character flaws" in the world won't redeem your hero.

    What makes Superman NOT a Mary Sue (in spite of having all the traits) is that he is an original character in an original story by his creator, not a fanfic character in a genre created by someone else.

    (I hope that last paragraph made sense). If you were to write an original sci-fi novel set in your own "universe" about a beautiful 15-year old female Admiral of the Fleet who singlehandedly stops a galactic invasion, the character might be obnoxious, but she wouldn't be a Mary Sue. If you took the same character and put her on the United Federation Ship Endeavor or the Imperial Star Destroyer Intimidator then you're back in Mary Sue territory.

    I guess that's why I like OC stories... the characters can get Mary Sue-ish (I laugh about the "tragic past"; yup, been there, done that!) but they are on their own and the story needs to stand by what they do. You don't get as many readers as if you insert the canons, but that isn't the point. It's a challenge.
     
  11. Jedi_Anakin_Solo

    Jedi_Anakin_Solo Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 27, 2001
    EDIT: Never mind -- read something wrong.
     
  12. Casper_Knightshade

    Casper_Knightshade Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 18, 2000
    Obi-Wan's 'A certain point of view' is alive and well.

    I say that because, yes, Mary Sues do exist and exists, often times, very glaringly bad. However on certain levels, and not with every character, a little Mary Sue does exist. As storytellars, we're the ones solely responsible for our characterizations, wheither it's an original character from the SW universe or our own creation. Unfortunately for some of the new writers, and even the veterans, they fall on the Original Sources of SW characterization overall: the movies.

    SW's most glaring flaw is that it's a visual story which, through EU, has entered a literature realm, where say Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have the advantage coming from books going to the movies; in the latter, we can read the description of characters far better and get to know their most intimate of characterization, from strengths and weaknesses (NOTE: however, books can be just as guilty with Mary Sues too).

    SW has that 'Golly Gee Whiz' selling point that does produce the Mary Sues and since it was done on visual medium long before it was protrayed in the books, its conditioned us to a degree, some more than others, to embrace the concept of Mary Sues on some level. Now I'm not saying Princess Leia was that perfect, but folks will use her as the measuring stick over, say, EU Leia and Mara. That alone is problematic, especially when some folks want to brave the waters and introduce new characters.

    HOWEVER, I am quick to point out and remind folks that, again, Mary Sues do serve a purpose in a storytellers' learning process: after all, according to some folks, this place is both a FUN place to be and a LEARNING place to be. A few newbies, not all, will go for the perfect characterization, go for the sure things their first time out to grab, they feel, reader's attentions. Does this make them bad writers? Not necessarily because you still have the story plot and other things to take into account as a responsible, open minded reader that I hope everyone is here; of course all our weaknesses are shown here because, again, STAR WARS IS A VISUAL STORY, not a written one.

    Here's Obi-Wan's certain point of view: I see Star Wars as a very dark drama. Others see it as a magical, mythical event. Others see pure spirituality. Others see pure action/adventure/blah/blah/blah. But you get my point.

    One of these elements is fantasy, and fantasy in fiction is more or less based on fantasy in reality, the fantasy in our minds.

    Now don't snicker! This is a mature discussion, not a pimple faced one for those who can't control their immaturity. ;)

    Without argument one of the other main reasons why folks come here is acceptance and assurance, to share in a common bond that is Star Wars; let's face it, not everyone is a fan and ridicule can be heavy. Here we put our thoughts on a digital medium for everyone to see, we bare our souls, our matra, our mind, or whatever you think is a glaring representation of yourself. Face it, we are writing the fantasy, and its our fantasy tale to a degree; don'e we want our story fantasies to be perfect?

    That first step to posting your fan fiction......you all remember do you? The feeling you are trying ice skating for the first time, you go out to the ice rink and you find it's filled to the brim with people, and you are hoping once you go out there, on your own mind you, you don't slip and make a fool out of yourself. You may think you have the confidence to pull it off, but in reality its fear; deny it, and you are a fool because (brings index finger and thumb together to very little light shines between them) you were at least this scared.

    Now you think to keep from falling on the ice, you want to hold on to something. A hand hold. Lone and behold, a Mary Sue appears before you like a Holy Grail and of course, as a newbie, you are going to use it. How much depends on the person, and how much of the fantasy (stop it you teenagers with the snickering) they want to reveal. So, in a way, a Mary Sue could be that first step towards confidence build
     
  13. Melyanna

    Melyanna Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 19, 2001
    *sigh* Mary Sues are my biggest fear in writing. My first OCs were all Mary Sues, and only one of them had enough reality in her to redeem her through a massive rewrite of that story. I'm slightly paranoid when it comes to Mary Sues, which is probably why I wrote that article. ;) (And I'll try to express myself without rewriting my entire article in here... :p )

    To say that Mary Sues aren't a problem is a bit misleading. At the archive, Mary Sue-like characterization can be sufficient reason to reject a story. One point I tried to make in my article about it was that Mary Sues don't work in Star Wars - the GFFA doesn't really allow room for a perfect character, at least not in a leading role. Han's certainly not perfect, nor Luke, nor Leia, nor Obi-Wan.

    A major character who never seems to have any problems in life is just irritating. Maybe it's just me, but I get annoyed by people who have everything going for them and never seem to have troubles. Mary can be amusing in minor roles, but I try to avoid her even there, since I occasionally end up writing spinoffs of my stories about minor OCs. Villainous Mary Sues are all right, too, if handled properly - but I think authors need to be warned that they often turn out pretty funny, so if that's not what you're going for, I wouldn't try it.

    I guess the reason why I'm paranoid about Mary Sues is that they're easy to write - it's a heck of a lot harder to write three-dimensional, developed characters. I feel like writing should have at least a little work in it - if it's getting too easy, the first thing I turn to is characterization. I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating - three-fourths of writing a story is in the characterizations. If you're bending a character to fit the plot instead of bending the plot to fit the character, you're going to end up with a canon character who's horribly out of character, or an OC who's a Mary Sue. Neither is desirable.

    Ick, I hope I made some sense there... If not, I'll post again tomorrow when I'm actually awake. :p ;)

    Mel
     
  14. JediStarMoonstruck

    JediStarMoonstruck Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 19, 2002
    *throws hands up in the air* Now I'll never know if my character is a Mary Sue or not.

    Maybe my readers will point it out to me.
     
  15. HaiGan

    HaiGan Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2000
    Renata- oops! That's one padawan I'll have to retire on the grounds of Gary Stu-dom! And here was me not even worried about his MS potential. ;)

    Mary Sues are not a problem until the author displays them for public viewing. There's no harm at all in writing out Mary Sue fantasies for private, personal pleasure. If other people are going to be expected to read them, though, then they have to be characters that other people can identify with. It can be done- there are (gasp!) interesting, very readable Mary Sues out there. Mary Sue herself is not innately bad (rather like the Force), but it's much easier and quicker to write a bad Mary Sue than to write a good one (do we see the Force analogy again?).

    Personally, I don't actually care if a character IS a Mary Sue as long as it's genuinely interesting rather than a list of skills and acheivements. I think such a character needs careful introduction, though. Too many hints of Suedom too near the start of the story and I'll probably stop reading before I get deeply enough into the character to see its merits.

    Believability is also still an issue- not just the character, but in the way the other characters react to it. Sorry, but (to pull out an example at random and without referring to any story in particular) no Human gets made a ranking officer at 13. No matter how talented they are, they'd never manage to command the respect of experienced soldiers who've been fighting wars since before they were born, and they wouldn't have the drilled-in reactions that need years of training to acquire. A 13-year-old computer superhacker I could buy- that's a limited skillset and doesn't require a whole bunch of extra stuff you only pick up with age and experience, such as teamwork and command skills. A 9-year-old podracer... hmm... ;) .

    A 13-year-old Jedi Padawan who finds himself with a bunch of terrified refugees and realises that he's going to have to try and take charge because they're too weak and scared to look after themselves, yes, maybe, but I wouldn't expect him to get everything right- and it's the struggle to do what he has to do that makes the readers want to read more. A 13-year-old Padawan who's destined to be the greatest Jedi of his generation, already won the Knights Lightsaber Championship despite being too young to enter, is looked up to by all his peers, is the descendant of a legendary Sith Hunter (which is not relevant to the plot but somehow makes itself known anyway)- nah, sorry, not interesting (unless you're J K Rowling. ;) ). A normal 13-year-old kid thrown into a situation he'd rather not be in, having to make decisions he doesn't know how to, trying to tell adults what to do when they're not likely to trust anyone they don't know let alone a kid with weird superhuman Jedi abilities, trying to be a hero and sometimes failing, THAT makes a story.

    Gads, too many edits here! It occurred to me to mention Anakin and Luke. Anakin- child protege on the podrace circuit, genius mechanic, manages to blow up Big Nasty despite never having sat in a fighter cockpit before- but we all know what happens to him. Luke- descendant of the Chosen One, picked for a fighter squadron although he's never flown an X-wing before, blows up the Death Star, sole hope of the Empire, trained by one of the greatest Jedi Masters... but if he was truly a Gary Stu he'd have flattened Han with his witty comebacks, trounced Vader in their first duel and taken out the Emperor on the backswing. Either Leia wouldn't have been his sister so he could marry her at the end, or he'd have been fatally wounded while polishing off the Emperor and the entire New Republic would have spent a year in mourning ;) .

    Does giving examples like that help? Or is it too much of a personal opinion?

    It's a fair point to make that most writer's early efforts seem to produce Mary Sues, and riducule is likely to encourage someone to give up rather than to improve. Early efforts also usually show other signs of inexperience, so hopefully readers who have the patience to read will note the sig
     
  16. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    I think I'll have to tactfully disagree with your comments Renata :)

    I don't think that the only precursor to a Mary Sue is the fact that they are related to a Canon Character. In that case I have several characters that would be immediate Mary Sues and yet I wouldn't ever consider them to be so. :) Maybe that's just me though ;) You can still have a damn good character if they are related, you can also have a really bad Mary Sue who isn't related to anyone.

    Also, I'd just like to point out that Mary Sue's aren't just confined to OC's. You can have Mary Sues in Canon characters too. You can have a Leia or Luke who does come back with all the wise cracks and manages to kick everyone's butt.

    You can also have Mary Sue's in original character and original setting stories too. I'm talking about outside of the GFFA here. They do happen, I personally, have read many of them in published fiction and have always walked away shaking my head.

    Kit
     
  17. Darth_Ofidis

    Darth_Ofidis Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Aug 13, 2002
    Hmmmmm... It sounds like a 'Mary-Sue' is a certain type of poorly designed character, a hero who was written by the author's ego, the need to be the best or worse, omnipotent.

    Ironic that the greatest Mary-Sue characters I can think of were from stories that Star Wars has it's roots in... Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Lensman...

    Everyone wants to be a hero, I think that's why some Mary-Sue's work (Like Ani, Luke, Harry, Kim Kinnison, etc.). They're far too perfect to be true but who doesn't want to be that way themselves?
     
  18. HaiGan

    HaiGan Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2000
    Wesley Crusher is one of the examples often given of a (Star Trek) canon Mary Sue. Canon characters can be Mary Sues. Profic authors write Mary Sues. Nobody is immune to the Power of Mary Sue, bwahahahahahaha! :p

    Ahem. Sorry. Pay no attention to the being behind the curtain. To attempt to be more serious (I seem to be in a silly mood), I've got to agree that Mary Sue isn't limited to fanfics, and can still appear in fanfics that only include original characters. Mary Sue can be a legitimate character, but it's very hard to write her that way and even the 'experts' can get it wrong.

    Kit', the thread inspired me. I started a little something on the fiction board. I may need to move it, I'll have to see, but hopefully it will entertain:
    [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=8456500]If Luke was Mary Sue[/link]
     
  19. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Love that thread HaiGan. :)

    Was just thinking though...Are Mary Sue's such a bad thing? Or are they occasionally okay to have in some types of stories?

    Hugs
    Kithera
     
  20. Casper_Knightshade

    Casper_Knightshade Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 18, 2000
    It goes to what a person likes to read in general; folks love, tolerate, or hate Mary Sues. It's one of the three, based on one of the three things a person reading a story will enjoy or shun.

    Consequently, 10 year old Anakin in Episode One is a little (I stress little, not a lot or most of the time) bit Mary Sue. Of course he's the Chosen One, the Force is with him, he learned how to fly a fighter by watching and learning.......

    But again, he's STILL a 10 year old kid, haphazardly flying a craft he has no idea how to fly, and by sheer luck as well as destiny destroys a battleship from the inside. Is that the 'perfect' hero moment?

    Or is that the beauty of fantasy?

    I think Mary Sues do have a place somewhere, especially in the realm of fantasy.
     
  21. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    I think your right Casper. It is a lot to do with the genre too.

    Star Wars is, essentually, an epic-heroic adventure. Therefore, you need heros to save the day (at least some of the time). If you don't have heroes, then you don't really have an epic-adventure thing happening. Heroes are usually supposed to start out on the adventure as one thing and then slowly change into something more (usually deeper and with a better understanding of life).

    Usually.



    On the other hand, and having said that, heros still need to have faults and everything...otherwise it makes for a fairly boring adventure too. They need something to overcome in the first place...if they are too perfect then the adventure is over too quickily as they can solve all the puzzles that are put before them.

    Kit
     
  22. poor yorick

    poor yorick Ex-Mod star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2002
    I'm really too tired to be coherant on this topic, but I don't think that all self-insertion/wish-fulfillment characters are bad. Case in point--Luke Skywalker, boy hero and savior of the universe, created by George LUKE-as of SKYWALKER Ranch. (Naming a character after yourself is a point on the [link=http://www.missy.reimer.com/library/marysue.html]Mary Sue Litmus Test[/link]).

    Some people are even proud that they write Mary Sues: [link=http://www.subreality.com/marysue.htm]Mary Sue Society[/link]

    The self-insertion type characters I truly cannot stand are both:

    1) Boring (usually stereotypical in some way)

    2) Space-hoggers. They take up much more of the story than can really be justified

    So if your name is Jennifer and you have a character named Jennifer who saves the universe, you won't necessarily get complaints from me. If character-Jennifer is yet another red haired, green eyed, blaster-toting genius pilot whose flaws are brashness and excessive courage, I may grit my teeth at the unoriginality, but I will cope. However, if Jennifer is a red haired, green eyed, blaster-toting genius pilot who saves the universe AND spends truly excessive amounts of story time reminiscing about her hard-knock childhood, her chummy past history (or current romance) with a canon character, and/or displaying her brilliance and wit in situations where it does not in any way need to be demonstrated, then I will bang my head against the wall and cry "Mary Sue!!"

    In short, my vote is that Mary Sue can stay, but to misquote Obi-Wan: "You will learn your place, self-inserted one."

    (And yeah, I've written at least one character who was reeeeeal close to the line in a couple of particulars). :)
     
  23. NarundiJedi

    NarundiJedi Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 8, 2001
    LOL! This thread makes me think of my very first character who happened to have my first name. ;) It started out as a James Bond Junior story (because that was my fad at the time) and ended up being a Star Wars story because I moved on to that. Jessica Smith was "The Youngest Rebel" and just thinking of the plot makes me scream "Mary Sue!" [face_laugh]

    Jess managed to find out she had jedi powers while saving her friends from bullies and running into Luke Skywalker. Then she saves her classmates from the school burning down and Luke comes back to take her to the GFFA. There she files an X-wing and kicks some Imp butt. Oh yeah, and she strikes up an ill-fated relationship with Luke before going back to Earth to find a guy her own age. But the relationship with a canon character was in there! [face_laugh] ;)

    Blatant, horrific self-insertion right there. I would be ashamed about it but I was only ten years old at the time. Still, it's a great example of what NOT to do! :p

    Jae Angel
     
  24. Tar-Jinn

    Tar-Jinn Jedi Youngling star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 23, 2001
    Forgive me for resurrecting this old thread, but I have only just read it, and would like to ask a question; because I have only recently completed a fanfic, and although I have little against Mary Sues - they can be a fun to read, at times - I would not like that one to be a Mary Sue...

    If, in a fanfic:

    - the male, canon, inhuman character thinks of the female, original character "She is perfect" - and proceeds to beat her black and blue for that perfection; because on that planet, humans are considered inferior to the ruling species, and he does not like the idea that a human can be equal to him;
    - the female is a Jedi, with all those fancy powers;
    - she is attractive, for a human, but is on a planet where humans are generally considered ugly;
    - in the end, she - of course, as befits a Mary Sue, as the first of her species - earns the respect of the inhuman rulers of the planet, and even finds an almost-friend in one (and, yes, the one who previously nearly killed her), only to remorselessly betray him in the moment when he would need her the most, leaving him unaware of her betrayal. Of course, as befits a Mary Sue, she does this because there is no other choice; she has to choose this lesser of two evils? (And being the good Jedi that she is, this does involve detaching herself from personal matters, and friendships?)

    And if, when they next meet, she is finally out of her Jedi tunics and in the classic Mary Sue black-leather raiment, and is, indeed, explicitly described several times in the text as looking "gorgeous", only to have the male protagonist think, upon seeing her: "She looks pretty, but how can she fight in this thing? Or has she changed profession?"


    ...is the character a Mary Sue? 'Cause some people who read the fic said that it's a classical Mary Sue, and some said that it isn't Mary Sue-ish at all...

    ?
     
  25. JediGaladriel

    JediGaladriel Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 1999
    That's an important point. One thing about Mary Sues is that, while some are more likely to lead to the perception than others, in the end, they are in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I consider Mara Jade and Admiral Thrawn to be the biggest Mary Sue and Gary Stu I've ever seen in any tie-in short of the Paula Smith spoof above, and every time either one of them appears it's like nails on my mental blackboard--but clearly if everyone thought that, they would not be popular characters, and Mara would not have ended up married to Luke and still in the books.
     
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