The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

We aren't limited to fanfic. Any writing that doesn't fit elsewhere can go here. Feel free to post poetry, stories, articles, ideas and any other fiction or non-fiction you wish.
User avatar
Kif White
Senior Executive
Senior Executive
Posts: 1402
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2003 10:20 am
Custom Title: Decepticon Commander
Location: Middle Earth
Contact:

The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Kif White » Fri May 28, 2004 12:08 am

Yep, the age old fanfic subject of the Mary Sue character. Little Miss Perfect.

Well, I'm very interested in how you people think this pitfall can be avoided? Surely not every good-looking female character is automatically a Mary Sue, but I suppose it can be a pit that's easy to fall in. Because I'm writing a new female character for my next Futurama fic, I'd like to know how to avoid these pitfalls myself actually. She hasn't been fully fleshed out yet, and although she isn't set to be a romantic element anywhere yet, I assume that even without that a Mary Sue can still be produced. Anyway, any thoughts you guys would have would be greatly appreciated, and I know this topic may help future writers as well.
- Kenneth White

"Know the conflict within before facing the conflict without."

Now Watching: Babylon 5 - Season 3
Now Playing: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, Pokemon Heart Gold
Now Reading: Catch 22
Venus
New SNPP Employee
New SNPP Employee
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed May 19, 2004 2:18 am

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Venus » Fri May 28, 2004 1:40 am

You're right. A new character does not have to be a love interest to anyone to become a Mary Sue. She can become a Mary Sue simply by playing by a completely different set of rules than the rest of the characters. I'll use Alesia from your first fic to better explain what i mean by that. You actually did a really really good job at keeping Alesia from becoming a Mary Sue, but even she had her moments.

Major big spoilers! Read with caution!

Exp 1. Alesia's near abandonment of Leela (for completely selfish reasons) is met with instant forgiveness while Leela's stunning of Alesia (to save her life) is met with hostility and mutiny. If the new character can get away with stuff that would get any other character bitch-smacked a little Mary Sue is creeping in.

Exp 2. When Alesia is stabbed by a pirate, other pirates are moved to tears. This doesn't make sense. These are pirates that kill and mutilate for a living, plus they were the enemy. if the other pirates disagree with the stabbing they should be annoyed sure, but since as career killers human life means nothing to them they shouldn't suddenly develop sympathy for a victim. Somehow i doubt the pirates would have been as moved had it been one of the other P.E. females that was stabbed.


If you want to avoid a Mary Sue just try to keep everyone on the same playing field. One technique you might want to use is if you have an event that you want to happen to your new character and you know how you want the people around her to react to said event, try switching her out with one of the main characters for a moment. Would the people around her react/treat her the same if she were suddenly someone else? And if not have a good reason why.
Last edited by Venus on Fri May 28, 2004 2:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Kif White
Senior Executive
Senior Executive
Posts: 1402
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2003 10:20 am
Custom Title: Decepticon Commander
Location: Middle Earth
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Kif White » Fri May 28, 2004 1:55 am

Venus wrote:You actually did a really really good job at keeping Alesia from becoming a Mary Sue, but even she had her moments.

I don't know how to use Spoiler tags on this forum, but hopefully since your story is complete, and has been for like a month or so, it won't matter to much.


Actually, only two people have read it here so far... so those are pretty major spoilers there. The way to do it is to change the colour of the writing to the background, in the case of your code it would be color=#47AAEF between square brackets. In fact, if you can, you you mind doing that ASAP please. I'd rather not have that spoiled for upcoming readers if possible :-X

And now, I'll use the same technique for my reply:

Some interesting thoughts there for sure, Venus. I can't really defend the first point you made at all, since I agree it was a bit skewed looking back on it. However, the second point I will try to explain a little: what happened to her and the reactions weren't supposed to be character based. It wasn't that it was Alesia that was stabbed, it was how it happened. It was the disgusting, dishonest and cruel way that it was done, and had it happened to anybody else (Leela for example) in the same way, I would have had the same results. However, I may have overdramatised it and not put that across well enough.

Other than that, thanks for your thoughts. I'll definitely keep them in mind :)
- Kenneth White

"Know the conflict within before facing the conflict without."

Now Watching: Babylon 5 - Season 3
Now Playing: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, Pokemon Heart Gold
Now Reading: Catch 22
Venus
New SNPP Employee
New SNPP Employee
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed May 19, 2004 2:18 am

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Venus » Fri May 28, 2004 2:36 am

Ack! i can't fix the spoiler thing! help!
User avatar
Kif White
Senior Executive
Senior Executive
Posts: 1402
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2003 10:20 am
Custom Title: Decepticon Commander
Location: Middle Earth
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Kif White » Fri May 28, 2004 2:38 am

Oh, you need to end with /color, also in square brackets. To make it easier, you can select the text you want, simply choose a colour from the listbox, and just replace the name of the colour with the hex value I gave you. i.e. replace 'color=red' with 'color=#47AAEF' :)
- Kenneth White

"Know the conflict within before facing the conflict without."

Now Watching: Babylon 5 - Season 3
Now Playing: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, Pokemon Heart Gold
Now Reading: Catch 22
Venus
New SNPP Employee
New SNPP Employee
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed May 19, 2004 2:18 am

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Venus » Fri May 28, 2004 2:44 am

got it figured out, all is well. Thanks!
Last edited by Venus on Fri May 28, 2004 2:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Meteorite
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Executive Officer
Posts: 2622
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2002 12:22 am
Custom Title: spacehorse
Location: Oatstralia
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Meteorite » Fri May 28, 2004 2:50 am

You may have Disable Smilies checked. It's located below the postbox in the replying section.


Don't worry, I'm one of the two that's read it so nothing's been spoiled for me. ;)
Image

<gkscotty|drawing> most people play Pokemon games with GameFAQs or a Pokéwiki open
<gkscotty|drawing> you seem to have TVTRopes :P


Image
Sometimes I feel like dressing up my Gaia avatar.
Feels kinda pointless since I don't actually do stuff at Gaia, so I'm putting it here.
User avatar
Kif White
Senior Executive
Senior Executive
Posts: 1402
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2003 10:20 am
Custom Title: Decepticon Commander
Location: Middle Earth
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Kif White » Fri May 28, 2004 2:51 am

You need to end it with [/color] by the looks of it. Have that instead of repeating [color=#47AAEF] at the end.

Edit: Never mind, I see you've fixed it. I've made a topic about the use of this in 'The Club' so that everybody knows how to exactly now... Now back on topic, I suppose :P
Last edited by Kif White on Fri May 28, 2004 2:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
- Kenneth White

"Know the conflict within before facing the conflict without."

Now Watching: Babylon 5 - Season 3
Now Playing: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, Pokemon Heart Gold
Now Reading: Catch 22
hadisia
General Control Officer
General Control Officer
Posts: 3492
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2001 9:10 pm
Location: Richmond, Indiana, USA
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by hadisia » Fri May 28, 2004 4:43 am

One of the worst Mary Sues is the invisible Mary Sue. Ms Stealth. Sometimes, she comes in not as an original character, but in the disguise of an existing character - that is, a character is so OOC that the only possible explanation is this is how the author would act if that were her. For example, in many romance fics with no original character, but severe OOCness: the author is basically making herself one of the characters. This is one of the reasons that in a lot of fics, boys are basically girls (go to the Harry Potter section of any fanfiction place, especially the slash fan fics. One of the lads is actually the author, which is why Harry's answer for everything in fan fic world is to burst into pitiful tears.)
This is also why (and I'm just guessing that this happens here) that in LotR fanfics, I'm sure many characters, such as Legolas, burst into random horrible Japanese (I have never read a LotR fanfic, luckily. I'm guessing here from what Chris has rightfully MSTed).
WELSH: What the hell was that?
FRASER: The sound of a grown man squealing in a manner not becoming a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
WELSH: Oh, Turnbull.
-"Mountie Sings the Blues," due SOUTH
Vulgaris_Prime
Trainee Technician
Trainee Technician
Posts: 115
Joined: Mon Nov 25, 2002 3:01 am
Location: Corner of Indiana

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Vulgaris_Prime » Fri May 28, 2004 5:32 am

In the eyes of the unwashed masses, you simply can't. Eventually, no matter what you write, some yutz will come along, pointing a stubby, carpal-tunneled finger at you, shouting "MARY SUE! MARY SUE!!" simply because you're there and aren't doing what they want.

That said, it's still possible to avoid it in reality - simply don't let anyone get away with too much. Do that, and the pitfall will be neatly sidestepped.
Back from the dead!
hadisia
General Control Officer
General Control Officer
Posts: 3492
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2001 9:10 pm
Location: Richmond, Indiana, USA
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by hadisia » Fri May 28, 2004 6:02 am

MARY SUE: Wow! Did I just waste that Home for Cute Orphans and Small Kittens? Golly gosh, silly me! Kawaii!
EVERYONE ELSE: Oh, that's daijoubu, Mary-chan! We aishiteru you! [Group hug]
[Gunshot]
MARY SUE: Oops.
EVERYONE ELSE: Don't worry about it.
WELSH: What the hell was that?
FRASER: The sound of a grown man squealing in a manner not becoming a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
WELSH: Oh, Turnbull.
-"Mountie Sings the Blues," due SOUTH
Kwyjibo
Sub-sector Control Officer
Sub-sector Control Officer
Posts: 1513
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2001 11:08 am
Location: Denmark
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Kwyjibo » Fri May 28, 2004 6:01 pm

Kif White wrote:Surely not every good-looking female character is automatically a Mary Sue,

Nope. She might be fanservice, too. ;)

Jokes aside, it's not that difficult to avoid Mary Sues.
But let's get a definition here, because a Mary Sue is much more (and not even necessarily) a self-insertion.
  • A Mary Sue is a character without flaws, whether in looks or personality.
  • She's revered by all the other good characters.
  • She usually sacrifices herself for the greater good of mankind and sheds single tears.
  • She's usually, but not always, an avatar of the author - that is, a self-insertion.
  • Male Mary Sues are also heard of, though some argue that terms like "Gary Sue" are more appropriate.
The way to avoid Mary Sues is to ensure that all characters have flaws. Make sure the reader notice the flaws, of course. Put emphasis on them. Make the flaw a plot point, if you can.

Also remember that we're talking about personality flaws as the author defines them. For example, while most authors should avoid characters that self-lessly sacrifice themselves, Chris should avoid characters that cynically stab their friends in the back for their own gain. And so on. :)
hadisia
General Control Officer
General Control Officer
Posts: 3492
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2001 9:10 pm
Location: Richmond, Indiana, USA
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by hadisia » Sat May 29, 2004 2:15 am

If necessary, make the character a real dog to make sure that no one mistakes her for a Mary Sue.
At least, don't make her one flaw something cute, like clumsiness (unless it's driven to annoyance, such as this clumsiness makes the character really, REALLY screw up plans in a not-cute way). Things as vain as looks practically shout, "Look! I'm an original character! And I'm clearly not a Mary Sue!" Make sure she doesn't get too many lines or too much notice - sort of the backdrop. In the "Order of the Phoenix," I always felt that Tonks was a bit of a Mary Sue (maybe) - cool with a cute flaw. However, past her first appearance, she didn't seem to get much booktime, so I shrugged it off.
WELSH: What the hell was that?
FRASER: The sound of a grown man squealing in a manner not becoming a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
WELSH: Oh, Turnbull.
-"Mountie Sings the Blues," due SOUTH
User avatar
Kif White
Senior Executive
Senior Executive
Posts: 1402
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2003 10:20 am
Custom Title: Decepticon Commander
Location: Middle Earth
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by Kif White » Sat May 29, 2004 2:46 am

Very good points. However, if the new character is supposed to be a major focus of the story, featuring them a lot is neccessary. I don't think Mary-Suedom has really much bearing on the percentage of appearance, it depends on the character themselves. Am I right?
- Kenneth White

"Know the conflict within before facing the conflict without."

Now Watching: Babylon 5 - Season 3
Now Playing: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, Pokemon Heart Gold
Now Reading: Catch 22
hadisia
General Control Officer
General Control Officer
Posts: 3492
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2001 9:10 pm
Location: Richmond, Indiana, USA
Contact:

Re:The dreaded Mary Sue... how to avoid?

Post by hadisia » Sat May 29, 2004 2:51 am

Well, yeah, I was referring to Mary Sues who aren't the centre of the story (then what good is a Mary Sue? ;))
I'm more talking about the inadvertant Mary Sue - a random original character/canon character chanelling the author that accidently becomes too big in a story for no reason other than (possibly) subconscious Mary Sue-ism.
I think I've read too many fanfics.
WELSH: What the hell was that?
FRASER: The sound of a grown man squealing in a manner not becoming a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
WELSH: Oh, Turnbull.
-"Mountie Sings the Blues," due SOUTH
Locked