Ye Olde Nemesis: Mary Sue

*NOTE: The following links are from, I am in no way affiliated with that site, or anyone connected with its creation, or maintenance.

Okay, so a lot of folks out there already understand what the term "Mary Sue" (or, in the case of male characters, Gary Stu--yes, this is a thing), means. For those who don't and are curious, but don't want to ask for fear of feeling silly here's a helpful page to give you the rundown on this.

What is a Mary Sue?

Now, for the record, before anyone does any clicking, be aware that Mary Sues don't just appear in poorly written fanfiction (and, also for the record, the term 'poorly written' does not apply to all fanfiction--yes, I'm looking at you, people who have never even glanced at a fanfiction story [or read, literally, half of the first chapter of one fanfiction] but decided they must all be terribly written, Sue-infested rubbish). They also pop up in role playing games, and original fiction. Trust me, when you learn what a Sue is, and go through the test for your own character(s), you will read things that make you go "Wait, *insert best-selling author here*'s main character does that all the time/fits most of these things!" I, personally, already know who my "best selling authors who write Mary Sue main characters" are. Unfortunately for me, as I started focusing more on my own work, and understanding what was expected of me as a creative entity, I noticed more and more poor or lazy writing, and Mary Sue tendencies in those 'great books' I once so loved, and it took me out of the story too many times to find the book/series enjoyable, any more.

I suggest this test for anyone writing anything, honestly. I do find some of the questions a bit ". . . Are you serious?", but even so it is a decent gauge for when you need to dial your character back a notch. Like, "wait, I can't even dress the character in a style I like?" or "yeah, I do wish I looked like that." In general, a little wish-fulfillment in your stories isn't a bad thing, this is more about "everyone wants them, they're super-special and can do no wrong, even when they've done something very wrong," type of characters. Yeah, even when the writers give you a reason for this super-specialness, you then have the task of sitting there and going "Wait, is the character super special because of 'plot point here'? Or did the writer construct 'plot point here' to justify character's super special qualities?"

Now, here I'm going to give you the link to the test, itself, for those who did not need to click on the above link, because you, like me, are already familiar with the dreaded Mary Sue (and who struggle not to foam at the mouth when forced to explain the fell creatures)Those needing the "What is a Mary Sue?" info can link to the test directly from that page once you're done reading.

The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test

Newcomers & versed folk alike, read the test introduction carefully. There are certain circumstances wherein an otherwise Sue trait does not actually count. For example, your character having pink hair, when in the world you've created for your story, people have green, blue, purple, blood-red, and so forth natural hair colors. Sueness is relative to each individual world & character.

Here is my personal example of this: I got into it one time with this chick in an MMORPG because I had an anti-Sue rant in my character bio, and my character had wings and purple hair. The characters in this game ranged from demons, to aliens, to gods just passing through. She declared me a hypocrite, and refused to listen when I tried to explain the character's race had wings (not dissimilar to Hawk Girl & Hawk Man's race, so really?) and for them, hair colors like brunette & blonde were 'unnatural'. Apparently, she also refused to take a good look around the room; she just fixated on me because she was rabidly anti-Sue, and by announcing myself as a Anti-Sue, as well, how dare I have non-human traits . . . in a game where even the humans have glowing eyes, fiery auras & magic tattoos >_>. Yeah, I'll give you guys a minute with that. In a setting where characters walked around with bios that stated they emitted pheromones which made anyone within *set amount of distance* of said character lust after them uncontrollably (a condition that was expected regardless of gender or race, or even your consent on your own character's behavior, mind you), I don't think technicolor hair is the real thing anyone should be taking up grievances about.

All right, so that last part is more a personal pet peeve of mine in regards to RPGs  If you can't role play a trait, don't give it to your character, or don't give your character a trait to get around the fact that you can't role play some particular aspect- its not rocket science. This is specific to personality traits- if your character is a hacker, but you personally don't know anything about computers, that isn't the same thing, you can still portray them as a tomboy, or a flirt, and give them social/ physical skills to reflect that. However, you're not going to be a tomboy who can't fight or climb a tree, but could charm a man out of a tank, nor are you going to be a flirt who couldn't convince a horny, drunk man to sleep with her, had she a copy of "Seduction for Dummies" in her hand, but she's so skilled at hand-to-hand combat she can take people twice her size in a fight-- can the character be both? Absolutely, but let's stay on point, here).

I know that last paragraph might have come across a little ranty, but the basics apply to fiction characters, as well. How? Because you want your character to have balance. You can absolutely have a seductive tomboy computer hacker. So long as you don't just state that without actually showing it, because then, what is the point of them having the trait? Unless the entire point is that the character is taken completely out of their element and has to learn how to adapt to their new situation to survive, which in its essence, is probably the most cliche, and yet still fantastic platforms for character growth ever. Cliche because it is done all the time; fantastic because it can be done in so many different ways (thus sort of taking away the 'cliche' of it by default), and can have such dramatically different affects on different characters. Or, similarly, they have traits that they are prevented from using by the story events & (similarly) have to think around the loss of said skill/trait to overcome the issues in the story.

What it comes down to is this (I stated this on FB previously & am restating it here, because it was a perfect sum up of what's here): The perfect character is not the character who is literally flawless, but the character who the reader can believe is a real person.


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