Avoiding Mary Sues

Today was another day out at camp.  I am still sunburned and my feet are very sore.  I spent today up in the kitchen and the equipment room being a nice little “go-fer”.  And put simply, people are just rude.

Down to Business

I talked a lot about Mary Sues in my last blog.  I didn’t really talk about how to recognize one, how to fix one, or why they’re a bad thing.

Why Mary Sues are Bad

The problem with Mary Sues is that they are so generic that there is no real substance to their personality.    The reader doesn’t care about a character with no personality, with no defining traits.  It’s like using an archetype and not branching out from it; there’s a basic character, but nothing else.  In more technical terms, a Mary Sue is a “flat” character.  She/he doesn’t change and is underdeveloped.  They perpetuates bad writing.

Recognizing Mary Sues

Recognizing a Mary Sue isn’t too difficult.  However, there are many varieties of Sue. (Sidenote, I’m only discussing the ones that are most common in original fiction.  There’s nothing wrong with fanfiction, but there are way more Sues to go through if we include fanfiction.)  The first, and one of the most common, is Helpful Sue.  Helpful Sue is everyone’s friend.  She’s good with animals and children.  She lets people cry on her shoulder and is so sickeningly sweet that you know she can’t be real.

One of her opposites is Angry Sue.  Angry Sue usually has a sad past that she/he constantly mopes about.  They are usually overpowered to the extreme and are usually on the path to getting revenge on whoever/whatever caused their sad past.  Angry Sue usually does not have redeeming qualities.

Depressed Sue is exactly as she sounds.  She is a very mopey character who has a tragic past.  This somehow gets the attention of FutureLoveInterest, who allows her to talk and cry about how hard her past was.  Once she believes in herself, she will likely be a slightly down Helpful Sue.

Evil Sue is that character who has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  She drinks the blood of the innocent and kicks puppies.  And worse crimes, as well.  Her evilness is usually caused by some tragic past (noticing a theme?)

Anti-Sue is the opposite of a Mary Sue in that everyone hates her.  They are usually ugly, weak, and not at all caring.  While they are a different beast than their Mary Sue counterpart, they are still bad in writing.

And finally, there is Ugly Sue.  Ugly Sue is far from perfect, unlike a general Sue.  She has bad skin, BO, and crooked teeth.  She also doesn’t shower often.  However, Ugly Sue is just riddled with flaws.  Where are her redeeming qualities?

So now that we know Mary Sue’s many faces, we can identify her in writing.  In general, a Mary Sue is going to be perfect – except that flaw of “clumsiness”.  However, a writer can’t go to either extreme end of the spectrum – a character without redeeming qualities is just as bad as a character who has no flaws.  However, if you’re having trouble deciding if she is a Mary Sue, take one of the litmus tests.  The tests are very thorough and have questions pertaining to certain fandoms, original fiction, and fanfic characters.

Fixing a Mary Sue

Fixing a Mary Sue can be pretty easy.  Round her out.  If she’s perfect, give her genuine flaws that impede her.  Remember, clumsiness is not a personality flaw, it’s a quirk at best.  Make the character snarky, forgetful, ditzy, socially inept.  If a character is riddled with flaws, give them redeemable qualities.  They give the money they stole to centers for underprivileged children, they rescue animals and rehabilitate them, they have a soft spot for animals.

Another tip that can help is giving the character a full background.  The more you know about the character’s background, the more you can round them out.  You know why they don’t particularly care for socializing, why they snark.  Plus, backstory can make a story amazing.

Thanks for Reading!

Hope you guys enjoy this and find it helpful 🙂  When I was younger I used to write Mary Sues, I think most writers did.  With time and practice you slowly learn better ways to make characters.

~Laura

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3 thoughts on “Avoiding Mary Sues

  1. Didn’t realize there were so many different types of Mary Sues. I thought a Mary Sue was an all powerful character who can do anything and everything and is beloved be all besides.

    • That’s the basic type of Mary Sue. However, like with most things, the concept grew and grew until there were many varieties. I didn’t even go into the fanfiction specific versions!

  2. Pingback: Posts Revisited: Avoiding Mary Sues | Rants from a Starving Writer

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