1. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Have I written a 'Relationship Sue'?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Nakhti, Apr 9, 2012.

    Just for funsies I've been browsing my way through Television Tropes lately (that site has a lot to answer for) and I came across two words that chilled me to my core: Relationship Sue.

    The site defines this term as: 'A Mary Sue who exists to be the perfect mate for a specific character [...] The author will generally either use this character as a stand-in for them to vicariously live out a relationship with the designated other half [...] They don't really become a Relationship Sue unless it becomes obvious that character exists, first and foremost, to be in a relationship with another character.'

    That made me nervous because in my novel I have a character whose sole purpose is to be the MC's love interest. The romantic subplot is important because it acts as a catalyst for certain events in the main plot, however the character herself has never really been of great interest to me, other than to make her into the sort of charater my MC would fall in love with. She is essentially a plot device, and quite propbably fits the definition of a 'relationship sue'.

    My question is: is that a bad thing? Should I go back and try to give her some secondary purpose, or is it ok that I've created a character purely for my MC to fall in love with her? Does anyone else have characters like this? Or can you think of any examples of other stories that do?
     
  2. Just Jon
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    Arwen Undómiel in Lord of the Rings. As far as I can tell, she's simply there to be Aragorn's love interest.
     
  3. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    If you are not interested in your own character, your readers aren't going to be interested in her either. I'd say it's okay so long as you don't make the relationship her only dimension. She is a separate character from your MC, treat her as such. She's going to have a personality, interests, faults, etc that are not connected to your MC. Your own definition spells it out perfectly: "They don't really become a Relationship Sue unless it becomes obvious that character exists, first and foremost, to be in a relationship with another character." If your love interest has nothing else in the world going for her besides your MC, then you may have an issue.
     
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  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Mary Sue is a misunderstood term, and damned near useless even when used properly. A second-generations lazy label is even worse.

    Forget about Mary Sues and Gary Stus and all that other crap. Just write your character with your heart and your mind. If people want to slap a label on your character, they will regardless of anything you do. Fahgedaboudit.
     
  5. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    Like Cogito said, you should forget about the sueism. I created a character on a fanfiction (OH NOES!!!111eleven!!1!) that is, quite rightly, a plot device. She exists to fulfill many small roles and doesn't have the best development arc ever because she's not the protagonist and I'm not going to flood the story with her drama because she's only a plot device. She's one dimensional. And if any female character is a one dimensional character that is only there to be the love interest, she will be labeled as a Sue, regardless of everything. That said, I almost always don't like female characters that only exist to be the love interest.
    But it's my personal opinion, and yes, it's possible to write a simple female character that is also interesting enough to catch the eye of your MC. If you don't like her now, change a few things to see how it's going to work. But she doesn't have to be a super complex character and you don't have to bring yourself to give a life on her own if it's not going to add anything to the story.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For anyone interested, a real Mary Sue is a surrogate of the author inserted into the story to vicariously live out the story. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this, but often it leads to the author creating excuses that stretch credibility for putting the character into various situations.

    One example of a Mary Sue is a character Gene Roddenberry (Eugene Wesley Roddenberry) created for the series Star Trek: The Next Generation. I doubt I need to identify which character I am talking about.
     
  7. Nakhti
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    I know, I don't usually pay much attention to all that labelling crap - I was only reading the site for a giggle. But it got me thinking...

    Yep, I totally get what you're saying. But the fact that she is only there to fall in love with the MC does cause a bit of a problem for me - she is probably the only character in the novel who FEELS like a construct. The others have just kinda popped onto the page already well developed, but she has always been a real struggle for me to write, because I so want her to be THE ONE for my MC. The moment he sees her he's toast, because his feelings for her totally control him. It even makes other characters wonder whats happened to him, because he is acting so out of character. But I need her to be the kind of character that would have that affect on him. How do I do that at the same time as making her a character in her own right, rather than just his obviously contrived dream woman?
     
  8. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    It doesn't have to be the dream woman, you know...? I'm not talking about that they should hate each other at first to then fall in love, but love to me is dealing with the flaws of the loved one. So I think she can be interesting with qualities and flaws and everything without being too complex if she's not going to bring anything to the story BUT being the love interest.

    Put in your mind that everything can be well written. She feels constructed, but she doesn't have to seem forced in the pages. Besides, if you are really struggling with it, you have two options:

    1) creating another character with another role that can also be the love interest.

    2) see how it would work if you completely scratched the love interest and try to find another way of doing things.

    Work with the possibilities and relax a bit, I'm sure the idea will come up.
     
  9. Nakhti
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    Well, she does have flaws - she is very naive and ignorant, although definitely not stupid. At first she has an inferiority complex because she's not an educated lady like his first wife, but he quite likes that about her because his first wife is a devious, conniving bitch who runs his estate like a business manager. I think he's almost looking for someone the complete opposite of his aristocratic wife, someone without the means or ambition to screw him over. His love interest is also very religious, and has inherited many backward superstitions and prejudices from her peasant upbringing. Her paranoia about seeing ill omens everywhere drives the MC up the wall, but not until later in their relationship. I guess the thing that draws him to her initially is her naivety, her innocence and the fact that she is untainted by the corruption he deals with every day. That seems to be what most defines her character, but I just wonder if it's enough to make her interesting.

    I don't see how this would work with my set up. The love interest has to be a new arrival in his world, and one that turns it upside down. She has been set up to be this new arrival since the first chapter, when their paths are literally put on a collision course :)

    As above, this would cause some difficulty... I can't really see a way of getting rid of the character of substituting her for another character, I just need to make her more dynamic and less obviously helicoptered in as the love interest. Hmmm...

    Thanks for all your help, Cass :)
     
  10. minstrel
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    Maybe you shouldn't have her match herself perfectly with him. Maybe he, because he loves her, bends towards her as well. Maybe he understands that a relationship isn't all about him, it's about both of them. So instead of making her just a perfect match for him, allow him to change his character a little bit to form the yin and yang with her.

    For her to be a real character, he has to bend to her, at least somewhat. Let that happen.
     
  11. Nakhti
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    Hmm, thats a good point. I think he does bend to her a bit... he lends her his amulet for protection and lets her get her way in a few other things he would normally hold out on... but you can't really judge their relationship by modern standards. This is ancient Egypt, adter all, and he is a wealthy lord. They don't do much conceding ;)

    Thanks for the suggestions though. It certainly presents some interesting possibilities
     
  12. superpsycho
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    The role of women in ancient Egypt, though not completely equal, was viewed as a complementary one rather then submissive. They had Contraception and a working woman was the norm not the exception. This included all professions. So you can have her as just about anything.

    What does she do? How did they meet? Those answers could provide some guidance to who she is.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    I find myself imagining.

    - Naive, innocent, superstitious girl shows up. She's so sweet that she makes the readers' teeth ache. She's so vulnerable that they just want to look away. She's annoying. She's beyond annoying - she's maddening. The reader wants to grab her by the collar and shout, "Get a grip!" At least, that's the impression that your description gives me.

    - MC falls in love with her. The readers roll their eyes - are they going to be stuck with her for the _whole rest of the book_?

    - She's naive. She's ignorant. But _she's not stupid_. That's what you said. "Not stupid" means that as she starts to learn about the world that her new lover is a part of, that naivete and ignorance will fall away. It will turn out that this ignorant childlike woman that he chose is, well, a woman. With a brain. And opinions. She can, and does, learn about what's around her.

    - She says or does something, something that shows that there's a brain in there, and not only a brain, but courage. And the readers stop rolling their eyes and grin. Hey. Look. Look what she just did. She's not just a walking statue. This could be interesting.

    - And the MC is horrified. Oh, noooooo! He fell in love with his intellectual equal! What ever will he do? And the readers are delighted to watch his consternation, and eager to see how this is going to work out.

    ChickenFreak
     
  14. jazzabel
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    It's really difficult to judge, not having read the whole manuscript. Personally, I feel really strongly against obvious plot devices, and that can include when something or someone is in the show just to provide a love interest. I'm thinking of (I don't know if you watch) the newer episodes of Castle. There's a really pretty girl they employed in the morgue, she transports the bodies and such, but her obvious sole purpose is to be a love interest for the cop, and unrequited love for not-so-handsome pathologist. Often, her lines and behaviour are cringeworthy, because she has nothing other than being pretty, speaking seductively and he responding to her.

    I don't know if this is how your character is, but if you identified that "trope" perhaps you need to reconsider the whole character?
    Love interests, imo, always work best when they are unlikely choices, other characters who really shouldn't have to deal with that complication but there they are, characters with their own agendas and lives, rather than someone two-dimensional who'll be batting their eyelids while they pout their lips, adjust their revealing clothing and turn down gently everyone other than a hero. It'd be even more interesting to have her fancy someone else and be completely disinterested in the MC, although, I suppose, that's not what you need..
     
  15. RowenaFW
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    You're writing 'Rebecca'!!!

    My advice? Build on the friend element. You want to make her flaws subtle enough that they see them, but don't know how to present them without exaggerating to convince the MC that she's not worth all that drooling. Your MC should change for her, but he should also be ignorant himself of some of her faults, just to get the friends more exacerbated. This way the romantic study of her is her character, not her role. There are other ways to do it, of course.
     
  16. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you could cut your character - entirely - and have in her stead a few lines to the effect of, ' oh btw, while all this is going on, our hero's getting to bang a hot chick; feel happy for him' without disrupting or damaging your story, then you would have a problem.

    You haven't got that problem. The relationship is revealing character.

    It's fine to fancy that all characters should be ends in themselves and not means but that's nonsense, frankly. Everything is as a means to an end. Which is far from saying that one should produce flat characters.

    Minstrel raises a good point. Your character needs to be moved by the experience. If he doesn't you'll leave the reader cold and you'll have no meaningful love element. You might ask yourself, not, how would a lord act here, but, how would a lord who is in love act here.
     
  17. Nakhti
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    Yes, I know, but there was still as very wide social and economic divide between classes. My MC's wife is his equal, if not superior, at least in social class. She very much holds her own in discussion and wants everything she believes is due to her. But my MC's love interest is waaaay down the social spectrum - she's the daughter of a peasant farmer who becomes an indentured servant to pay off his debts. The unscrupulous money lender she is indentured to has just traded her to the MC as a slave, so her status really couldn't be any lower than his. She is basically one step up from a piece of furniture.
     
  18. Nakhti
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    Hehe, good imagination, CF! You're definitely on the right track - she is sweet and naive (the other, much more worldly slave girls tease her about it mercilessly) but has a steel backbone when tested. Ya see, wifey number one doesn't want her hubby siring an heir on one of his slave girls (the wife can't have children). She has even killed a girl before because she was pregnant, so she has the girls pretty much terrified of falling pregnant and obsessed about contraception. When naive little peasant girl falls preggers (because she was too naive to know better), all the other girls tell her to get rid of it, and explain what happened to the other girl. That is when she starts to wise up, and proves she is made of sterner stuff because she is determined to have it anyway, and has to use her wits a bit too in order to survive. Not only is that when she starts to grow up and be less sweet and innocent, it's also what makes the MC utterly and completely devoted to her, because now she's carrying his heir.

    Is that more or less eye rolley? :rolleyes:
     
  19. Nakhti
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    Thanks for your input, Jazz. I don't watch Castle but I can appreciate your point - pouty female characters who have no purpose other than to be pouty annoy me too ;)

    With regard to my character, I guess it's a little ironic because being pouty and seductive is what is expected of her - she's a slave in the household of a very rich man, kept as one of his 'companions'. The fact that she's not very good at being pouty and seductive is what attracts him to her.

    It would also be difficult to have her fancy another character because there aren't really any other male characters in her life. There are a few male slaves about, but they're not allowed in the harem. The fact that he's literally the only man in the world to her makes her infatuation with him all the more intense. Sometimes I think I'm writing Jane Eyre, but where Jane is just an illiterate peasant brought in as a companion to Adelle and put in a nice frock... ;)
     
  20. superpsycho
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    Then she’d have to do the only thing she could through guile and manipulation, seduce someone of higher station. Survival instinct would override any shyness if he showed her any notice. She'd cozy up to him or anyone else to improve her situation. There would be no cultural prohibition against it in that period.
     
  21. Nakhti
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    Hehe, I really don't think so! The first wife is still alive, for a start ;) In Egypt polygamy was legal - not common, and probably somewhat ill advised, but not unheard of. The MC has a very good reason for not wanting to divorce his first wife before remarrying. It's all very convenient for him to have one society wife who makes him look good and manages his estate, and one affectionate little bed warmer to have his children. Of course he thinks they'll just accept their roles and everything will work out perfectly... ;)

    I'm not sure I understand your advice. What 'friend element'? You want my MC to have a friend who tries to convince him the love interest isn't all that special? I guess there is someone a little like that - his brother in law. The brother sees the MC's behaviour changing and when he finds out it's because of some peasant slave girl, he thinks its a bit daft. Although he admits she's a cracking bit of crumpet, he can't see why the MC wouldn't just keep her as a slave. Why does he have to piss off his wife by marrying the girl? But you know what happens when someone tries to convince you that your love interest isn't worth having - yep, even more determined to have her :D

    If she was another character, then maybe. But that's not who she is or how she would act. Her self preservation instinct at this point just about stretches to trying to fit in and please her master so that he doesn't sell her to someone even worse (like the guy she's just been sold by). The idea that she might actually connive to improve her situation is a bit OOC for her. Considering the deprived background she's come from, and the fate that almost befell her (she was on her way to be sold to a brothel) she's just grateful to be where she is, and doesn't want it to get any worse.

    The wife, on the other hand, would totally do this - and in fact does. Having decided her husband will never be the man she wants him to be, she allies with his political rival to get what she wants

    Yes, precisely - I think I'm starting to realise that not every character needs to have a really cool purpose in the plot. Perhaps my female love interest isn't a flat character, but I am conscious that she is only there in order to have an impact on my MC. And maybe that's ok. My MC is, naturally, the one I'm interested in.

    Maybe I just need to chill out - and stop reading TV Tropes
     
  22. superpsycho
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    Then the only thing you have left is he reaches out to her consoling himself for his wife's inattention. Not necessarily sexually at first but just because he needs to get things off his chest and his pride wouldn't allow him to talk to anyone of equal station. Manhood, pride where big things in those days. As for the brothel. A brothel would have been preferred by the average women of the time. They would have had a chance to work to earn their freedom fairly quickly compared to other alternatives. A very practical culture in that period.
     
  23. jazzabel
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    Well, that's quite different from gratuitous pouty character. The chick in Castle is all like rock and roll, tattoos, independent, not taking shit from no-one type, but she pouts and only appears in relation to the cop feeling amorous. I think it is the incongruity that bothers me the most. Your girl sounds entirely logical, almost like Haydee in The Count of Monte Cristo; as offensive to the feminist perspective as she might have been when she was introduced, she was a likeable, significant and real character, even though she was much like the girl you are describing (a slave). One thing though, Haydee had a sinister back story, which tied in with the main plot extremely well, I think that really helped characterise her as someone readers could relate to (and usually it is the relateability that matters most, I think). And also, the Count treated her in a special way, so their relationship transcended the stereotype, which also helped quite a bit.
     
  24. Nakhti
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    Kind of. Concerning his wife, the lack of interest is mutual. It's a very cold, business like relationship. He has been 'consoling himself' with his female companions for a long time, but none of them has ever offered him more than just entertainment and escapism - until now. He does get things off his chest to the new girl, but the reason he confides in her is not because of class or pride. It's that she listens, is interested, and genuinely cares - unlike everyone else in his life, who seems to be fake, self serving or using him in some way.

    Again, not her character. Imagine a girl who has led a sheltered and mundane life on a farm, with limited experience of men, then offers to work in the linen factory of her father's creditor for a year to pay off his debt - it is an agreement for a fixed term of service, not enslavement. Then to find out she has been tricked into giving up her liberty forever, with no prospect of earning back her freedom due to the terms of the repayment. She is being taken to work in a brothel where she will be made to service dozens of men, and has no idea that the life of a whore could be lucretive or that she could earn her freedom that way. Wouldn't you be pissing your pants at the idea? Wouldn't you thank your patron god that by twist of fate you've ended up in the household of a wealthy lord instead?

    I haven't read the Count of Monte Christo, but I might do now - this 'sinister backstory that ties in with the main story' has got me intrigued. :)

    My FMC has a bit of tragedy in her past - her family's livelihood was destroyed by the plagues, which is why her father is in such debt, and her eldest brother and a younger sister also died. Consequently she hates the Hebrews, which won't bode so well for the romance when she discovers the MC is half Hebrew... uh oh! ;)
     
  25. Dan Kirkalnd
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    I can think of many movies that have characters like what you speak of, and a movie is basically a live action book/story. I don't really think it's a bad thing, the thing for me though is to have the character be interesting just like the MC. Perhaps the romance could be born out of a nessecity for a friend? Maybe it's a situation where the main character had a distressing experience (death of a loved one) and the love interest character is specifically there to help him/her overcome their grief? Some simple purpose adds alot to a character, if I read of a character that is there to simply die for the sake of dying, then I really didn't care about them in the first place and they really didn't serve any purpose. I would just add a purpose, some change that she/he has to facilitate in either themselves or the main character that will add some validity to their reason for existence. just my 2 cents
     

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