1. WriterWoodsy
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    WriterWoodsy Member

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    How to avoid Mary Sue-ness in a freakishly "Perfect" character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by WriterWoodsy, Apr 17, 2012.

    I have a character who is a Mary Sue in that she's gorgeous and ridiculously intelligent for her age. Her personality is pretty much that of a child which doesn't really help with the "I'm so cute and innocent" vibe that I've made.

    I honestly hate Mary Sue-ish characters but I need her to be this way unless I majorly overhaul my whole story.

    The thing is she is meant to be PERFECT because she's been been "created" (not born and raised to be perfect but actually created) so to speak to be perfect.
    I figure this would be all well and good but she's the protagonist for the the first third of the book and I need to make people not grow annoyed at her "perfectness" before it is revealed that she's not the run of the mill human being which is not until near the end of the story.

    Is there anyways I can make her more "real" whilst still communicating to the readers that she is so "unreal"?
     
  2. molly16
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    molly16 Member

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    This might help you somehow...http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm

    You could give her a negative traits. Short temper, greedy, anything like that.
     
  3. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    Well, break her down. Even a 'perfect' character needs to be well rounded. What do you mean her personality is pretty much that of a child? Because my gut instinct to that is that there is plenty of annoying imperfect qualities to a child's personality, despite how smart they are. Is she arrogant? Her way is the only way? Lot's of questions you can ask that are not widely seen as positive, perfect attitudes but in a perfect being may actually be required.
     
  4. WriterWoodsy
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    WriterWoodsy Member

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    Thanks for the advice and litmus test! She didn't score into Sue-ish territory but I imagine she'll be a lot more Sue-ish on paper. Unfortunately her nice-ness really is part of the package. Even though she's smart... she's also very naive and paralysingly scared of a couple of things those are probably her biggest "negative" attributes but they really don't seem enough. I suppose in a way too she's very weak- a lover not a fighter. Yes, she's like a child but she's been created to be an idealised child so unfortunately she doesn't really have the temper etc that goes along with that mind set.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My thoughts are focused around two questions: Who created her? And how?

    If she was created by science or technology, then it seems to me that she could have a _lot_ of imperfections, because I really can't imagine a future where science and technology could completely understand any human personality, to the point of successfully making a perfect one.

    If she was created by, say, magic, but magic controlled by any person, then again I'd expect to see a lack of perfection, because presumably she's some imperfect human's _definition_ of perfect. And I can't see any human creating a perfect, healthy, balanced, sustainable personality.

    For example, maybe either the magician or scientist creates her to always be agreeable and seek consensus before she acts, and the result is that she's terribly indecisive and reassurance-seeking. And once that perfect personality enters the world, and finds herself unable to cope, she _will_ change and adapt in order to try to cope. And then she will no longer be perfect.

    That's just one example. In general, I'd say that humans _need_ negative traits to survive. If all of those negative traits are eliminated, that person will have to learn to cope without them, and part of that coping will be developing (ta da!) negative traits.
     
  6. WriterWoodsy
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    WriterWoodsy Member

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    It's complicated but on a basic level - within the novel's universe there are people who have the power to create whatever they want but it's based on their desires so they can't control what they make. It's kind of like biological magic. One man creates a daughter (The potential Sue) but he goes a bit Frankenstein and shuns his creation.

    Thanks ChickenFreak this is actually really helpful. I will take on board her reacting to cope with the world she's not completely passive she will try to fix injustices but she's pretty much incapable of being violent.
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nobody is perfect. Look at Data from Star Trek - he has many flaws and is an artificially created, naive, polite, attractive, superintelligent person. And yet, he is unable to have a romantic relationship he craves so much because he is just not able to feel anything. That for him has far reaching consequences. His holy grail is to become fully human, and that means being able to feel, laugh, cry etc. And even despite the fact that he can't technically "feel" anything, Data is surprisingly angsty. So much so that he gets manipulated occasionally to help some really bad guys, by giving him this gift of feeling (a feeling chip given to him by his evil brother Lore, and the skin the Borg Queen grows for him, so he can for the first time feel the sense of touch). And then he always in the end, opts to help the good guys and to sacrifice that what he holds most dear (turn off the chip, rip out the biological implants).

    People don't relate to perfection so much as they relate to flaws, that's why the flaw should be as big as the perfection (have the same impact in a person's life).
     
  8. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    If she's smart but is childlike, wouldn't she be somewhat naive?
     
  9. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Yes, exactly. This debate goes back to Plato when he questioned the nature of the divine forms etc. If the divine exists it must be perfect, but the human perception of the divine is imperfect because human's are imperfect. That's why we attribute flaws and human characteristics to divinities, because we cannot conceive of what a perfect being would actually be like.

    I disagree with Plato in that I do not believe perfection exists - except as an abstract, hypothetical concept. Like worm holes, or the god particle. Perfection is by definition subjective, because one person's perception of perfect will differ from another's. So, just as Plato's 'true forms' exist in a state that we can never truly perceive or appreciate, so the concept of perfection exists as an abstract ideal that will never be universally realised.

    In short, there's no such thing as a perfect character, but in fact you misunderstand what a Marysue is if you think they are characterised by simply being 'too perfect'. A Sue is a character that is perceived as perfect by other characters, despite the flaws and annoying character traits that the reader can so easily see in them. When your character is whiny or stroppy or arrogant, people forgive her because she's just so damn loveable (despite never presenting any evidence of these loveable traits).

    So, I don't think you're really writing a Sue.
     
  10. RowenaFW
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    RowenaFW Member

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    Have you tried embroidering you character with non-fault faults, e.g. making her doubtful or confused - which might fit in with the child aspect.
     
  11. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    My first thought: HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, PARTNER.
    But this is an excellent point. Data had a good balance of flaws and strengths, which is what made him such a great character.


    To the OP; There's not much I can say that hasn't been mentioned already, but keep in mind that balance is the key. It's no good to go too far in either direction - an Anti-Sue can be just as much trouble as a Mary-Sue. I actually had to hold back on making my current protagonist so pathetic, because it ended up hindering the story a bit, because he really couldn't do much. He still has more flaws than strong points, but at least he can push the plot forward, instead of just being along for the ride.
     
  12. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    It's impossible to create a perfect character, simply because your idea of perfect may not be someone else's idea of perfect. Also, if there is even one person in the fictional world of your story who doesn't like this character, then she isn't perfect, and please don't tell me everyone loves her. If everyone loved her, then Mary-Sue-ness wouldn't be an issue. Yes, she can be close to perfect. But not perfect.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That is NOT a Mary Sue unless you perceive yourself as gorgeous and freakishly intelligent. A Mary Sue is a surrogate of the author injected into a piece of writing to vicariously live out the story.

    Without changing the character, you could make her problem the way people react to her, making her somewhat of an outcast.
     
  14. WriterWoodsy
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    WriterWoodsy Member

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    Wow! Thanks for all the help everyone, some amazing replies here. I love Data, the movie with the Borg Queen is the first Star Trek related thing I ever saw. I'm feeling so much better about this character now, I'm really trying to "flesh her out" so to speak. She's definitely not an author insert ... I don't even think I'd be friends with her. Not even all my characters like her , I've got a cynical man that is just endlessly frustrated by her naiveness. I think I'm just paranoid as her being perceived as an idealistic author insert because I'm similarly young and female.
     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Honestly the character sounds like it would annoy me, and it does sound like every girl's fantasy version of themselves; sweet, beautiful, intelligent and innocent (yes, even naive). I do have three things to say on the matter.

    1. She was created perfect how? Machine or human? If you mean to say she was genetically engineered, even with naturally high intelligence and naturally high beauty, even with a perfect temperament, she'd still have grown up in an imperfect world and develop matching traits.

    If you mean she's genetically engineered AND raised somewhere special, she'd develop weird expectations of the world around her, maybe even react in very unattractive ways once out in normal environment.

    If you mean she was created at the age she is now, with her whole personality preset, then she's not even a human, she has no identity, and she's incredibly superficial. If you can't make a character like that lacking in something you're on your own.

    2. I don't consider naive a good flaw. It's a cop out. Stupidity, YES. That's good. Cowardice, YES, that's also good. I saw this movie called Zorba the greek, and the main character was handsome, wealthy, proper, intelligent, and yes naive. And it made him very annoying, and forgettable. What made him memorable was that it turned out he was an incredible coward, which you don't see till the end of the film. I mention cowardice here because it doesn't sound like your perfect creation has any reason to be brave. And by cowardice I don't mean, "Oh gosh I'm so scared," I mean, "I could and should help you but I won't."

    3. There's a book called the Dying Earth by Jack Vance with multiple little stories in the same world. The first story is about a wizard who wants to learn how to make a perfect woman. The second is about that perfect woman. The third is about the woman's predecessor, who is almost perfect except she developed one flaw, which was to hate everything beautiful. If your story is already written that might not be much help, but its still something worth checking out.
     
  16. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    Not making Mary-Sue's

    I try to not flaw my characters too much, but don't really succeed. Any tips?
     
  17. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    Geez, I just hate the word Mary-Sue and the way it's used. And flaws are awesome, buddy, keep your characters real.

    But a deeply flawed character can be likeable as well. There are some flaws that are not exactly spelled out to the reader, and not every flaw is unlikeable... However, if you want to avoid Sues I would suggest you to pay attention when you are just adding quirks and saying: "But not liking jellyworms is a flaw!" Flaws are going to get in the way and mess up sometimes.
     
  18. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    No one person is perfect, so characters in stories shouldn't be either. Characters need flaws! And remember, some traits can be strengths and flaws at the same time, for example, in one situation, confidence may be good, however that same confidence maybe a flaw in another.
     
  19. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    Crap! I just realised I wrote complete BS. -_-

    What I meant was "I don't manage to make them flawed too well"
     
  20. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Dag, go look up the definition of a Mary Sue - I don't think you're using the term correctly. Making a character too perfect does not mean they're a Sue. It just means they're not realistic.
     
  21. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    The two parts of a sue are that they're perfect, and that every character likes them. Usually its fanfiction, but not always. Now, the first isn't always needed, like with a broken Sue. This is why to really avoid sues, you need lots of conflict, both between characters to insure that they have issues there, and internally, to insure a character isn't effortlessly gliding through life.
     
  22. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    No, these are common traits of a Sue, but they're not what makes a character a SUE. A sue is an author insert. The annoying perfectness and 'everyone loves me even though I'm a pain in the arse' syndrome is just a result of an author wanting everyone to like them, and trying to make their character the person they'd LIKE to be.
     
  23. funkybassmannick
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    Mary Sue started out being a vicarious experience, but has also been generally used to describe flawless characters.
     
  24. names
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    Just give a character a psychological weakness that might hinder him on a regular basis.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Incorrectly, and uselessly. It's a label that is slapped on dismissively because it requires little thought, and takes a very shallow look at the character.
     

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