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  1. LastTrainHome
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    LastTrainHome Member

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    'Mary Sue' characters.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LastTrainHome, Aug 27, 2009.

    In one of my current stories, one of the main characters is basically a 'mary sue' character. I know it isn't usually a good thing to have a charcter who is perfect in every way, but for my story to work, the character needs to be faultless.
    So is it ever forgivable to have a 'Mary Sue' charcter?
    It is one of the few things left that is worrying me about the story. :/
     
  2. Birdie
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    Birdie New Member

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    I don't think it is possible. You have to have a character that audience can sympathize with, who's mistakes and choices resonate with them. There is no perfect person in the real world, and thus your character would find a very small sympathetic audience.

    But I could be deciding too soon. What are the circumstances behind this character? Why does she/he have to be perfect?
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't say never, but I would probably find such a character intolerably boring. Such a character would not have internal conflicts, and would have no reason to evolve. She would be inherently static.

    The story would have to stand on its own, quite apart from character interest. The same story with a more dynamic character would probably be a richer tale.
     
  4. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    If it's as Cogito describes the Mary Sue, there had better be a very interesting reason for there being a perfect character. Otherwise, I'd probably lose interest in her. I quit reading books altogether when the most important characters don't seem to tick.

    On a totally unrelated note, is your username possibly inspired by the Lostprophets song?
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Hopefully she's not the MC. A perfect character means no conflict. Without a conflict, it's going to be very hard to push the plot forward. People aren't perfect, so neither should characters be perfect.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A perfect character could still have external conflict.
     
  7. JohnLaylian
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    JohnLaylian New Member

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    It may not be impossible to have a faultless character, but it would be hard to make the audiences become interested in the outcome. However, it seems that you already have stories around the faultless character (or rather, you HAVE to have a faultless character), so it would depend on your styles of writing on whether or not your writing will be successful, but generally 'Mary Sue' characters are not popular among the writers and readers alike. Maybe you could add some faults to his/her emotions/attitude/behaviors? (i.e. cool and athletic but clumsy guy)
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You've got a point. I interpreted "perfect character" to mean someone who can handle any given situation perfectly. So, in my mind I was envisioning a character who lives her life without any conflict whatsoever.

    Another problem with a perfect character is that people have different ideas of what defines perfection. You may think your character is perfect, but some reader might study the character and beg to differ.
     
  9. Hindumaliman
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    Hindumaliman Member

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    I don't know guys the New Testament sold pretty well and Jesus is pretty Mary Sue-ish

    I kid

    In any case make a character with faults that can't be seen and can be revealed later. That way you can keep your story rolling and create a dynamic character
     
  10. Snap
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    For every rule, there is an exception. A lot of times, what appears to be a Mary Sue might not be, after all. If you've ever read the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, it's a pretty good example of this. The idea was that in the future, there is a world of perfect people who have perfect bodies, and perfect minds, and in this way, society is perfect. However, they turned out to be flawed in their perfection. I would say trust your instincts. You're the writer. If you think it works, go for it. Sometimes it's the things that break all the rules that rise above the rest. ;-)
     
  11. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    I would say a character who is perfect must inherently be relegated to a supporting role, if only so she can be absent from the plot at moments of dramatic tension.

    A good example is Raymond E Feist's ongoing work, in which Pug and Tomas are pretty much perfect after end of Magician. Tomas is master of the legacy of the Valheru, while Pug is the second most powerful sorceror in creation. As a result, despite being the protagonists of book 1 from Silverthorn onwards they both become minor characters, letting less powerful characters pull the plot along until a hopeless situation arises when one or the other appears to act as a living Deus Ex Machina. IMHO, if either of them remained main characters the series would be over in five minutes.
     
  12. LastTrainHome
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    LastTrainHome Member

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    Thank you so much for the response, you've certainly given me a lot to think about.
    Yes, there is a damn good reason why the character is perfect, but I dont want to go into it to much for fear of the plot being stolen. Basically, the plot depends on the charcter being faultless.
    I am reconcidering a lot of things to do with the character in question, but I dont just want to give the character a fault for the sake of it. I'll look through it very carefully when I come to edit.
    Thanks again:)


    FMK: My username is indeed inspierd by the Lost Prophets song. :D
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry about a plot being stolen. It's nearly impossible to come up with a plot that hasn't been done hundreds of times. It's the execution of the story that matters.

    But if you feel the perfection is a key element to the plot, go with it. Just be aware that perfection of a character is far from perfect for good storytelling. You'll need other compensating strengths in the structuer of the story.

    Superman really needs kryptonite, and magic, and complications from people with the initials LL. Without vulnerabilities, the mythology is boring.
     
  14. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Is your character a Mary Poppins type of person? If so, wasn't Mary Poppins 'perfect in every possible way', and wasn't that essential to her character. The only fault that she had was that she did consider herself perfect, so even perfection has its flaws.
    Mary Poppins was a syrupy-sweet character, dated and not popular now, but the way she was portrayed endeared her to, in her case, the viewer.
    The trick has to be to make the reader either love or loathe the character whatever its traits.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Mary Poppins did have a tragic side. She was doomed to never settle down. She went where she was needed, catalyzed change, and moved on. All the interesting stuff happened AROUND her, not TO her.

    The essence of a story like that is that the central character is more of a force than a character. All the peripheral characters change. It's a workable formula, although it can be even better if that central catalyst character is altered as well. Fnatasy Island's Rourke became more interesting when he stopped being the imperturbable purveyor of fantasies and began to endure his own trials as well.
     
  16. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Depends upon what 'faultless' means in your definition.

    Physically perfect, good at everything (and honestly, there are so many things, that I don't see it being feasible to make a person good at all of them) and charismatic and loved by all.

    There will still be people who have different interests. There will still be that one jerk who is mean to everyone, including her.

    To say a character is 'perfect' is, actually, not considering all of the possibilities.

    Furthermore, a 'Mary Sue' is often a Mary Sue not because of how perfect she is, but because how everyone else treats her.

    For example: Your main character may know the least, but has an unrealistic ability to learn everything in short order, and everyone who comes upon your main character's group will automatically talk to your main character, specifically, regardless of any of the other characters knowledge or presence.
    She is the one who is deemed the 'leader' because she is the best at everything. Everyone looks up to her, envies her, and countries are brought to peace by her very arrival.

    So it really depends upon your setting, plot, writing ability and what, exactly, you mean by 'Mary Sue'.

    Right?
     
  17. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    There is a character in my story who is perfect, but in this case it is how the MC perceives her. If your story is in first person and your main character is perceiving another to be perfect then I think it can be done.

    In my case, the character really isn't that great, it's just that the MC has such self esteem issues that she sees others as 'perfect'.

    If this is not the case and you genuinely have a perfect character, I see a problem with the character coming off authentic and believable.

    Good luck though, sounds interesting.
     
  18. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    In my opinion, Mary-Sue's are never good to have in any story. Unless their role is so small and insignificant that their Mary-Sueishness can be forgiven.

    Although, in my experience, the only "perfect" character I've ever come across is a demon named Sebastian from the Black Butler manga series. But even though he's perfectly good-looking and can perform all his tasks/orders completely and fully without flaw, even he has at least one or two flaws in his character. Adding his mysterious air, that turns him from being an "almost-boringly-perfect-character" into a "kinda-interesting-and-perfect-character".

    I actually know an online test you could run your character through to see where they are on the Mary-Sue scale. I can PM you the link if you'd like it.
     
  19. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    There's one way to have a mary sue MC and still have a story. Take a page from the Hellblazer writers. Their main character goes up against perfect enemies all the time, enemies that simply cannot be beaten in a fair fight, who are good and lovable and perfect and unstoppable.

    They've got family. Friends. Loved ones. Maybe you can't hurt Madame Sue, but you can certainly hurt her friends. Shoot her father. Burn her village to the ground. Overthrow the government in the country she lives in and have her take the blame. Convert her closest allies to your cause. Seduce her love interest. Kick her cat.

    Heap a world of hurt on a perfect character, and all of a sudden they won't be so perfect anymore. They'll break. And that will be the best part of the whole book.
     

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