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  1. Bria b 22
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    Bria b 22 New Member

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    When does a character truely become a Mary Sue?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Bria b 22, Apr 3, 2011.

    This is the problem I'm having. In the novella I'm writing called Dreaming in Daisies I have this character named Hayden. Hayden does have Mary Sue qualities and is very much a goody two shoes. But she wasn't always like this. When Hayden's mother Daisy began to start dying cancer from cancer it hit her father Daniel the hardest. Since Hayden was the oldest her father began to start expecting out of her than his other four children. If she messed up ,even a little, her father would blow his temper which would upset her gravely ill mother. So to prevent her father from getting anger and her mother from getting upset, she started acting like the perfect seventeen year old every parent dreams about to keep down drama and please everyone.

    So could someone please tell me do they think of her as a Mary Sue?
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    She sounds like a well-rounded character with motivations and stuff that make sense in the setting. Not Mary Sue at all. I think you've got rather the wrong idea about Mary Sues. You've got here a character who's flawed because of life trauma but who *acts* perfect, while, assuming you develop all the tasty emotional themes you have in there, has all sorts of issues underneath and if acting perfect is the focus of her character, will probably break down at some point.

    Mary Sues are author-insert characters who have everything in the story go their way, making sure it all portrays them in a good light, can do no wrong, and usually just blast through the story without a hair out of place, and have the emotional range of a tadpole. Usually the sole aim is for every character to fall in love with them as an ego boost/fantasy for the author. A very different kind of "perfect".
     
  3. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    I think terms like Mary Sue and "cliche" get rather abused when it comes to online writing. For the most part, I see them get tossed around by people who aren't much better at writing themselves, so they put down other people by using buzzwords that are sure to wreck their confidence.

    Gene Brewer's K-PAX is a fair example of a Mary-Sue. The author inserts himself as the psychicatrist who interviews and tries to treat prot. (yes, it's spelled correctly for those of you who have read the book) But the character is heavily flawed through out all three books.

    It's not quite in the same line as what you're writing, but it might be a good book to read to get a good idea.

    Also, my brother and I are intimately aware of the kind of struggle your MC is going through as the both of us are the two oldest of our siblings. And when things got complicated in our family, I was expected to perform miricles as a seven year-old and keep my younger brothers from getting hurt, etc. The burden fell to Alex when I was no longer living with them and the stress got so bad for him that he wound up trying to drive his dad's car. He got a good ways down the road before he saw what he thought was a state trooper, freaked out and crashed into a telephone pole.

    So, there's a bit of real life experience for you to draw on. Not much but, I hope it helps.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A character doesn't "become" a Mary Sue. Your character either is or is not a Mary Sue. The majority of characters slapped with that odious tag aren't Mary Sues at all.

    A Mary Sue is when the author self-indulgently places herself (or himself) as a character in the story to vicariously live out the author's fantasy. Period.

    It does not mean a character who is annoyingly perfect. A character can be damned near perfect and not be a liability, if that is what the story calls for.

    I despise the term Mary Sue. It's a lazy label, misused by those who have no understanding of the term to disparage writing without actually putting any effort toward analysis of it.

    There are plenty of real writing problems to beware of. Don't waste your time worrying about a stupid label.
     
  5. Cheshare
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    Cheshare New Member

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    Im going with what the others say, she sounds fine and the term gets slapped around to much.

    I have a great loathing of the "Sue Hunts" as I call them, any character that stands out is not a Mary Sue, thats just an MC.

    One thing to keep in min dis Sues are generally under developed characters that every aspect of their personality fits a cookie cutter stereo type. But it's not just one character that makes a Sue, it's poor development of characters over all.

    Bad writing is what makes a Sue.

    So dont worry about it, the character sounds well developed to me and has reasons and motives for how she acts, just keep writing
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you Cogito, and heartily seconded. The sooner we forget the concept of "Mary Sue", the sooner we can all get back to discussing WRITING.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    She doesn't sound like Mary Sue in any of the forms the term seems to be used.

    It does not matter if you character is good whether or not they are a Mary Sue.

    My Mary Sue character is a seven year old boy who assists his grandparents in investigations into paranormal activity at archaeology sites. I love Johnny it is total and utter wish fulfillment. Of the reviews I have had of him so far he is proving a good character.
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I think the term Mary Sue is a lot more specific than most people think. Like Cog and others have noted, it's not just someone who is annoyingly perfect, but I think it's also more complicated than just the author living out his/her ideal fantasy through the character. After all, isn't that what all writing is about to some degree? Doesn't this definition imply that anyone who writes about his or her passion will automatically have a Mary Sue character?

    I see a Mary Sue as someone who's forced down the readers' throats. They're perfect all the time, they have kickass clothing and weaponry that is not even practical, and they learn anything quickly and easily, and we can never forget it. They're the "chosen one" simply because the rules of the universe have decided so. They might have had a bad past or might simply be clumsy, but it's presented in such a way that you are supposed to feel sorry for them and/or think they're cute for it no matter what. But it's not just one of those things -- it's all of them combined. Key phrase is "shoved down the readers' throat."

    If you're concerned about having a Sue, take the Mary Sue Litmus Test. I think that does a pretty good job showing all the factors and how it's a complex combination of thins that leads to having a M.S.
     
  9. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    I have to respectfully disagree.

    The best way to tell if your character is a Mary Sue is to understand why, exactly, Mary Sue annoys the audience. Mary Sue is a walking, talking duex ex machina. No problem slows Mary Sue down for long, because mary Sue is preternaturally good at everything. Mary Sue always knows everything necessary to move the plot forward, is immediately competent at everything, is liked by all good people and hated by all villains on sight (because they're just jealous of Mary Sue, naturally), is smart, funny, polite, and good to all people.

    Mary Sue is boring, because there is no conflict. The reader knows long before the end of the story that all will be sunshine and rainbows, because that's how Mary Sue stories go.

    The worst sin an author can commit is to be boring. If your character is not boring, your character is, by definition, not a Mary Sue.
     
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  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can give a character who is immortal, good, strong and noble conflict. I like reading about handsome noble characters so that is what I write.

    I have a character who by the more general definition of a Mary Sue ticks nearly all the boxes (he isn't the wish fullfillment type) - he is handsome, fantastic body, best at magic, can beat anyone except maybe my Matriach of Evil in a fight, he is immortal, kind, decent, incredibly noble, he even inherits the position of Father-Abbot (more powerful than a king) from a father he didn't know about (admittedly he didn't start life as a pauper he was a crown prince). I have had negative feedback about my stories but have yet to hear he lacks conflict in his life. There are other ways to harm a character than with big conflicts. Little things - his partner dies, he cheats on his new one etc
     
  11. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I've heard that Neil Gaimen's Dream of the Endless scores very high on Mary-Sue litmus tests.

    However, the guy is an emotional wreck and has an absolutely miserable love-life. He was captured in a moment of weakness, finally escaped because his captors slipped up, and had to go on a quest to regain enough of his former power to get things going right again.

    The latest character I'm working with is pretty low-scoring on tests, but probably still qualifies as a Sue. She has the unforgivable trait of being a huge fan of a video game, and then she gets sucked into that game to completely derail things from the way they should have gone. Someone called her a self-insert, but that's not really true because she was written in a deliberate attempt to not be me. (Her newer incarnation is even less me.)

    She is actually a really odd mix of wish-fufillment and what would really happen. Fans wish that one character doesn't die, she manages to save his life. Then she gets beaten up for her trouble. She manages to get saved by the hero, but he only wants to use her. She knows what's going on, but it takes a lot of work to gain their trust. She gets turned into a vampire, but she goes through the same acceptance process that everyone else does, no giddy celebration. It's going to be a while before I balance her power, but I'm basing it off of a canon character's power level and hoping that being better at something than the overpowered generalist doesn't make her seem too strong.



    I think there has been some word-drift where Mary-Sue used to mean self-insert, but now it's being used to mean god-mode character. Thing is, many self-inserts also happen to be god-mode.
     
  12. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    I've recently found out about these tests and tried a few of them out with a sampling of characters I've created. All of them (including a vacuum cleaner!!) came out as a Mary Sue, or borderline Mary Sue. My conclusion? Mary Sue litmus tests are crap when talking about original fiction.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree lol Socrates normally scores about 98 out of 100 he is as Mary Sue as the modern Mary Sueism can be :) You now have me wondering about my fire extinguisher character ;)

    Yet his very earliest scene in my book is him chatting with his brother he burps, slaps his brother, giggles, wants to punch his sister etc

    Second scene he admits he tried to commit suicide after his father had, had him arrested for actually hitting his sister. He then abdicates his position of Crown Prince and has to deal with becoming just a school master after being the second most powerful man in the kingdom etc

    He was an abused and neglected little boy in my novella and then had to hide a secret love affair with his bestfriend.

    Nah this guy has no conflict in his life lol
     
  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    This is a great point in that Deux Ex Machina tendencies are a huge part of making someone a Sue. I hadn't thought about that at all. :)

    A prime example of someone who I see as a Sue is Harry Potter. Now, don't' get me wrong. I really, honestly do love the books and the movies, and Harry seems like a cool person to be friends with. But think about it. Parents he didn't know who died when he was 1; abusive aunt/uncle/cousin where he's picked on Just 'Cause He's Special; he's the only one who could defeat the most evil person in his times, when he was only a baby; even in the wizarding world he is admired, bowed down to, revered etc; people at school gawk at him and act like groupies (think Colin Creevey, Dobby etc); the people who DON'T like him are all people like Snape, Voldemort, the Dursleys and Malfoy, whom Rowlings obviously despises; he's picked for the Seekers team as only a first-year, which is unheard of; he gets randomly selected for the Twiwizard Tournament when he's too young and didn't even enter in the first place; the list goes on and on.

    Now, like I said, I'm saying this objectively because I am actually a Harry Potter fan. But that's an example of what I mean when I say the character's shoved on us just a little. :)

    To give Rowlings credit, though, the Deux Ex Machina doesn't seem to be too bad of an issue for her. Harry and his friends, for the most part, get out of their sticky situations themselves. For the most part, not always.
     
  15. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Yeah. My character who was written to try and avert most of the common Sue traits only scores low when I interpret the questions a certain way. (She double-scores on a lot of questions because while most characters would answer X or Y, the technical answer is X is Y. Her superpower is breaking the rules of the universe, she has mystical powers because she is a vampire and it's normal in context. I can't remember some of the others. At least I can be honest when skipping the romance section.) And really, the vampire thing is another context thing because having her being the only human among them would make her special.
     
  16. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    Oh, yes. Not only is Harry Potter a good example of a Mary Sue (Harry Sue?), but is also a great example of why Mary Sues don't necessarily have to be avoided at all costs.

    Say what you will about the Harry Potter series (I'm not a fan), but they aren't boring.

    Harry and friends get out of sticky situations not by doing but by being (a good Mary Sue tip-off), but not always. They still have to do their darndest, magicking their little hearts out, facing what seem to be hopeless and overwhelming odds and deciding to fight anyway.

    See? Interesting and fun to read.
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is why I unashamedly write Mary Sue's. (using the evolving meaning) Cliches and Stereotypes - they are fun to write and can make for more fun stories - you can take things to the edge with a Mary Sue provide them with storylines a non Mary Sue can't have.

    I could never have destroyed Socrates quite so comprehensively in Socrates' Children if he hadn't been one. If he hadn't been immortal he could have taken the easy way out and commited suicide (he kept trying in an earlier story until he discovered he was immortal and all he did was give himself injuries). Gus my other character is a bit of a invincible Mary Sue type as well. (and yes I am using the term as it is most frequently used and as it is evolving to be).

    My real Mary Sue is probably not going to be seen as one - when I type him into the litmus test he is borderline or not.
     
  18. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Often 1st person amatuer fiction comes off sounding, self-indulgent, self promoting, Mary Sue-ish
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that your character sounds fine. A character who simply behaves very well is not a problem. Usually, the problem characters not only behave perfectly in the face of tremendous provocation, they're also admired by all but the "bad" characters (and sometimes by them as well), unrealistically accomplished at many different skills, and otherwise admirable in every way.

    So, if your character, for example, obediently practices her piano every day, as she's told to, that's not a problem. And if that means that she's a fairly decent piano player for her age, that's OK, too.

    I have a sudden urge to describe a blatant example of my definition of a Mary Sue:

    ------

    Seventeen-year-old Jane has skills and talent that rival a concert-quality pianist. Her piano teacher looks forward to her lessons with this prodigy, who is wise and kind beyond her years, and whose advice was instrumental in saving the piano teacher's marriage. The piano teacher was inspired by Jane's goodness to offer free music lessons to underprivileged children. Jane helps her teacher fill out a grant to fund those lessons, and later eloquently persuades the charity board to fund not only the lessons, but to build a whole school.

    The contractor building the school tries to cheat the charity by using substandard materials. Jane, with barely a glance at the appropriate documents, uses her extensive knowledge of accounting and construction to uncover the plot. (Where did she get this knowledge? At age seven, Jane once spent a summer with her contractor uncle and alcoholic aunt. She picked up every detail of the business, and her pithy lisping wisdom helped her uncle to turn his business around from near-bankruptcy to being the lead contractor in the county. Her aunt beat the alcoholism with Jane's help, and went on to use Jane's clever sayings to start what is now a leading greeting card business.)

    The people around Jane are nervous about the contractor having revenge, so they persuade her to take karate lessons for self-defense, where she amazes her instructor by being the best student he's ever had. The police who show up to deal with the plot say admiring things to her and about her; the older ones wish that she were their daughter, and the younger ones fall in love.

    When the piano teacher is killed by the contractor, her dying words are of gratitude that she had the opportunity to know Jane. Jane's eloquence on the witness stand persuades the jury to lock up the contractor for life, and also inspires the defense attorney to condemn his own client in open court. The charity board hires the now-eighteen-year-old Jane to run the new music school.

    But she won't be there long, because she'll soon be drafted to work at the White House, filling the position of Secretary of Music, created just for her. There's discussion of a Constitutional amendment to eliminate the age requirement for the US President, so that Jane can run when she reaches her twentieth birthday. But Jane modestly refuses both parties' attempts to draft her; she needs to focus on her music, so she'll just accept an appointment to Secretary of State.

    -----

    Ahhh. I enjoyed that little burst of madness.

    ChickenFreak
     
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  20. Bria b 22
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    Bria b 22 New Member

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    Thanks for all your help everyone.
     
  21. Mr Grumpy
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    Mr Grumpy Member

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    I would buy that book.
     
  22. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Thank you for enlightening those still new to the language of literary criticism. ;)

    This also made me realise that I used to write exactly this type of story... when I was 10-16.
     
  23. Bright Shadow
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    Bright Shadow Member

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    As long as your MC has some flaws its okay to write them as a good guy. I mean, look at Rorschach from Watchmen: he was all around a good guy, but in the end his uncompromising goodness is what made him a jerk and a psychopath.
     
  24. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    Unless Alan Moore was a mentally unstable person, Rorschach isn't a Mary- wait... he thinks he's a wizard in real life doesn't he?

    Never mind.
     
  25. Bright Shadow
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    Bright Shadow Member

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    I don't think a Mary Sue is really a self insert. I mean, it is possible to have a self inserted character who is not a Mary Sue and vice versa. Look at Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park or Randolph Carter from Lovecraft's dreamcycle, where they Mary Sues? Or, for that matter, No Face from Spirited Away who Miyazaki said was basically a self insert.
     

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