1. Maresuke_Nogi

    Maresuke_Nogi New Member

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    Child Soldier = Gary Stu?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Maresuke_Nogi, Apr 24, 2018.

    Reading about character development and stuff. One of the common complaints of Gary/Mary Stus is their cliche tragic/badass backstories and stuff like having their whole family killed as a child or being recruited for some kind of military organization as a child.

    I want to write a story taking place during and/or immediately after the Russo-Japanese war. I don't feel comfortable writing an adult character because I myself am not an adult so I feel like whatever adult character I wrote would not come across as such mentally. Thus, my idea is a character in their late teens that participated in The Russo Japanese war, which I think might actually be realistic given the huge amounts of nationalism at the time as well as the fact that Japan was exhausting her manpower and would have to begin looking for less than ideal recruits, hence perhaps allowing one of the character's stature and age enlist.

    Thoughts about gary stu-ishness?
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    not on its own. Marty Stu tends to have a tragic back story yet be completely unaffected by it, have no character flaws, be widely loved/liked and be improbably good looking and practically perfect in every way. ... Jack Reacher for example, who has fought in every combat zone known to man, been hit through the gut by a fragment of a comrades jaw bone in Beruit, had no end of horrific experiences since he left the army and doesn't even have bad dreams.
     
  3. DaydreamerGPSA

    DaydreamerGPSA Member

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    The answer normally depends on what you consider a "Gary Stu", but let me try to give you one:

    Teenagers fighting in wars doesn't sound much unrealistic, but that depends on what he did during the time. If he did enough to be considered a war hero despite being young and lacking more training than other people, then it gets closer to what a "Gary Stu" can be. He can have accomplishments during the war, but they should be of a believable nature.

    However, "Gary Stu"s tend to need more than just a badass backstory to be considered as such. Make sure he has his flaws and talents that match his backstory (war is quite traumatic, so if he doesn't have any mental health issues it gets into the territory you're trying to avoid), make sure he has both friends and enemies (Having almost everyone like him is a "Gary Stu" trait) and give him proper motivations and objectives.

    That should be enough to avoid creating a "Gary Stu"
     
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    There are some characteristics that are inherently problematic on their own and, if they're present, need a lot of extra work to counteract/justify. In this category, I put things like "Best swordsman in the whole country!" or "Most beautiful woman in a generation!" or "Genius with complete knowledge of every subject!"

    There are others that are only a problem when they're in clusters. I put this in that category. Alone, it seems just fine. You'll need to do the work (maybe barely any, maybe a lot, depending on history) to make it plausible, but that's a plausibility issue, not IMO a character issue.
     
  5. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    I think you’re fine. Just make sure that this kid isn’t invincible and stuff. If he gets hit with a bullet, he needs to feel it, and he can’t just heal overnight. Make sure he has flaws, and make sure his talents are good for his age, which, unless he’s been trained with his weapon prior to going to war, he’s probably going to be mediocre to average at best. And he shouldn’t come out of the war the same person he was before. He’s seen stuff, and you need to reflect that. I’m not saying he needs to come out of it with PTSD if that’s not what you want, but he should at least take something away from it, whether it be he now believes that war is pointless or he recognizes the frailty of life.
     
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  6. Moon

    Moon Contributor Contributor

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    Huh. I wouldn't say he's a Gary Stu, but it would be much more interesting to see a child survivor of war than a child soldier hero. Thinking more along the lines of a consistent survivor who has consistently failed to save anyone else but his own skin.

    He could still be a soldier, just one with heavy psychological trauma due to failing to save anyone he's gotten close to. That trauma could be apart of the overall story, with him finally finding something akin to peace at the end.

    That reminds me of Solid Snake from the Metal Gears Solid series. He said something along the lines of "The only heroes I know are either dead or in prison. I'm just someone who is good at killing and not being killed. I'm no hero."

    It went something like that. Anyway, best luck with the novel, bro.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    OP: What you've said, by itself, is not enough to make the character a Mary Sue. I wouldn't worry about it unless you start seeing other aspects of the character that could fall within that category.
     
  8. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Not just that, you can certainly be a hero depending on circumstances, but that heroism has to be warranted. A real Gary Stu situation with the military would be those characters who are always in the right place at the right time to get field promotions over and over and over. They have complete script immunity while everyone around them is dropping dead. So these guys are 5-star generals by the time they're 20. It's just ridiculous.
     
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    in my experience promotions go to the brown nosing arse kissers anyway rather than anyone who deserves it
     
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  10. Maresuke_Nogi

    Maresuke_Nogi New Member

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    What if psychological issues might develop but they do not traumatize the character. I have an idea of the character seeing the reanimated corpses of his comrades appearing before him in his dreams. Of course he would feel deep shame (The memoirs of a lieutenant in the Japanese army during the war repeatedly talked about how shameful it was that he had not been wounded or killed, and as such, had not sacrificed as much as his less fortunate comrades (atleast until he himself was gravely wounded). However, in some sort of subversion, instead of the character being traumatized by his comrades seemingly haunting him, the character would see it as his comrades visiting him from the afterlife (which was part of the common religion of the time) and would be thankful for the dreams/nightmares rather than traumatized. Is this feasible?
     
  11. DaydreamerGPSA

    DaydreamerGPSA Member

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    Hard to say since I'm not very well versed in PTSD that soldiers get from war. You'll need to research it to see if it's plausible at least.

    But before ask yourself: why can't it be both a trauma and something he's thankful about? The mindset you described could be a coping mechanism that he falls into because of the recurring dreams. Perhaps you could even point the contrast that he is more religious after the war than before to imply this as being a way he found to deal with the trauma. Or maybe even have him in denial about his trauma, which can make him fall into a mindset he may not necessarily believe, but still better than facing the harsh truth.

    Those are just some ideas that came up on the fly. In the end, the choice is yours. Either way researching more about the trauma soldiers get in war and the necessary treatments will allow you to write better about his situation and how he deals with it.
     
  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Not every soldier suffers PTSD, but most of them have memories they'd rather not recall.... hardly anyone walks away from active service completely unchanged.

    Also child soldiers are often coerced which adds a whole nother level of potential issues
     
  13. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Boy soldier - enlisting at fourteen - being a little short before the sergeant-major, 'seventeen, you says, eh!' is all good chewing and tension-reading for a young man audience. I would relish the write. Used to dream all that kind of thing 9- 16, y'know. Rush headlong, get on with it. Might choose an easier war for readers to identify with...tho'...
     
  14. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    I think the important thing here is to look at the era we're talking about here. If this was a modern setting then I'd say that it might be cause for concern. But you are writing something set in what 1906(ish) or so and that was a whole other era.

    Remember, underage soldiers serving was fairly common in the first world war. The lads wanted to serve, and there was no obvious way to check people's ages. If you went to a recruiting center where no-one knew your family then you could just lie. And of course, plenty of recruiters turned a blind eye.

    And, as you correctly identify, this was a time when military service was seen as extremely laudable and positive and many young men were brought up expecting to serve in one service or another. That your character went early is entirely in his character.

    Personally I would look to give him a strong reason to be in the service. If he's just nationalistic then I think he needs to be blindly so; niave and believing in the adventure and glory of war. That's something that'll help him not be a Sue because that'll screw with him a lot as he meets more veteran soldiers and sees what war really is. Alternatively he could have something to runs way from; knocked someone up or the girl he liked jilted him and he decides to run off as a result. That'll make him more conflicted because he doesn't really want to be at war, it's just where he ends up and that's something interesting to work with.

    I would definitely go with him being a young soldier, rather than a child soldier as we would think of it today. I wouldn't go looking at PTSD or coercion; these things did happen of course but it has risks. Essentially; if you have him being horrendously traumatised then it can go one of two ways. Either it's literally disabling for him, in which case you can't really have any adventure at all, or it's not in which case he's someone with a bad backstory that doesn't effect him. You really don't want to be getting into "...just the old PTSD playing up a bit today..." .

    Suffice to say; no I don't think he's a Sue. If he turns out to be the world's best soldier then maybe, if he quickly rises up the ranks then maybe, but if he's just there and doing his best then that's fine.

    Truth is that Sueness is as much in execution as it is in conception. You can give some very Suely character descriptions that turn out to be good solid characters when they are written. For a character like yours, unless he's really really exceptional then you can do whatever you want with him.
     
  15. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    I am huge about suspension of disbelief, and the thing I notice about Mary Sues and their male counterparts is that what is going on doesn't make a lot of sense. As is mentioned before, no one walks away from the front line of battle unscathed in some way. The death of someone you know is a emotionally comparable to losing a limb in the sense that your life is not the same and it's a case of learning to live with it.

    Japan needed more manpower in the aforementioned war, and the laws were different, so a 16-year-old being enlisted is pretty believable. It's the journey that would decide whether he is a Gary Stu.
     
  16. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    So, is your character Japanese? The effects of trauma can definitely manifest differently depending on culture. If you really want to know whether this is realistic, you might want to specifically research PTSD in Japanese soldiers, if you can. Your character seeing his dreams as visits from his comrades doesn't rule out them being traumatizing; a visit from the afterlife can be terrifying as often as it's comforting, if the dead person isn't happy with you.

    Most people who live through traumatic experiences don't develop long-term mental health issues. But the reasons why it happens to some people and not others aren't entirely clear. One factor that seems to help recovery a lot, though, is being part of a supportive community that understands what you're going through. The more isolated a person is, the higher their risk of developing PTSD. You can see a similar effect for basically all mental illnesses. Humans need community! For children who are being abused, as little as one supportive adult in their lives can actually make a big difference in their health outcomes. So, I don't know all the details of your character's situation, but that could be something to consider.
     
  17. Maresuke_Nogi

    Maresuke_Nogi New Member

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    Well there is good news and bad news on this front. Western sources on the Russo Japanese Army are relatively few, but I have found that a Robert L. Richards wrote a text called "Mental and Nervous Disorders in the Russo-Japanese War in 1910". PTSD hadn't really been realized before that as a legitimate mental problem until around that point so the timing is quite fortunate. Unfortunately, the text is very obscure and I doubt if I will be able to get my hands on it.

    Cheers
     
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  18. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    This looks like a pretty good source ...and it's online for free! https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Et6XAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=Mental+and+Nervous+Disorders+in+the+Russo-Japanese+War+in+1910&source=bl&ots=SvPl6XZRTi&sig=ducnoIoskW4e3tAxfLeUWWXbZ8M&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiWkvTEodfaAhXLIsAKHWIHAwEQ6AEIRjAD#v=onepage&q=Mental%20and%20Nervous%20Disorders%20in%20the%20Russo-Japanese%20War%20in%201910&f=false
     
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  19. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    Gary Stu is not a very useful concept. At all.

    ... who is a beloved character to many readers and has brought a nice fortune to his author. If the writer had followed online advice about how bad Gary Stu is, none of that super cool and profitable stuff would have existed. Same with any comic book characters for that matter.
    :supercool:
     
  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    well yeah the original Mary Sue writer did okay .... doesn't mean that you should do it in every possible situation though (the original Mary Sue was a parody character anyway)
     
  21. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, a handful of writers who created Mary Sue/Gary Stu main characters have managed to earn fame and a pretty penny. Now ask yourself how many created similarly perfect main characters and never got their work published. The success stories are--in all likelihood--in spite of the Sueness rather than because of it. So the online advice stands.

    Also, if you think all comic book characters are Mary Sues/Gary Stus, you probably haven't read a comic book.
     
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Has the Trope Talk about Mary Sue already been discussed here? Probably. It's at



    I'm sold on the author's argument that Mary Sueness can't be judged by the character, but instead by the story.

    Some quotes:

    "...the story is entirely centered on people re-affirming how great she is..."
    "...the story exists to serve the image of the character..."
    "...A story with a Sue at its core is written as though the Sue is the center of the universe..."
    "...it's not something that exists at the level of a character trait, but on the story level...."
    "...it's how the plot flows around them..."
    "...when you start from that premise, you forget to write the character in a way that draws us in..."
    "...the character distorts the world around them..."
    "...glorifying the Sue is prioritized over maintaining the established characterizations or the straight-up rules of reality..."
    "...there's a difference between being the hero of a story and being the center of the universe..."
    "...(the Sue is) not just the center of the universe, but the only real thing in the universe..."

    She goes on to argue, as I understand it, that a story that has well-developed characters other than the Sue or Sue-candidate, then that's not a Sue. Because a work with a Mary Sue doesn't have room for any other real characters.
     
  23. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    This might be a bit more applicable to fanfic Sues than original fiction ones, but I'd broadly agree with all these points. Having strangely colored eyes or having people fawn over the character doesn't automatically make them a Sue; standing at the center of the world does.

    I'm not sure I agree with the idea that the existence of a well developed character means there can't be a Sue elsewhere in the story, though. I've happened across more than one fanfic centered on a Sue where the author somehow managed to create an intriguing, complex character. Often an antagonist that ended up coming off as more reasonable than the MC, despite what the narrative itself tried to force upon the audience.
     
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  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It's entirely possible that I'm mis-summarizing that argument. The fact that it's the part that I didn't have a word-for-word quote for is suspicious. :)
     

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