This guide is meant to introduce and/or inform you of this threat that is currently attacking storywritting, drawing, Original Character creation (OCs) and fandom/fanfiction in general, not to say Originality itself!
During the course of this guide, you will learn what a Mary Sue is, youll identify one when sighted and, most importantly, you will not create one and hopefully you will help others in the subject, so they dont create Mary Sues too.
I) Mary Sue 101:
-What is a Mary Sue?
Mary Sue is a title given to characters in fanfiction (and sometimes original, professional work) who are simply perfect: They are beautiful, smart, friendly, always willing to help for nothing in exchange even if they can die, powerful, important in one way or other...you get the point (I will explain on emphasis later). These characters are often created in Roleplaying forums/chatrooms or simply as OCs with a storyline. They usually are related to every canon character of the fanfic they are inserted into, and have major relevancy with every success that happens.
-Why not make a Mary Sue?
Although this is totally based on personal opinion, It is not recommendable to create one simply because Mary Sues are empty, boring characters with little to no space for development. Think of it: They are just perfect, and people just dont enjoy reading that, in fact, it gets very boring reading about a perfect character everybody likes with no flaws or enemies whatsoever, Ill make an example later.
-But why is it wrong if I want to create a good looking (natured) character?
Nothing, in fact, it is excellent that you want to create a nice character and storywrite/comic about it, however, making your character a Mary Sue is totally different: Making your character perfect in every sense of the word is simply stupid: There is no place for development, no place for events, no place for something interesting to happen, and no place for interesting relationships (as every character likes him/her and all the opposing sex cast has a crush on her/him), no place for anything that has not been written so far.
-Does it only apply to female characters?
No, Mary Sue is simply a title given to both male and female characters, but it should be noted that most Mary Sues are Females. People often make variations such as Gary Stu, but for the sake of understanding this guide, we will refer to both female and male as Mary Sue, AND also remember that all the examples will be refering to the Mary Sue to as female unless noted otherwise.
Does the author of the Mary Sue recieve a special title as well?
Yes, they are often called Suethors or 9-year olds with no originality
Now that you got a basic concept of what Mary Sue is, we will advance to the next area:
Now I will explain a little in depth the factors and features that make a character a Mary Sue, as they are often seen in fanfiction: (For examples, Well refer to the Mary Sue as Diana)
The character in question is much more beautiful than any existing canon character. Not only that, but every male in the series in question is also in love with this character, no exceptions. (I personally hate when Suethors do this)
I.E: Diana is put in the Dragon Ball Trilogy universe. Goku, Vegeta, Trunks, Goten, Cell, Piccolo, Krillin, Broly, Frieza, Buu and Shenron are all in love with Diana and her goddess-quality beauty.
Mary Sues are often the best person in the universe they are inserted into: they always forgive (given the case that someone actually did something to her), help even if it means a great risk, always give, never ask anything in return, is very understanding and thoughtful, you get the picture.
I.E: A kid in the village is ill, he is suffering from a lethal disease that can only be cured by the mythical herb that resides atop the mountain, guarded by a dragon, its familly, a guild of bandits and the U.S. Army. Going there is certain death, but Diana will go nonetheless and, naturally, she befriended all the guardians of the herb, and saved the kid. (and think of it, she probably could have cured the boy with her sweat, after all, thats what a Mary Sue does)
Mary Sues arrive and solve any problem that might be taking place, even if its something really private and delicate. This is better explained in the example:
I.E: Two clans have fought with each other for 3500 years in bloody wars. Diana HAPPENS to arrive to that precise place and, after getting to know the royalty of both clans, befriending and getting their eternal trust in less than 15 mins, she starts an exaggerated, clichéd emotional speech that touches everyones hearts and solves the 3500-year problem in less than 1 day, then Diana leaves, waving her hand good-bye to the now pacific clans. Also, the whole royal familly fell in love with Diana.
Mary Sues often have an IQ of 350, whooping everyone on everything. On High-school stories and fanfics, the Mary Sue will get the best grades on everything, will be better than everyone and wont break a sweat while doing so
I.E: Diana is in High-School, her schedule for tomorrow is:
7 Exams, a Triathlon, rehersals on the play and is the drummer/guitarrist/Bassist on a concert. How did Diana do? 7 A+++, She ended on first place 6 minutes ahead of the 2nd place, knows the entire script backwards and gave an encore to the audience.
Pretty self-explanatory, Mary Sues always learn a new thing with relative ease, and then master it completely in an hour, owning people that have dedicated their entire lives to the activity.
I.E: Diana has to go against Richard, 4-times national champion on ping-pong, while Diana has never played before. Diana has 7 days to train for the event with a master betrayed and defeated by Richard, in which everyone is impressed of her god-like potential to play the game and accept that she is better than them, when the day arrives, she wins 72 0 with relative ease.
Loved by everyone:
In any series the Mary Sue is put, every female character wants to be her friend and every male character is in love with her, this is usually linked with Beautiful, Saint and Problem-Solver as a combination of the three, but is still very lame, as even villians love the Mary Sue sometimes.
I.E: Does it really need one? Okay: She is put in Kingdom Hearts universe, Sora, Donald and Goofy simply fall in love with her, she befriends the Heartless and the Nobodies, Organization XIII have an internal struggle because they all fell in love with Diana, every planet she visits eagerlly awaits for her return...I think I explained myself (Mary Sues break the series apart...)
This one actually depends on the series in question; Sure, is perfectly fine if your character has superpowers in fanfics like DBZ, but...BLEH Ill just give you the example.
I.E. Diana is put in Lucky Star universe, and past the part where she becomes everyones best friend, she goes off flying, transforms going through a rather unconforting scene, battles the cities bullies all by herself, and defeats them with freakin magic spells and finally summons fantastic animals and gifts them to each of the girls. (Can you break this awesome serie anymore? A Mary Sue can!)
Connection to a canon character:
This is one of the most common atributes of a Mary Sue: when the author is too lazy to explain where its character came from, they just come up with Shes [Insert canon character] [insert relationship]
Uzumaki Diana is Narutos long lost sister, separated at birth.
Diana is Gokus twin sister that got accidentally sent to [Generic planet] at birth.
Diana is Sonic the Hedg.... You get the point.
Heh...I.E: Diana, fighting at her 50%, is an equal match for SSJ4 Gogeta...Do I need to say more?
Although there are even more factors, I will consider this ones as the most important components of a Mary Sue (Note that they all work toghether at the same time...making it more irritating)
III) Emphasis on the why/why not on Factors/Features:
This can be considered by as an Attack on the Mary Sue components listed above, Im better just getting directly to the point, so here I go:
Its totally acceptable that you want to make your character beautiful, no one has a problem with that, sure, but there is people that just go too far by making stuff like Diana is way sexier than any of the pre-existing characters in the whole series... You can moderate yourself and make her as beautiful, or a bit more beautiful than the most beautiful character, but never go as far as saying that no other character can compare to half you characters beauty.
No one is so damn sainty as to do anything they get asked for, getting nothing in return and never seeming to have a flaw...FLAWS ARE NECESSARY IN CHARACTERS...THEY MAKE THEM INTERESTING!!! People dont seem to understand that flaws are natural, and that naturallity is necessary for an interesting characters to be developed! Why would you want to read about a character that simply has no development at all? To see it solve everything with ease and no interesting stuff happening? Meh!.
Its perfectly fine if your character is understanding and thoughtful, but never exaggerate to freakin proportions such as the set example...this is usually seen in fanfic AS WELL as original works, which is pretty pathetic. And if you are going to do it, at least explain every detail and come up with something good, instead of saying that Diana can see things from a Big Picture Point of view, so is easy for her to solve things, dont give up that stupid excuse for a character and a plot, and use your head to think something original.
Nobody can be beter than everyone at everything, nobody can be good at everything at such a high degree. Its natural that your character falls in some areas, maybe he is good at maths, but sucks at chemistry, or she is good at History but sucks at P.E.... COME UP WITH SOMETHING!!! It isnt that hard.
Please, this one is obvious, no one can master so many things in such a short period of time...It even sounds like a frustrated attempt at making something from the author. Learning something in a short period of time is already something, and is quite acceptable, but freakin mastering it? As in, being able to compete with professionals? Your originality sucks if you cant come up with something better than this... at least say that your character has a huge stockpile of steroids or something.
Loved by Everyone:
Stupid, simply stupid... everyone means EVERYONE! Enemies, those generic emotionless characters...NO! SIMPLY NO! Its humanly impossible!
Again, this depends on the series in question.
This one has many faces, one being Roleplaying: Lets say you are RPing in a nice forum, the RP consists on normal people on their lives, something really simple like that. Ok so you are enjoying yourself and suddenlly you see this new user that posted in your page, answering with crap such as Elizabeth arrives from the skies, gently descending with her angellic wings and her dragon pet. Once she is on the floor, she waves her wings and shakes her tail, waving and saying Hello! while some flowers appear at her feet and other nonsense that really screws the flow of the RP...I get an urge to slap these out-of-bounds people.
Connection to Canon Character:
This one relies entirelly on the authors level to explain or create a scenario: Ive seen incredibly nice fanfics describing every detail on how they are involved with a character in the series, but sadly, this is a minority, as most of the people that go with this format just say [Sue] is [main character]s long lost sibling not even explaining what the hell happened...EVEN A 9 YEAR OLD CAN DO THAT!!! Before making a character, make sure you know what you are doing.
Stupid, Unoriginal, Boring, Cheap, Fail. I dont need to explain this, the title says it all, Insanelly powerful = insanelly unoriginal; You cant develop your character in any way as she is beautiful, smart, talented, the best person in the world, so the best thing you think is making her unmesureably powerful? Something is wrong with you, my friend.
For those who still dont get it, Mary Sues are Beautiful, Smart, Understanding, Athletic, Talented and Powerful...or like some others like to sum it all toghether: Perfect.
Making a Perfect character is really stupid, you have nothing to develop, nothing to worry about, nothing to entertain the masses with, nothing to refine and polish until you get a nice outcome and enjoy it as you inspire people to create their own great characters, you have Nothing but a character that can do anything better than anyone... in other words, your character SUCKS.
Mary Sues are an offense to us creators and authors that actually put effort in creating a character that can get attention out of artistic skill.
Thats why Mary Sues are often shot in sight when caught by an author.
And if you still need a final example, covering everything like the difference between a nice OC and an ugly, enemy Mary Sue, I accept the challenge:
IV) Final Comparation/Example
Now, to finalize this, Ill compare my OC to a Mary Sue in a very brief, basic, and simple way
Name: Nishiki Yurishizu (Not real name)
Nickname: The Red Rattlesnake
Species: Human (connection to Reptile Cycle)
Personallity: Yurishizu is an unpredictable individual belonging to the Reptile Cycle, Yurishizu is very cunning, sarcastic and mean, having few friends. He supports teamwork in activities if needed, but nonetheless, he will happily backstab someone (like he has done in the past) if he can reach a higher goal with less dificulty by doing so. Yurishizu loves listening to music a lot, but he dislikes and even hates most styles of art in general, such as drawings and stories. Yurishizus code of honor is rather unique: He will never betray his few friends or people he shares mutual respect with, but will readily backstab others that dont fall into the mentioned status if he sees a gain in doing so. Yurishizu is also very protective of his ideology, and attacks other ideologies that confront his own. His fighting style include using weapons such as pipes and utilizing dirty moves. Regardless of this, if the opposition asks Yurishizu to fight fairly, Yurishizu will often do, complete with bowing, respect for opponent and sportsmanship, but even if he displays this kind of respect, this doesnt mean he wont use brutal or lethal moves.
He is a total fan of spicy food and sour food, and loves being lazy on Sundays (considering he can at the given time) and enjoys activities such as basketball, spending time with his pet Iguana or with some members of his family and doing rather mad things for his own pleasure. Yurishizu acts like a madman or a lunatic person sometimes when a Mindsnap occurs, showing a more brutal but less selfworrying version of himself, and often attacking nearby people he deems hostile (pretty much everyone) and generally shouting off his true intentions or plans. Has a rivalry with Majima Zabieru.
Special Abilities: Being part of the Reptile Cycle, Yurishizu can choose to exhibit reptilic physical features such as scales, a tail, reptile eyes, fangs, etc... He can also secrete neurotoxic poisons of varying levels, the stronger the poison, the harded it is to create it, creating poison tires Yurishizu quickly, although he has learned to create specific poisons for each body part, allowing him to disable opponents easilly, this tires him greatly too.
Weakness: Using Unexpected moves on him; Although he loves mixing his moves and doing improvised, unexpected moves to be sure to hit, Yurishizus not used to fight this kind of opponent (Ironic, he is weak against his own style), Yurishizu is also sucky against opponents that attack in quick succesion; He is not that much of an experienced fighter and needs some time to think his next move.
Okay...theres one of the characters I use for a story I currently write: He has flaws, he has possitive things, he some weaknesses, hes got that past experience thing (A rival, fake name) and has room for development (Or so I have been told). I didnt go all detail mode because I said it was going to be as simple as possible, now I will proceed with the Mary Sue:
Name: Faery Diana Goldshine
Age: 16, but she is so mature she looks older and has better curves.
Hair: All colors known by humans and some undiscovered (Ultra Rainbow)
Eyes: Her eye color changes to match her mood.
Species: ½ Saiyajin ½ Tsufurujin ½ God ½ Catgirl ½ Angel ½ Desk ½ Mudkip ½ Dragon ½ Demon ½ Alien ½ Pure Essence 1/100000 Human (Mary Sues are Inmune to Maths if you didnt notice)
Personallity: Faery is good at everything, everyone loves her Supermodel champion body and Saint personallity. She can learn new things in 30 seconds and master them to World-Champion level in 1 hour of procrastination. She is the best person in the world, and will always help even if it means scrweing up others dreams...as long as she can help that little kid, its all justified, right??? She is also very smart! Seriouslly! She had an IQ of 678 when she was born, and instead of being recieved by a doctor to this world, she got out of her mom by herself! When her true love (Mary Sue crap) is in danger, she cant control herself until he is safe to confort her and stop destroying everything in her path.
Special Abilities: Faery can turn into Legendary Super Saiyajin 9, she has 4 oversized wings on her back; 2 angel and 2 demon, Faery can destroy galaxies and recreate Big Bangs if she sneezes, has extreme psychic powers, she can turn into any animal discovered and undiscovered by human and alien alike, she has all 800000000 Pokemons (all at level 100, naturally), Faerys hair also provides WI-FI! Her sweat cures Cancer and her saliva heals AIDS... She can do any Jutsu, Spell, Tech, Overdrive, Hack and Guitar Solo known in existance...and she can also play goddess with our lives at will.
Weakness: Excuse me?
That is a Mary Sue, are you sure you want a character that poorly made? Im sure you dont.
WATCH OUT: The "Low-Profile!Sue"
As you might have thought, I'm explaining the majority of the cases in extremes...Because in reality THEY ARE that extreme... but there are some case in which the Suethor isn't that (enphasis on "that") dumb and actually make them more sneaky... They aren't that smart, but still smarter than everyone, and can do anything. They don't have that mad potential, but still can learn things to World-Champion level in a day... See? That kind of things. These are harder to detect (albeit slightly) as they require you to read more than the character description (and that is already painful). If you need an example...well, I already said them. Just look at the above sections, and water them down...Voila!
Of course, there's always the "smarter" Suethor (stretching the definition of "smart" a lot) that will have their Mary Sue not explicitly be better than everyone and their homeboys at everything, but still be undefeated at any particular event and dismiss it as "She's a quick learner" or "She got lucky". This obviously still paves the way to a perfect, undefeatable character that will make us good authors want to blow our brains out A.S.A.P..
V) Final Thoughts/Conclussion
All in all, we can say Mary Sue = EPIC FAIL and all its synonyms, its an excuse for character, and hopefully you understand and know what a Mary Sue is now, or know a little more about them, whatever, just make sure to pass on these Honorable Teachings to generations to come, so they dont create Mary Sues. Now for some final tips before closing:
-PREVENT USING SELF-INSERT! Using Self-Inserts in fanfic/Original works might mean EPIC FAIL; There are few people that can actually insert themselves and not be Mary Sues/Story ruiners (Akira Toriyama!), and if you are decided to use a Self-insert, dont make it based COMPLETELLY off you: Just have it have some of your qualities or simply create character based off you, but dont use it on stories. Now, I was a little extreme over there, you CAN use a Self-Insert, but handle with care , only do so if you know what you are doing.
-Giving your character flaws is good, but there is some people that just try TOO hard and overdo it, creating the Anti-Sue, which is just as annoying as the Mary Sue...Balance is the answer.
-Again, Watch out for the Low-Profile!Sue. These are "low profile" Sues that usually have the above mentioned qualities, albeit in a most sneaky way... Like, for example, they won't be destroying the whole galaxy with their attacks, only 1/4, if you know what I mean.
If you read it all, thank you a lot and I hope it helped you.
And please, answer with something nice, NOT with a "nice guide" please tell me why did you like it or not!
Edit 4: Okay, first of all, Yes, I'm still reviewing OCs* and offering overall help. If you want me to check yours, simply comment with the character's bio or with a link to it and I'll get back to you. I'm pretty active.
Also, I have noticed that some of you have taken the Mary Sue Litmus test before coming to ask me to review your OCs, so I might as well say this: The Mary Sue Litmus test is usually accurate. This means that if the test told you your OC is a Mary Sue, chances are it's not. Likewise, don't be surprised if the Litmus test told you your character is A-OK and I told you it is a Mary Sue. It's a very accuarte test, but it's still imperfect, so you shouldn't rely only on the test.
Lastly, I have noticed that many people use the "But the character makes sense in the plot! It was made for the plot!" defense when I confront them about their OCs being a Mary Sue. Well, first of all, you should of have stated that when you gave me their info. Secondly, even that sometimes doesn't excuse their Mary Sueness. Just a bit of advice here: It doesn't matter how extremely awesome a plot is if it's written like shit: Plots are a dime a dozen, it's the way you write and tell the plot that matters.
*If you're problem is not Mary Sue related, but it's actually fleshing out the character, I suggest checking This Handy Dandy Guide first. Of course, I'm more than happy to help you in that aspect too, if you're having problems.
People who have contributed: , and
EDIT 5: OC reviewing is ON HIATUS. If you don't mind that, leave a comment and I'll get back to you EVENTUALLY, WHEN I HAVE TIME.
Reminds me of every warriors fan comic I've ever seen (not a fan anymore, this is years ago but still). The main character is always the daughter/sister of Scourge or Firestar or some other main character and is always a total Mary Sue who unites all the clans or whatever. I haven't thought about that series in years and reading this journal is bringing back so many memories.
I can't be the only one here thinking of Dianna Troi from ST:TNG every time I see 'Diana' and dying of laughter....
Though you hit on a few points, you kinda miss the actual overall problem with a Mary sue:
It's bad writing that makes a character a Mary Sue. Traits and backstory are not hallmarks of a bad character but they might be a sign of bad writing.
Like most other so called advice, this is more of knee jerk reaction to reading bad fanfiction. I say bad fanfiction as oppose to story as the true hallmark of a bad writer is ego stroking. We associate seemingly random characteristics to a generalization, Mary Sue, because they were written not to be enjoyed by the reader but the writer. I don't even have to go as far as Twilight if you want a crash course on self-masturbatory garbage.
And advice like this only gives novice or even good writers a confusing message that experimenting with their writing skills only results in bad writing if they try something different. Most advice would have us think the best characters are Joe Average Six pack and Plain Jane Goodwill.
I actually wrote my own advice for writing a character which has a better outline in detail and is probably better advice on writing a character.
Anyway, heed this advice.
"There is no such thing as bad characters. Only bad writers" - Me.
I am going to keep it all in mind when I write now.
BUT. For the wrong reason.
When she was younger, the gods of control (in my story) randomly picked her of all living entities to become the ender of all worlds, dimensions, and time itself so that they could create their own different dimensions to their liking. Why they do not do it themselves? To watch her mind deteriorate with the female manifestations of insanity, hate, and death constantly pricking at her mind.
Whenever she kills an enemy, their own insane parts of their mind (or a black voice in other words) gets absorbed into her heads, so she has consequences for effortlessly killing off someone that has poised a threat.
Before she was chosen, she had a decent life. A basic normal teenager. But when the gods chose her, she resisted their offer to limitless power, having the fear of going insane and corrupt with it. Since she did not comply, they forced her to watch Red, her enemy, brutally murder anyone that shared any sort of bond, forcing her to comply.
Since then, if she ever proceeded to form any sort of relationship with someone, good or bad, Red would immediately slaughter them, causing her to lose control on her emotions, and thus, ending a system of planets containing living, sentient life.
Since then, she became an observer, no longer interacting with anyone. The manifestations would attempt to make her go insane, and rile up the voices of her dead enemies in her head to try and make her inner child self die so that she would be easier to manipulate by the gods.
I am ready for construction for my character.
and yes ;3
He or she is cute x3
my hands ;w;
I once took another Mary Sue litmus test online for my book character, Gretchen Goosander, and she got a nice, low score. Then for a joke, I tested myself, and for some reason... I got twice as much as my character... Is it good when the author is more of a Sue than their character? XD
Name: Evelyn Hannah
Hair color: Blonde
Eye color: Blue
Strengths: Generally very book smart and loyal to her friends. She's very easy to be friends with (if they talk to her first). Good at keeping secrets.
Weaknesses: Very shy, not very athletic. Scared of a lot of things, but wants to try and overcome those fears. She's small so if someone wants to attack her, she's not very good at defending herself.
Bio: Evelyn lives in a city where gangs practically run everything. Her dad was killed by a drunk driver two years ago and she lives with her mom in a small house just outside the city. She has rabbit ears and has two close friends, Clara and Ben. One day Clara decides that they should take advantage of the school's open lunches and they walk to a small restaurant where they run into a gang that was after Clara. They run and end up getting caught in a dead end. One of the gang members recognizes Evelyn (her dad owed them a LOT of money) and try to kill her, but miss and she ends up getting shot in the leg (I guess this would fall under weaknesses because for most of it now she has a limp). So now Evelyn is caught up in this. (I'm not that far in the story yet, but I figured I'd ask before I have to go back and completely rewrite her.)