Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Mary Sue (2 Viewers)

Status
Not open for further replies.

Davana

Senior Member
(Might be long but please read)
I am seriously worried that my protagonist, Hilary Dusk (I know it sounds similar to some Disney star called Hilary Duff, a person on the forum pointed it out. I want to say that until then I had no idea who Hilary Duff is), is a Mary Sue. I go through it with every single character I write. Every time an author creates a good looking character people say 'Mary Sue!' So I was like 'Oh no, my protagonist is described as pretty-not gorgeous or beautiful but pretty- so does that make her a Mary Sue?' So can someone here please give me their honest opinion whether Hilary Dusk is a Mary Sue or not? I will write down everything I have made up about her so far, starting with the main positive and negative personality traits.

Positive
Passionate
Warm
Friendly
Loyal
Clever-ish, but she does have her moments where she is incredibly stupid.
Brave but does have a fear of snakes, heights and the dark
Dedicated to the things she wants to do
Positive
Cheerful


Negative
Gullible
Naive
Stubborn
Acts before she thinks
Paranoid
Gets worked up too much
Childish and immature
Can be cold sometimes, but not often
Rushes into things
Short attention span
Falls for the wrong people
Trust issues
Close minded (But isn't necessarily a flaw)
Can't tell if she's dreaming or not
Often thinks she's going insane


(The last two are because she's introduced to magic and she thinks she's insane because she thinks magic can't exist)

Physical traits

Positive
Pretty
Athletic
Has a lot of power
Very good at Karate, Judo and Krav Maga
Good hand eye co-ordination
Tall and slim

Negative
Has a very boyish figure (Flat chested, narrow hips e.t.c)
Dry hair
Lack of stamina when excercising
Easy to posses by spirits
Eye sight getting worse

Things that happen/have happened to her (That I know of so far)

Positive
Learns magic and gets good at it
Starts martial arts at young age
Defeats evil sorcerer with her best friends


Negative
Gets possessed by an evil spirit
Using her body, evil spirit destroys the city Hilary lives in and kills her father
Parents got divorced when she was little
The boy she loved got killed by her doppelganger
Has a very long scar on her shoulder from when she was tortured
Her mentor betrays her and turns out to be using her
Gets killed twice (Once with a knife that only lets you stay dead while it's in your body and once for only a second but she was brought back to life by a magical ring she was wearing)
Got bullied when she was younger
Gets thrown off an airship in the earth's atmosphere by her doppelganger and almost drowns when she hits the ocean- gets saved when the portal to her world opens where she hits the water

So this is all I have about her so far. Is she a Mary Sue?? Please tell me what you think
 

shadowwalker

WF Veterans
Just because a character is good looking doesn't make them a Mary Sue. If you're that concerned about it, do a quick google and you'll find sites that go into long protracted discussions of what they are (and aren't). But basically, if you aren't using the character as a pseudo-you and make them perfectly beautiful and genius smart and bulldog strong and absolutely loved by everyone (except the bad guys who still greatly admire and envy her) - you don't have a Mary Sue.
 

Davana

Senior Member
Wavy blonde hair, brown eyes, olive skin. Her face is long and pointy and her nose is thin. Her eyebrows are thick.
 

Jon M

WF Veterans
Maybe not a Mary Sue by the stats, but the stats don't matter because the reader doesn't see the stats. Those character flaws need to come through in the writing.
 

Nickleby

WF Veterans
A Mary Sue is a character who is perfect in every way. Basically, it's wish fulfillment for poor writers.


If someone tells you your character is a Mary Sue, that someone has probably just learned what a Mary Sue is and sees them everywhere.

A character with negative traits is no Mary Sue. A character who does things wrong is no Mary Sue. Write your story and forget about it.
 

Tiamat

Patron
Personally, I tend to define a character not so much by those surface traits (what they look like, what music they listen to, what their hobbies are, what their likes and dislikes are, etc) but rather by their goals, their inner demons, what stands in their way, and what they do when something's at risk. Something that gives them depth. Something that makes you love them.

Take Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings for example. He enjoys food and ale. He loves to work the earth and make things grow. He's loyal. Likeable? Yes, but are you rooting for him yet? No, not really. While it may be sad if he were to die, it's unlikely that you'd shed any actual tears just knowing those things about him. You don't actually love him until he sets out with Frodo--which is contrary to what he wants to do--and you see the lengths he goes to (sometimes risking his own life) to keep his friend safe. And it certainly moved me to tears when Sam said, "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!" and proceeded to carry Frodo up the slope of Mount Doom.

So, all that said, it doesn't sound like your character is a Mary Sue at all. She doesn't sound like the perfect woman with the perfect smile and the perfect body and the perfect hair who does everything perfectly. All I'm going to say is, you can make all the lists you want to help you along while you're writing, but when it comes right down to it, you need to make your reader fall in love with her.
 

Staff Deployment

WF Veterans
Negative
Gullible
Naive
Stubborn
Acts before she thinks
Paranoid
Gets worked up too much
Childish and immature
Can be cold sometimes, but not often
Rushes into things
Short attention span
Falls for the wrong people
Trust issues
Close minded (But isn't necessarily a flaw)
Can't tell if she's dreaming or not
Often thinks she's going insane

I was reading this and this is pretty much all I'm going to talk about, disregarding pretty much everything else. Hope that's alright.

A litmus test for a Mary Sue is that all of her percieved negative traits are either not really a flaw, or make her more endearing. From my own personal standpoint, I think that characters with the following traits can very easily be endearing, or even adorable: Gullible, naive, acts before she thinks, gets worked up too much, childish and immature, rushes into things, short attention span, falls for the wrong people, can't tell if she's dreaming or not, often thinks she's going insane. These are technically negative traits, but they don't paint a negative picture - we all know someone who is like this, and chances are, they're kind of lovable in their own way. Relying on these to express the less admirable side of your main character might run you into some trouble. Keep in mind that this is from my own subjective perspective.

However, a stubborn, paranoid, cold, close-minded person with trust issues is a lot less likeable on a first impression, which can absolutely help you round out and define your character as a real person with legitimate issues to work out. Don't fall for the trap of having her eventually come to an epiphany and lose these uncomfortable aspect of herself, though, for two reasons: 1) If it's a series, you'll want to spread out her development, 2) It's unrealistic, and it's also on the border of Suedom if she loses all of her negative traits.

Keep in mind not to focus on her negative side, though. That can quickly devolve into a bitter and unlikeable character. It's a good idea to keep these aspects of her on hand, though, because she'll need something to hold her back, just a little bit, to ensure that she doesn't immediately solve every problem she faces.

Feel free to ignore pretty much anything I've said here, but definitely give it a good think-through.
 

Davana

Senior Member
Thanks for the answer :) When thinking of these traits I didn't mean them to be like positive. I all think of them as slightly negative, you know? But so far in the story these traits have gotten her into a lot of bad situations and she has gotten into a lot of trouble. And throughout the story so far she is told off for being childish and immature :/ But that's a great answer, thanks :D
 

Gamer_2k4

WF Veterans
Too many people think that characters are a balancing act, that for every positive trait you give someone, you need to balance it out with a negative trait. Not so! In fact, taking such a formulaic approach to character development can often result in a bland character, because you're not letting the character develop organically. You're just saying, "Okay, I have enough negative traits now, so it must be a good character." That's not going to work.

One thing that your list misses is the severity of the "negative" things. She has a boyish figure? Okay, is that an informed attribute, or is it something that comes through in the story? It does no good to tell us that your character is unattractive if no character takes notice of that "fact." Similarly, how is "getting killed twice" a bad thing for your character? Has it affected her in any way? Does she have lingering scars that affect her, or injuries that keep her from doing what she needs to? Do people react to her differently? If not, then you've simply listed a neutral plot point, not a negative attribute.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. One of my main characters gets injured in a battle. She's out of the story for a few chapters, and when she comes back, she's depressed and morose. It's shocking because she used to be the excitable, fun character that took the edge off of the rest of the story. Furthermore, because of her injuries, she's restricted to indoor duties instead of combat. Ultimately, the protagonist's goal at the end of the story is to, "make this a world where Julie can smile again." Her injuries and the things that happen to her have a HUGE impact on the story and the characters around her. If I hadn't made those things happen, her injury would've just been another checkbox to counter whatever positive qualities she had, and would have been pointless as a result.

Don't ask if you have enough negative qualities to make your character not a Mary Sue. We don't know that, and we can't tell that from your list. Instead, ask how she's treated in the story. Ask if we're TOLD she's not a Mary Sue, or if she actually ISN'T a Mary Sue.
 

Miku

Member
The fact that you even listed a good amount of flaws is a good sign. Now you just have to show, and not tell, the reader these flaws in the story. Her flaws and mistakes must have consequences that lead to character development for Hillary. The problem with the whole "Mary Sue" concept is that it is blatantly sexist. Often, the common definition of a Mary Sue is a seemingly perfect female character who has some sort of tragic past and is loved by a male character. However, look at Batman, who is basically a Mary Sue with the exemption of not being female. I know there is the term Gary Stu or Marty Stu for these types of characters, but they are much less used than Mary Sue.
There are plenty of angst ridden, attractive, and seemingly perfect male character out there who are not given the same treatment as most female characters nowadays. Most authors worry about their female characters being characterized as a Mary Sue, but I feel this worry is somewhat unnecessary People are hard on female characters for some reason and no matter what someone is going to throw the term "Mary Sue" out there when they cannot articulate what they dislike about the character. The only surefire way to prevent your character from being a "Mary Sue" is to give her flaws that are prevalent in the story.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Sometimes it's possible to have a character who isn't technically a Mary Sue but who turns out to be when you're writing them. If their flaws never really become an issue and they keep making the right choice at every turn, if they never make a mistake and they're super-capable then they can become a Mary Sue. Even strengths can cause bad decisions (in real people, anyway, and so they should in fictional characters). It can be as simple as over- or under-estimating talents and abilities. Your character is stubborn and good at magic AND martial arts (yes, that does read a bit Mary Sue to me but you can write the character so that it's not) so maybe she doesn't know when to back off, back down, fight another day, or show mercy.

One example of a Mary Sue character that I saw in an RP was perfection on every level and her creator was pretty much in love with her. It wasn't until he'd been writing this character for a long time that I began to see her take on 'real' characteristics where she was regretful of things in her past at the very least and occasionally seemed more human rather than doll-like.

What you've outlined above might have an element of Mary Sue-ness but most characters could be said to. The proof is in the writing. Don't love her too much to give her plenty of things to work through. Throw problems and grief at her and let her do her thing...don't control her, just observe and write.

My two cents.
 

DanesDarkLand

Senior Member
Don't know what a Mary Sue is really as I just write what I feel, but I do feel you have a wishlist of personality traits that you didn't fully explore. Its pretty hard to be gullible and paranoid. If you're paranoid, you'll be constantly questioning whether or not someone is out to get you, or if something is too good to be true. Gullible is the exact opposite, where you'll fall for anything and everything.

Passionate, warm and friendly is also hard to equate with cold and close minded.

When you write your character, just be sure you aren't throwing too many character traits, good and bad, into the mix just to make an interesting character. Your character is a real person, in the story, and will respond in the manner that their personalities force them to, along with history, and learned behaviors.

Teens might be able to get away with changing personalities as they are learning behaviors, as us old folks have learned behaviors.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top