Friday, October 14, 2011

Who is Mary Sue?


Who’s the girl that in implausibility’s face flies,
Who can do the impossible the first time she tries?
The youngest ensign to join the fleet,
Who saves the ship from utter defeat.
The long-lost daughter of an elfin queen,
Who rescues the hobbits and steals the scene.
She’s cute and clumsy, with a past that’s tragic;
Beloved by all, she can also do magic.
Her heart is pure, her aim is true,
Do you know who? It’s Mary Sue!

 (poem by Cat Carlisle)

Part of the problem of living off in my own little world is that I start to assume that things that are obvious to me are also obvious to everyone else. Case in point: I wrote the above poem, posted it on Facebook without the last two words and asked my friends to fill in the blank. I thought it would be a fun, easy riddle and was extremely embarrassed when NOBODY knew what I was talking about. I only had two guesses: "Mr. Magoo" from my brother and "Ashley Judd" (Huh?) from my husband.

Having spent so much time thinking about Mary Sues and even visiting a website named after her on a daily basis, I assumed everyone knew who she was. Obviously I was wrong. And if my Facebook friends (a large number of whom are geeks) don't know who Mary Sue is, then mostly likely neither do you. But never fear, I am here to inform you!

And by inform, I mean give you the definition from
The prototypical Mary Sue is an original female character in a fanfic who obviously serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of Wish Fulfillment. She's exotically beautiful, often having an unusual hair or eye color, and has a similarly cool and exotic name. She's exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas, and may possess skills that are rare or nonexistent in the canon setting. She also lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws — either that or her "flaws" are obviously meant to be endearing.

She has an unusual and dramatic Back Story. The canon protagonists are all overwhelmed with admiration for her beauty, wit, courage and other virtues, and are quick to adopt her into their nakama (ed. this means group, basically), even characters who are usually antisocial and untrusting; if any character doesn't love her, that character gets an extremely unsympathetic portrayal. She has some sort of especially close relationship to the author's favorite canon character — their love interest, illegitimate child, never-before-mentioned sister, etc. Other than that, the canon characters are quickly reduced to awestruck cheerleaders, watching from the sidelines as Mary Sue outstrips them in their areas of expertise and solves problems that have stymied them for the entire series.
Though Mary Sues are usually the product of fan fiction, they can pop up in original fiction too. Note that having a few of the Sue qualities doesn't necessarily make a character bad. It's when the Sue-isms start piling up that readers might begin to find themselves getting annoyed with her (Or him. They can be guys too). If you're worried that your character might be a Mary Sue, check out the Mary Sue Litmus Test. But don't worry too much. The fun part of writing is getting to do whatever you want. And if what you want to write about is a pink-haired, magical Star Trek ensign who rescues hobbits, then go for it! Just don't be surprised if the only person who wants to read about her adventures is you. ;)

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how you find the time to be so creative and read so many books! Keep it up!