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Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius

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Who is Mary Sue?

Mary Sue is perfect. Everyone loves her, except authority figures and meanie evil people, or people who are jealous of her good looks and wonderful singing voice.

She is also your character.

What, you say? I have no character named Mary Sue! My character is Alianala Marviliciouse Dragonnae the dragon tamer with natural purple-black hair down to her knees, funky dragon wings, and a dark past involving the death of her parents, twin sister, aunt, uncle, godfather, best friend, and pet goldfish. Yea, that's a Mary Sue.

Mary Sue is the term for a cliche perfect character, created by an author (usually a fanfiction author) or a roleplayer. They can be male or female, but more frequently the latter, hence my choice of pronouns in this article. The exact definition of a Sue is very broad, but she's usually created by the author as a sort of "placeholder" for themself, so they can pretend through their character to be part of a fantasy world. Not a bad thing in and of its self, but roleplaying with one is very frustrating.

So, why should I care?

If you just wanna have some fun casually roleplaying, go ahead and keep playing your Sues. You'll probably outgrow it eventually. But if you're getting tired of seeing people with characters who seem too powerful and too perfect, while trying to explain your own characters' powers and perfection with whatever personal excuses you can come up with, maybe its time you took a good honest look at your characters to see if they're part of the problem. Also, if you ever want to be a professional writer, you should get rid of your Sues ASAP, they'll only hinder you from getting published. Few people want to read about Little Miss Perfect (But Angsty) and the Unicorn-Dragon Adventure.

Ohnoes! This is starting to sound like me! What do I do?!

Good writing, and good roleplaying, takes practice, but the first step in improving is admitting you have a problem. So, step one to banishing Mary Sue is to be open to the possibility that your character is one. If you read this with the purpose of proving to yourself your character clearly isn't a Sue, it won't help at all.

So, what exactly is this topic? A field guide, of sorts, to four common types of Sue. I will be describing Sues of various types using the four Sue houses of Pottersues, a livejournal about Harry Potter Sues.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius


Ever find yourself seeing or reading or hearing about a cool power or creature and deciding "hey, I should base a character on that!" or worse, "hey, I should add that to my already existing character, who can already breath fire and read minds!"

Is your character an exceptional singer, a talented musician, and/or a gifted artist, for no other reason than you think being able to sing/play music/draw is nifty, or because YOU sing/play music/draw?

Does your character have some/many of these "flaws"?

-Cutely nervous
-Cutely clumsy
-Cutely *insert other flaw here*
-Shy at first, then friendly once you get to know her
-A daydreamer

How long does it take you to summarize your character physically? More than a few sentences? How long to describe just her hair? Her eyes? More than a word or two each? Are a lot of her physical characteristics unusual- colour changing eyes, unnatural hair, or curves in all the right places, for example?

Find yourself answering "yes" to a lot of those questions? "Yes, but I've got a good excuse" is still "yes". Chances are, you have a Sparklypoo on your hands. These perfect little creatures are your typical Mary Sues, and probably one of the most annoying sorts. They're also terribly fun to write, for awhile- I mean, who wouldn't want to pretend they were beautiful, intelligent, artistic, and with lots of cool powers?

But roleplaying with them is frustrating. No one likes getting shoved aside just to make way for one player's personal fantasy. For awhile, you may be able to find roleplays with other Sues, and have some fun showing off your cool powers, neat species and good looks to each other, but if you ever want to move on, you're going to need to change.

Breaking out of Sparklypoo: My favorite way to start avoiding this house? Play a character of the opposite gender. Then, play a character of the opposite gender whom you hate. Give them real, serious personality flaws, not Sue-ish ones. Make them arrogant, or petty, or jealous, or anything else negative in a non-loveable way. Then, once you've got their personality down, you can start giving them relevant powers, if they're suitable to the world they will be played in. Remember that for some worlds, Harry Potter especially I find, your character shouldn't need extra powers to be special. If you think they aren't interesting enough without being an animagus or a veela, you probably need to rethink your character.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius


Unfortunately, most people who recognize their Sparklypoo sues and decide to give them character flaws turn them into Bitchiwitches instead. Go through this list, and see which flaws your character has:

-Hates/defies authority
-Is a loner/not accepted by his or her peers
-Has one or more dead relatives
-Has no living relatives
-Was abused as a child
-Did something terrible she isn't really responsible for, but thinks she's responsible and broods about it frequently, unwilling to forgive herself for her supposed guilt.
-Nice most of the time, but prone to snapping and becoming a total B*tch
-Is a rebel/goth/punk/soup can

Starting to sound familiar? These are very common flaws-that-aren't-flaws, supposedly "bad" things that most authors write as an excuse to angst, or to make their character seem cool and bad-arse.

Breaking out of Bitchiwitch: Try and separate yourself from your character. Her flaws are not your flaws- in fact, her lack of flaws is your flaw! Remember that characters are a tool with which you create a story- it's the story you want to make beautiful, not the tool. With that in mind, don't be afraid to give your character real flaws that will make her less perfect, but far more interesting to roleplay with in the long run.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius


For the purpose of this paper, I'm going to break with the original meaning of this type.

Be honest, are one or more of your characters just placeholders for you in romance roleplays? Don't worry, we all have them- I myself confess to several, up to and including a young, beautiful princess with magical powers who falls in love with a tall, dark and handsome, semi-evil sorcerer.

Thing is, I don't roleplay them. Ever. They stay locked up in my personal fluff closet, clearly marked as such, where they will never, ever, ever see the light of day without a proper warning label.

Roleplaying romance is fun, and if both parties recognize that you just want to write fluff for both your enjoyment, go ahead and bring in the sues. The problem is, it's not good storytelling, and it gets boring. Unless you want to be writing harlequin novels in roleplay form all your life, you need to change.

Breaking out of Tootsietramp: Luckily, this is easy. DON'T ROLEPLAY ROMANCE! Well, you can play it if it comes up naturally, but if you want to stop sueing, stop actively seeking out romance-only roleplays. No, really, PLEASE stop. Those of use whose roleplaying lives don't consist entirely of having our character make out with someone else's are getting a little irked by it. Really, if you take a break from seeking out vicarious romance through RP, you'll likely see an immediate jump in character quality. And when two well-developed characters fall in love, it's more beautiful than any Sue love scene.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius


Qanonreip is sort of a sub-classification. Qanonreip characters are not made-up, they come from the show, movie or book that the roleplayer is roleplaying. But, despite not being made-up, the roleplayer has portrayed them as a Sue. An example would be roleplaying Hermione as having beautiful wavy honey-chestnut hair, sparkling eyes, and a cutely clumsy personality, and giving her an excellent singing voice in addition to her usual incredible intelligence.

In the fanfiction community, this is considered the worst sort of Sue, because not only is it bad writing, it's destroying a canon character that they might really like themselves.

Breaking out of Qanonreip: Before you start roleplaying as a canon character, make sure you know what their flaws are, as well as their strengths. In the case of Hermione, remember that her hair is bushy, not pretty and wavy, and that she can often be bossy or a know-it-all. Keep in mind that all the Sue rules above apply even to characters who aren't 100% your own creation.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius

Okay, so my character is a Sue. But she's also sort of interesting. What do I do?

Okay, here's the thing: not all Sues are completely bad. That doesn't automatically mean yours is a good Sue! Keep reading! Mary Sue-ish elements can still exist in a good character, but you need to spend some time thinking about how many you have, and if they're all necessary. If she has powers or abilities that she doesn't really need, then get rid of them. If her angsty past is overdone and doesn't really add much to her character other than an excuse to whine and deep-seeded hatred for Villain X, alter it so it isn't so melodramatic, and/or give her a better reason to dislike the bad-guy than he killed their family, friends and pet kitten. Because that, my friends, has been done to death.

In stories, you can get away with a lot more Sue than you can in roleplays. With a story, you get to control how things move, so you can alter your story without directly using your characters to do so. In a roleplay, the entire plot revolves around how characters interact, and maybe on a small blurb from the roleplay's creator. That puts a lot more pressure on you, the writer, to come up with interesting characters and avoid Sues.

As a general rule, before you can write a good Sue, you have to be able to write a good non-Sue. So stuff your Mary Sues in the drawer for awhile, and practice with some new, unSue-ish characters, then look at them in a few months and see what can be salvaged.

Woah, very helpful guide! Thanks for all this advice, I definitely see these traits in my character.

Thank you. Admitting you have a Sue is the first step to fixing her, and I hope this has helped you improve your writing. I admit, writing this guide made me recognize some of these traits in my own characters. I, just like everyone else, Sue, I just try and keep them away from public roleplays where they might annoy people.

OMG, you're just jealous of my cool character and her spiffy powers! Go away, this guide SUCKS!

Your loss. Come back in a few years when you've matured past the Mary Sue stage in your writing development, and maybe I can help you improve.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius

Please, I beg of you all, plug this board! Most Sue-playing roleplayers will not come in here on their own, so if you see a friend or roleplaying companion who may be having Sue issues, link them here!

Links and Such:
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Brutal and Fluff, my writing guild. Come eat, drink and be critiqued

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My art auction... it has nothing to do with Mary Sues, but bump and you could win free character art.
Rainbow socks cheers you on. XD
Good guide. -nods- I've locked up all my Sues too. Its so much more fun to play a character with a realistic personality.
Dragostae's avatar

Beloved Elder

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I love you bunches for posting this.

Seriously. You have no idea how sick I am of Sues and Stus.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius

Thanks all smile

I've been trying to ignore them or teach by gentle example, but... Well, there are a lot of people here who could learn from this, so I guess it's more helpful in guide format.
Wow. Good job. eek

This thread definitely deserves to be bumped to the top.

I have been working on making non-Sue characters (like all of us, I guess), and it is nice to confirm what actually comprises a "Sue".
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius

Hm, fast moving Barton OOC today.
AKB0048's avatar

Handsome Shounen

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Tootsitramp = 99.999999999% of the boards here.
Myracuulous's avatar

Dangerous Genius

Tootsitramp = 99.999999999% of the boards here.

So I've noticed sweatdrop My primary motivation behind this was to sort of gently help reduce those. I mean, frankly it's worse than Neopets- at least there there's (or there was) a general view of romance seekers as "n00bish desperates"

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