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What's a Mary Sue, and is she avoidable?

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  • Helluin
    I ve got some big head-scratching questions for fanfiction writers. What makes a Mary Sue? Why is a Mary Sue bad? Since Tolkien has so few strong female
    Message 1 of 3 , May 7, 2003
      I've got some big head-scratching questions for fanfiction writers.

      What makes a Mary Sue?
      Why is a Mary Sue bad?
      Since Tolkien has so few strong female characters, is it possible to
      write an original female character who is NOT a Mary Sue?
      Can you write a love story between a canonical character (Pippin,
      Legolas, etc) and an original character without it being Mary Sue?


      My definition of Mary Sue is as follows.

      1. The writer is eager for readers to think she is "cool" and gives
      her special characteristics to make her so: an unusual upbringing,
      mixed blood, a long-lost blood relationship to some canonical
      character, above average physical/psychic/magical abilities,
      exceptional beauty or physique, a dark or angst-ridden or mysterious
      past, a role that breaks the conventions of her own society, and/or
      special possessions like a magic sword.

      The problem with saying these things are Mary Sue is that without
      them, what are we left with? A boring and ordinary person who can't do
      much of anything.


      2. The writer is living out the story vicariously through the
      character. She is a wish-fulfillment, alter ego. Either Mary Sue is
      the writer's self-image, tweaked and improved to be more "cool", or
      she is what the writer wishes she were.

      Of course, writers usually identify a bit with their characters, and
      sometimes the most fun fanfic is to create a character in whose shoes
      the readers can vicariously experience the story.



      3. Mary Sue is a black hole, around which the story and canonical
      characters revolve. The canonical characters and world often begin to
      distort and become less like themselves as they gravitate towards Mary
      Sue. Mary Sue is portrayed as an important or significant person, a
      match for canonical characters, respected or admired by them, and
      often a love interest of one of them.


      Again, if she's not special in some fashion, but useless, what good is
      writing an original female character? Also, can an original male
      character get away with sword-wielding, deeds of derring-do, and an
      active role more easily than an original female character without
      being panned as Gary Stu/Mary Sue?
    • Jenny
      I went onto a Mary Sue fanfiction site and there was a LotR story, with Legolas. It was awful but very funny. The setting was Maui in a Wal-Mart. How can
      Message 2 of 3 , May 8, 2003
         I went onto a Mary Sue fanfiction site and there was a LotR story, with Legolas.  It was awful but very funny.  The setting was Maui in a Wal-Mart.
         How can anyone imagine Legolas or ANY character in Middle Earth at a Wal-Mart of all places???????
        Jenny.
         


        Helluin <sepdet@...> wrote:
        I've got some big head-scratching questions for fanfiction writers.

        What makes a Mary Sue?
        Why is a Mary Sue bad?
        Since Tolkien has so few strong female characters, is it possible to
        write an original female character who is NOT a Mary Sue?
        Can you write a love story between a canonical character (Pippin,
        Legolas, etc) and an original character without it being Mary Sue?


        My definition of Mary Sue is as follows.

        1. The writer is eager for readers to think she is "cool" and gives
        her special characteristics to make her so: an unusual upbringing,
        mixed blood, a long-lost blood relationship to some canonical
        character, above average physical/psychic/magical abilities,
        exceptional beauty or physique, a dark or angst-ridden or mysterious
        past, a role that breaks the conventions of her own society, and/or
        special possessions like a magic sword.

        The problem with saying these things are Mary Sue is that without
        them, what are we left with? A boring and ordinary person who can't do
        much of anything.


        2.  The writer is living out the story vicariously through the
        character. She is a wish-fulfillment, alter ego. Either Mary Sue is
        the writer's self-image, tweaked and improved to be more "cool", or
        she is what the writer wishes she were.

        Of course, writers usually identify a bit with their characters, and
        sometimes the most fun fanfic is to create a character in whose shoes
        the readers can vicariously experience the story.



        3.  Mary Sue is a black hole, around which the story and canonical
        characters revolve. The canonical characters and world often begin to
        distort and become less like themselves as they gravitate towards Mary
        Sue.  Mary Sue is portrayed as an important or significant person, a
        match for canonical characters, respected or admired by them, and
        often a love interest of one of them.


        Again, if she's not special in some fashion, but useless, what good is
        writing an original female character? Also, can an original male
        character get away with sword-wielding, deeds of derring-do, and an
        active role more easily than an original female character without
        being panned as Gary Stu/Mary Sue?



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      • gentlebreezeeubio
        Without reading any of the responses Helluin included in her e-mail, here are my answers to the questions she asked: I. What makes a Mary Sue? II. Why is a
        Message 3 of 3 , May 12, 2003
          Without reading any of the responses Helluin included in her e-mail,
          here are my answers to the questions she asked:

          I. What makes a Mary Sue?
          II. Why is a Mary Sue bad?
          III. Since Tolkien has so few strong female characters, is it
          possible to
          write an original female character who is NOT a Mary Sue?
          IV. Can you write a love story between a canonical character (Pippin,
          Legolas, etc) and an original character without it being Mary Sue?

          Each and every person in this world is unique and
          individual; some people can be moral, others are amoral. Mary Sue is
          no different. So when Mary Sue is referred to, why is a negative
          picture typically aroused? First, it's because so many people write
          commercial fiction--stories whose sole purpose is to entertain--that
          fans begin to crave literary fiction--a type of story similar to
          commercial fiction in its purpose to entertain. However, literary
          fiction adds a completely new dimmension to the story it tells.
          Imagine, for example, two different website design programs:
          Microsoft Frontpage and Dreamweaver. While one is labeled as What
          You See Is What You Get, the other is the whole enchilada--meat,
          tomatos, salsa, guacamole, and everything else you may want. Another
          reason she is thought of negatively is because Mary Sue does not
          make herself; her creator pulls together his or her wishes and
          dreams and embodies them. When backed into a corner, Mary has
          magically pumped two hundred pounds of weights for her whole life
          and barrels her way out of it as a graceful feather would. Laura
          Croft never panics or flinches or gets emotionally involved in the
          problems that are thrown at her. An original character, on the other
          hand, looks for a trap door below or above to slip out of--not
          unscathed, only just in time. An original character will yank the
          reigns out of her creator's hands and steer her own path, despite
          what the author wishes or would do him or herself when placed in the
          same situation. In short, an original character will have qualities
          that readers wish to have, but he or she also has definite flaws
          that obstruct him or her from reaching an ultimate goal. Frodo can
          carry the One Ring for distances no other person has ever or would
          ever be able to, but even he is not strong enough to stop the
          corruption from taking hold of him.
          However, despite the negative label Mary Sue is marked with,
          she can be a vivacious, entertaining person. Not a character, but a
          unique, individual person. Take Tolkien's elves, for instance. More
          specifically, look at Legolas. He has senses better than the normal
          person, is wise, can crack a good joke at the worst possible moment,
          and looks great no matter what he wears. However, he doesn't always
          know when to keep his mouth shut. Think about the littlt anger spurt
          he showered on Boromir at the Council, or the time he aimed an arrow
          at a man's head when the Rider of Rohan was bad-talkin' Galadriel.
          Legolas may be a male version of Mary Sue--a Gary Stu, if you will--
          but he is also an orignal character.

          Gentlebreeze Eubio
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