A Mary Sue Rant

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You know what I mean. Mary Sues. They are the bane of any fanfic writer in any fandom all over the world. And what bugs me is that no one seems to know how to define one and ends up making one due to being fed misinformation about what the hell it is anyway.

It is NOT simply someone who has cool hair.
It is NOT simply someone who has a cool name.
It is NOT simply someone who has a cool gadget, style, appearance, etc.
It is NOT simply someone who has a few canon friends, or knows some awesome skill, or has a tragic backstory.
AND IT IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT SIMPLY A TERM FOR A CHARACTER WITH SOME TRAIT YOU DON'T LIKE.


You'd be surprised how many Mary Sues qualify as such due to having a sheer lack of inherently good qualities. This happens because of that last thing on the list, where people who are supposedly defining what a Mary Sue is instead shoehorn stuff they just don't like onto their list of Sue-ish traits. This generally results in people trying to avoid creating a Mary giving us absolutely no reason to like their character despite how they're always at the center of literally everyone's attention. For example, take a character who's about as attractive and incredible as a Greek god if not more so and is loved by virtually every sympathetic character in the story. Definitely a Sue. You'd think that simply making them a pathetic, overweight slob (that everyone still loves) will do the trick but nope. Instead you've created an Anti-Sue, which is what happens when instead of creating a stereotypical Mary Sue with every good quality known to man who is loved for it, the writer creates a Sue with every bad quality known to man who is loved anyway. Which, to be frank, is even more unreasonable, since at least it makes some sense to worship perfection, even if the perfection itself is equally unreasonable.

Essentially, no one knows what they're doing anymore.

So here's the baseline:

NO CHARACTER IS NECESSARILY A MARY SUE UNLESS THEY ARE CONSTANTLY THE CENTER OF ATTENTION AND/OR HAVE A SERIOUS LACK OF REDEEMING/DEGRADING QUALITIES, OR ONE OR MORE OF THOSE QUALITIES OVERWHELMS EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT THEM.

A Mary Sue is constantly breaking the laws of the storyverse without any good explanation, everyone else reacts to them like they're the most perfect thing since sliced bread, and it's pretty clear the author isn't doing this on purpose to make a point. And the reactions don't have to be positive, either. Generally any character the author likes is portrayed sympathetically and sucks up to the Mary while any character the author hates is portrayed unsympathetically and wants to kill Mary with fire :iconkillitwithfire::iconmarysueplz: Mary won't simply have a dark and troubled past, she'll (I'll assume she's female but keep in mind that Sues can be male) have a Deus Angst Machina with constant contradictions and no effects on her or anyone else whatsoever. She won't simply have awesome hair, she'll have awesome hair that no one else in canon has and is specifically impossible in canon with her circumstances. She won't simply be critical to the plot, she'll be thousands of times more vital than the actual main character, to the point where the universe would collapse without her. And she's too good for this sinful Earth. She's not simply related to a major character, she's responsible for everything we know and love about them. She's not simply good or bad, she's the most perfect/shitty thing in all the multiverse.

Oh and she tends to be hopelessly static (and maybe even flat for bonus points). She can go around experiencing everything the verse has to offer, but what will that do? It's not like she'll...oh I don't know, LEARN anything from it or shit. When the whole thing is over she's still the same eternally perfect piece of bad writing we had at the beginning of the story. Gets caught breaking the law? Apparently she was right to do it, even though she wasn't. Hell, she'll probably be totally fine breaking again, right? Did she totally humiliate the Big Bad's ass (during which time he totally hates hers) and then get him to pull a Heel Face Turn (as in make him turn good, for those of you unfamiliar with TV Tropes) despite that last part? Did I mention he's now kissing her butt five times a day? Yeah, sure, give her points for the part about turning him good but that thing with turning him good doesn't even make sense. Why does he not still hate her guts for humiliating him so much? Oh yeah, because she's always right and he really deserved it. Even if he was an anti-villain who didn't even have malicious intents to begin with. Or let's say she gets handed the ending of "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" (the original short story) long enough for a Deus Ex Machina in the form of a random fleet of aliens coming down, saving her (somehow), and destroying the supercomputer AM. You'd think she'd be traumatized for life by the time they save her, right? WRONG. No, actually, a cheesy (probably intended to be heartwarming) conversation or two later she's back on her feet chatting people (um, aliens) up like it never happened and will never happen again (because apparently, it literally can't). Angst? What angst? And don't try calling out the creator for it either 'cause all you're gonna get for doing that is "OMGWTFUDARECRITCIZEMAIPRESHOUSMARYSUEUMUSTDIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111" (See? They can't even spell 'precious' right.) Heaven forbid they go as far as to make Mary the Creator's Pet and take the whole center of the universe thing up to eleven (if that's even possible) just to shove it in all your faces, no matter how many people get angry because they recognize the character is a Sue.

So yeah, the universe revolves around Mary Sue, she has a serious lack of either good or bad traits, something that will most certainly never change, and it's not even intended. That's pretty much all you need to know. AMI IS OUT, PEACE!
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Comments84
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CatalinaT's avatar
Most traits are okay, but "thinks too fast" isn't necessarily a flaw and she needs more character development. I suggest editing those things and putting a little more info and you're good to go. Also, I like how her hair isn't overly crazy and realistic :) but try to describe it a little more:is it wavy? Held back in a bun? Braids? Pigtails? French braids? Hair extensions? Ponytails? What shade of brown? Also, what color is the hoodie and shorts? Do they have any specific designs to them? If not, where did she purchase them, and how long has she had them. Also needs an eye color. But I like how she's doesn't need love, like most demons, since realistically demons are the opposite of love. So good job on that :) 

Constructive criticism 💜
PHOBlA's avatar
is my demon character Mary Sue?

Name: Shiraki Ryoba
Gender: Female
Strengths: Telekinesis and Teleporting
Flaws: Thinks too fast
Style of outfit: shorts and a hoodie
Hair: Simply brown 
Extras: She can be classified as a kuudere due to the fact that she doesn't love anyone.
MsAmiClassified's avatar
god this thing is so old
im amazed it still gets reads

it depends on the context of the world youre placing them in. if the setting and all the sympathetic characters are visibly cleaving to her every whim, thats a sue and should be dealt with using a fine writing hand. otherwise you should be fine
PHOBlA's avatar
oooooooo okie. tank u!
Neoguest's avatar
I remember reading a tumblr about Rey from Star Wars; The Force awaken is a Mary Sue and I was like what?  I wonder if people are just call character a "Mary Sue" because they don't like them.
Girl-Time-2015's avatar
Jenna Silverblade, Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Ravenway, Bella Swan are all Mary Sues. And it's bad for other people who actually spend time developing their OCs. If you really want to create a good OC, balance talents with legit flaws. Design the OC to fit the universe as seen in canon.

For example, in a modern Tintin AU I made back in middle school, My OC would not have magical powers or better sailing skills than Captain Haddock or being smarter than Tintin. She had her own skillset that reflected the rules of the canon Tintin. She would not be wearing Gothic clothing, or sit idly by or crawl up in a fetal position when her true love leaves her. In fact her motivation was to save her friend from an injustice. She had a regular name, Kendra Barker, and her flaws included being too naive and trusting of others, which often caused villains to abuse her trust.

You wrote a better and more thought out rant than some little girl who ranted about how a Tumblr page called her Hetalia OCs shitty (I took the time to look at her OCs-that Tumblr page had every right to call them shitty).
LunaAngel-Eclipse's avatar
What upsets me is when an OC strolls into a universe like say Legend of Zelda or something and then all the people the fans know and love/hate are bent way out of shape and heavily OOC. Romance is fine but if some kind of Prince of Darkness and Killing and general hate of people takes one look at a girl and for no real reason goes Ga Ga about her and tries to marry her right then and there, there may be some problems with the writing.

Where do you stand with Reader inserts? Like, when things get a bit upside down and not exactly how they are meant to be?
MsAmiClassified's avatar
Self-inserts are okay as long as you don't do any of what you just described. Which, unfortunately, tends to happen more often than not, but still.
LunaAngel-Eclipse's avatar
Yes, but i HAVE seen it done fabulously, can't remember off the top of my head, but i know they were good...
MsAmiClassified's avatar
Yeah, I know. It's been a while since I've read a lot of fanfic with that premise (I tend to pick and choose from premises that aren't that), so I can't give any specific fics, but I know I've seen them around here somewhere...
LunaAngel-Eclipse's avatar
Well, I hope a wave of amazing fanfics will come about, what with the new year and all!
Kirbunny431's avatar
Top-quality rant, my friend. Very well written and you argued your point quite nicely. 10/10, would read again.
MsAmiClassified's avatar
Aww, thank you ^_^
Kirbunny431's avatar
You're quite welcome!
sonikkuruzu's avatar
I totally agree with you.

The sort of Sue that annoys me most is the Canon Sue. Sadly, being a Doctor Who fan means that I come into contact with a lot of them :(
MsAmiClassified's avatar
As in a Possession Sue or a literal Canon Sue? And I'm not familiar with Doctor Who, so what makes you say that?
YagamiYoshi's avatar
A Mary Sue can have all or none of the sueish traits out there, but what really makes her a sue is how the other characters react to her and seem to revolve around her no matter what. The rest are just symptoms. Well said.
MsAmiClassified's avatar
Black Hole Sue? Hoo yeah, definitely :icondisapprovalplz:
YagamiYoshi's avatar
Yeah, though it's more than just black hole sues, I'd say it's the quintessential Mary Sue traits. Suefics often also have other problems, but the biggest issue is how all the other characters react, because a lot of these premises could be played well, the issue is that they're not.
MsAmiClassified's avatar
Well yeah, I know that, I'm just pointing out the specific form you were referring to earlier.
YagamiYoshi's avatar
GlassMouse89's avatar
This got me to dig up and slightly modify an earlier Mary Sue rant of mine. You might be interested in reading it, so I'm just gonna leave it here :)


Hmm. While I agree that the Mary Sue word has been overused to the point of uselessness, the actual concept is still useful. I would propose a renaming.

In the age of TV tropes, the 'net tends to analyse and categorize stories based on superficial identifiers (like having wings, prettiness, country of origin, etc.).
But the really useful analyses focus on story roles. What we call Mary Sues is basically the Black Hole Character. The character who draws the entire world closer in order to support their story. Too many things revolve around them, the plot bends towards them (for good and bad), the other characters spend a disproportionate amount of energy on them. Pretty much, things turn unbelievable in the interest of supporting the "Mary Sue"s story.
It's always subjective in that sense. People have different standards for their suspension of disbelief - maybe they're "in" on the fantasy, maybe they just don't consider it, maybe it jibes with their own experiences. But generally, the volume of "Mary Sue!" criers can be taken as an indicator of how much Black Hole your character is (I think most people use that word when they can't articulate the above problem).
So it's not about whether or not they have wings, it's about how the plot and the setting respond to them. That's nearly impossible to make into a test.

Let's talk about Black Hole Characters instead. It's more accurate and less fraught with superficial identifiers.
MsAmiClassified's avatar
Yeah, that's a pretty accurate definition of Mary Sue. Generally they also tend to break the laws of the verse just because they're awesome like that, but yeah, Black Hole Sue.
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