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Writer’s Nook: The Danger of Mary Sues

For the writers out there, this article is for you. I am writing this because on Tumblr and Deviantart and other artistic-based websites, I see tons of Mary Sue characters. For those of you who do not know what a Mary Sue is, it is a seemingly flawless character in a work of literature. Creating a Mary Sue is very easy. Naturally, as a writer, we want our characters to be awesome. We want them to be the best thing out there. However, making them a Mary Sue is not going to do that.

The characteristics of a Mary Sue, despite the absolute perfection, are inexplicably beautiful. For a male character, it will be a man with lush hair and perfect abs. Muscles of lean solidity and stunning colored eyes. Females, on the other hand, will more than likely be busty with hips and an exaggerated hour glass figure. Their hair will also probably be longer and they will be the over the top feminine. In addition, a Mary Sue can also possess extraordinary powers.

Now, in a fantasy story, it is not unusual for a character to be extraordinary in the way of powers. However, the difference is that most characters with powers specialize in one kind of power, maybe two. Mary Sues have many, many more if not all of them. This creates an overwhelmingly powerful character that presumably cannot be stopped by much, if anything. They also are highly unbelievable. These types of characters often feel emotion to the extreme. They either cry at the slightest thing or feel no sorrow and are always happy.

Another trait is that there are some Mary Sues who take on the damsel in distress extreme. This means they were created for the sole purpose of being put in dangerous situations and be rescued by the protagonist. Mary Sues also almost always have a love interest. This interest did not slowly fall in love, as is the case with most well developed romances, it was more instantaneous.

The dangers from the Mary Sue characters comes in the fact that they are very one dimensional. They are boring. There is no real character development. These types of characters often act the same way, overcome every obstacle thrown at them, and other unrealistic things. That is another down side. They are unrealistic. Readers want a character that takes them on adventure, but that they can relate to. An insecure teen character with acne problems who is also a wizard. That is far more relatable than a twelve year old that is built like an eighteen year old body builder who is a wizard. Why? Everyone has insecurities and has dealt with acne as a teenager and maybe into adulthood. They will relate better to the acne covered teen than they will the Mary Sue because the acned teen has relatable issues.

The best way to counter the Mary Sue creation process is to take your time and develop your character to the fullest you can. Develop a character that has realistic flaws. Allow them to be perfectly imperfect. Give your character insecurities, make them pretty if you want but not stunningly so. So few people in the world are “drop dead gorgeous” but everyone is beautiful in their own way. Give your character a purpose, a goal they want to achieve. Don’t always let them win either though. Let them have their victories, but they will not always win the first time around. It is okay for a character to lose.

You can develop a strong main character. It takes time and effort but it is doable. If not we would not have Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen. However, ask yourself, is this realistic for the story? Avoid the dangers of Mary Sue in order to get the best character you can.

Photo credit: Pexels / unsplash.com

Hello! My name is Morgan and I am a senior history major at Rowan! I am a huge nerd and am pretty much into anything and everything academic or nerdy. I love to write and draw and read. 
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