Before we get down to business I wanted to update you all on what’s going on in my writing life. I have begun as a columnist at a great site for writers, Our Write Side and you can check out my articles right here every Tuesday. Those articles usually answer a more specific topic that I mention here briefly so it’s great supplemental reading without being too redundant. Check out my column and let me know what you think.
The Mary Sue. Who is she and why is she such a problem? Let’s find out. The Mary Sue character is often a perfect or idealized version of the author. However tempting it may be to write an awesome version of yourself, it makes for a flat character and a cliché. The Mary Sue is so special that nothing can defeat her (boring) and so perfect, not to mention gorgeous and beloved by all, she becomes unrelatable and dull. There’s no tension, no conflict, no suspense, and no character growth. These are all big no-nos. We’re supposed to write what we know, but creating a character that is wish-fulfillment for yourself is not the way to go.
Characters need flaws and weaknesses to make them more human and well-rounded (check here for more on that) and also to grow in their character arc. No change in your characters, no story. It’s as simple as that. We want interesting and dynamic main characters, not Mary Sues. Also be wary of giving your super special Mary Sue likeable flaws that aren’t really flaws at all, like being clumsy or endearingly dorky. Give her a real weakness and add suspense and real conflict to your story.
You can draw from your own life and have similarities between yourself and your character. Just don’t make them too idealized or too bland (real life doesn’t always translate well as drama). And don’t think Mary Sue only applies to female characters, there are Marty Stus with the exact same problems.
Now that you know what makes a bad Mary Sue you can write stronger characters that may or may not have some similar attributes to yourself. After all we writers put a little bit of ourselves in every character. Just be aware of what doesn’t work and why. What’s your take on Mary Sue characters? What’s the worst Mary Sue you’ve ever read? Comment below and happy writing.