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 Things the Sues Have Ruined for You

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Cyberwulf
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:49 pm

People pointing out that lots of canon male protagonists fit the criteria for Mary Sues (ALL THE POWERS, twagic past, magical pets, shittons of cash, everyone loves them etc.) but nobody derides them as an example of shitty writing. Also, people pointing out that the Mary Sue is often a type of wish-fulfillment for the teenage girls who write her, and then pointing out that our culture as a whole tends to shit on everything that teenage girls enjoy, deriding it as frivolous garbage, because teenage girls are stupid and should be hated.

...oh wait, that's "Things that Have Ruined Ripping on Mary Sues for Me".
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:56 pm

Haha, I hear ya. I mean I will still rip on the real extreme ones but most of them I just sorta let be. Like if there were women on the bridge of Star Trek TOS who had as much screen time and significance and Spock/Kirk/Bones there prolly would not have been so many Sue-fics in the first damn place. I am kinda surprised I did not realize that sooner.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Fri Mar 07, 2014 3:26 pm

I'm not falling for someone's tumblr Mary Sue apologia. Canon characters like Richard Rahl get plenty of deserved scorn heaped upon them. If teen girls and others want to write no-holds-barred fantasies of power, sexual attractiveness, and hot boyfriends, they are free to do so, but shouldn't confuse such stories with good literature and inflict them on the rest of the Internet. They also shouldn't demand that such stories should be automatically called feminist, even if the author feels empowered by imagining herself snagging a high-status guy. Bella Swan isn't remotely feminist.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:09 pm

Nerdanel wrote:
I'm not falling for someone's tumblr Mary Sue apologia.
LOL. Maybe you should try reading the post properly, since you seem to know which post I'm referencing.

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Canon characters like Richard Rahl get plenty of deserved scorn heaped upon them.
Psst, the example in the "tumblr apologia" was Batman.

And I seem to remember a lot of people on this site carefully explaining to me why the super-special wolves each of not!Boromir's children have as pets in Game of Thrones are IMPORTANT and MEANINGFUL unlike a Mary Sue's fantastical/near-extinct pet.

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If teen girls and others want to write no-holds-barred fantasies of power, sexual attractiveness, and hot boyfriends, they are free to do so,
How magnanimous of you to grant them your permission to fandom the way they want to fandom.

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but shouldn't confuse such stories with good literature
I keep forgetting that Nerdanel had l337 writing skills from the age of eight, had a refined taste in literature from the age of nine, and never went through the same Mary Sue phase as the rest of us proles.

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and inflict them on the rest of the Internet.
OH GOD THEY'RE JUST FORCING YOU TO READ THEM, TOO.

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They also shouldn't demand that such stories should be automatically called feminist, even if the author feels empowered by imagining herself snagging a high-status guy. Bella Swan isn't remotely feminist.
How does this relate to what I said? Did I mention Bella Swan? Are you even forming a cogent argument or is it all starting to crumble away?

By the way, what the fuck kind of point are you trying to make with your signature, exactly?
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:23 am

There's nothing Mary Sues could have ruined for me that tvtropes didn't do a better job of ruinin'

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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:51 am

Evanescence. I used to like them, but Suethors have forced me to see them as a cheesy Mary Sue band!!

Especially the song "Bring Me to Life" - nowhere near their best, but by far their most well known - it has actually become my least favourite song of theirs.

Also, for the record, there are plenty of canon characters of both genders who more than qualify (namely every single R.A. Salvatore character ever written).
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:18 am

Cyberwulf wrote:
Nerdanel wrote:
I'm not falling for someone's tumblr Mary Sue apologia.
LOL. Maybe you should try reading the post properly, since you seem to know which post I'm referencing.

It's been a few years since I read that tumblr post. I don't have it bookmarked.

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Canon characters like Richard Rahl get plenty of deserved scorn heaped upon them.
Psst, the example in the "tumblr apologia" was Batman.

Do you know what Richard Rahl from the Sword of Truth series is like? He's the definitive example of a male Canon Sue, and that's why I mentioned him. He also has a big and deserved hatedom.

As for Batman, I'm not particularly into superheroes. I did read The Dark Knight Returns though, and based on that Batman definitely isn't a Mary Sue. I'm aware that a lot of people have been writing him with many different interpretations, so it's not surprising if some of those interpretations were written badly.

The most prominent Mary Sue litmus test seems to have vanished from the Internet, so I can't plug various characters into it. Anyway, I've noticed that it's quite flawed. For example, it gives points for certain plot happenstances, which means that the longer something goes on, the higher the characters in it tend to rate, and certain settings like high school almost automatically give extra points. I also think the test doesn't give proper attention to the various possible de-Suefiers. You can't blindly trust these tests to say that, for example, Batman is a Mary Sue.

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And I seem to remember a lot of people on this site carefully explaining to me why the super-special wolves each of not!Boromir's children have as pets in Game of Thrones are IMPORTANT and MEANINGFUL unlike a Mary Sue's fantastical/near-extinct pet.

I don't even like Game of Thrones, but I've read the first book, and I remember that the direwolves weren't actually all that important to the plot in the greater scheme of things and were ignored a lot, and anyway, a whole bunch of siblings had them initially before they started dying, so the wolves weren't that unique. I think their real function was more like Sansa's wolf dies = symbolism! rather than Sansa has a wolf = awesome!

But no one is denying that there are Canon Sues. Like Richard Rahl.

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If teen girls and others want to write no-holds-barred fantasies of power, sexual attractiveness, and hot boyfriends, they are free to do so,
How magnanimous of you to grant them your permission to fandom the way they want to fandom.

I'm not giving a permission. I'm just stating a fact.

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but shouldn't confuse such stories with good literature
I keep forgetting that Nerdanel had l337 writing skills from the age of eight, had a refined taste in literature from the age of nine, and never went through the same Mary Sue phase as the rest of us proles.

I won't deny that I liked Enid Blyton when I was eight or so, and that stuff turned out to age really badly. I liked Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings when I was 12. I liked Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis & Hickman at around the same time. I won't claim I wrote like an adult as a preteen.

But I really never went through a Mary Sue phase. My early writings were more of the "Characterization? What characterization?" type. They were also quite short and independent of each other. Later on I started having something more like actual characters, including several powerful characters, but I also gave them genuine flaws. Really. But all of this is off-topic.

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and inflict them on the rest of the Internet.
OH GOD THEY'RE JUST FORCING YOU TO READ THEM, TOO.

Me != the Internet. I'm not claiming that they're forcing my grandfather, who uses the Internet solely for paying bills online and who doesn't speak English, to read those fics either, just so that you know. What the authors are doing, however, is making the actual good fanfic harder to find. I need to go through numerous terrible summaries to find something worth looking at. Well, at least some of the fics are "special" enough to provide material worthy of a good sporking...

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They also shouldn't demand that such stories should be automatically called feminist, even if the author feels empowered by imagining herself snagging a high-status guy. Bella Swan isn't remotely feminist.
How does this relate to what I said? Did I mention Bella Swan? Are you even forming a cogent argument or is it all starting to crumble away?

If I recall correctly, the author of the original tumblr post was talking about female empowerment as an all-enveloping excuse for Mary Sues. My point was that many Mary Sues are regressive and do not truly empower women but instead reinforce negative cultural constructs. You cannot justify those kinds of characters with appeals to feminism. Bella from Twilight is a prime example of a Canon Sue like that.

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By the way, what the fuck kind of point are you trying to make with your signature, exactly?

That guy is someone I've been thinking about featuring on this site one of these days. Maybe that quote was too subtle, and I should find something even more blatantly insane from him.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Sun Mar 09, 2014 7:13 am

Nerdanel wrote:
As for Batman, I'm not particularly into superheroes. I did read The Dark Knight Returns though, and based on that Batman definitely isn't a Mary Sue. I'm aware that a lot of people have been writing him with many different interpretations, so it's not surprising if some of those interpretations were written badly.
BAHAHAHAHAHAHA ONE BOOK

ONE BOOK YOU'RE JUDGING HIM BY

OUT OF SEVERAL BOOKS, ABOUT FIVE CARTOONS, ONE LIVE-ACTION TV SHOW AND EIGHT MOVIES

but yeah i'm sure frank miller is the one who knows batman the bestest and everyone else just writes him badly

Nerdanel wrote:
You can't blindly trust these tests to say that, for example, Batman is a Mary Sue.

There was no litmus test. Check it:

adventuresofcomicbookgirl wrote:
So, there’s this girl. She’s tragically orphaned and richer than anyone on the planet. Every guy she meets falls in love with her, but in between torrid romances she rejects them all because she dedicated to what is Pure and Good. She has genius level intellect, Olympic-athelete level athletic ability and incredible good looks. She is consumed by terrible angst, but this only makes guys want her more. She has no superhuman abilities, yet she is more competent than her superhuman friends and defeats superhumans with ease. She has unshakably loyal friends and allies, despite the fact she treats them pretty badly. They fear and respect her, and defer to her orders. Everyone is obsessed with her, even her enemies are attracted to her. She can plan ahead for anything and she’s generally right with any conclusion she makes. People who defy her are inevitably wrong.

God, what a Mary Sue.

I just described Batman.

You don't know Batman, fair enough (my Superman knowledge is severely lacking), but all of that is actually true.

Nerdanel wrote:
What the authors are doing, however, is making the actual good fanfic harder to find.
Let's leave aside the fact that 90% of almost everything is mediocre. If it was as easy to slap together a movie or TV show as it is to throw some words together and post it online, there'd be a lot more crap on TV and in cinemas. (Alternatively, see YouTube.) How do you think fanfic authors actually get good at writing? Maybe a tiny percent of them are naturally talented. The only way to get good is to practice, to get constructive feedback, to hang out with other authors and learn from them. The best place to get all those things, if you're writing fanfiction, is the internet. Sorry that makes the good stuff harder for you to find, but if all the teenagers writing mediocre Mary Sue-fic were hounded off the internet, in a few years' time there'd be no new good fanfic authors.

Nerdanel wrote:
If I recall correctly, the author of the original tumblr post was talking about female empowerment as an all-enveloping excuse for Mary Sues.
No, the author was pointing out that in many cases, the Mary Sue's supposed sins/failings are routinely excused in a canon male hero, and that it's rather troubling that it's acceptable to shit on the power fantasies of teenage girls while the power fantasies of nerdy guys (e.g. SPIDERMAN) end up beloved heroes.

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My point was that many Mary Sues are regressive and do not truly empower women but instead reinforce negative cultural constructs. You cannot justify those kinds of characters with appeals to feminism. Bella from Twilight is a prime example of a Canon Sue like that.
It's funny you should say that, because here's what the post has to say about Bella:

adventuresofcomicbookgirl wrote:
[...]Bella Swan is one of the only characters I’d even begin to classify as a Mary Sue, yet it’s not really her supposed Mary Sue traits that bother me. I don’t mind that she gets what she wants and everyone loves her, that she’s Meyer’s power fantasy. What I actually mind is that Stephenie Meyer has her perpetuate harmful anti-woman stereotypes- women need to be protected, women are shallow, women’s worth rests in desirability. That’s what’s actually harmful about her and worth discussing.

And I'll add this - Twilight isn't a steaming pile of toxic antifeminism because Bella Swan is a Mary Sue with no flaws and all the boys fight over her because she's so special. It's because the men in her life stalk her, abuse her, assault her, and make decisions over her head "for her own good". This is packaged as True Love (tm) and marketed to...teenage girls. And then we shit on them some more for writing similar characters in fanfiction.

If teenage girls write female characters as weepy damsels in distress, that's our fault. That's the fault of every scriptwriter and author who can't write well-rounded female characters and opts to use a bunch of lazy stereotypes instead. And if they go in the other direction and write power fantasies, who can blame them? There aren't a huge amount of Xenas, Wonder Women, Major Kusanagis and Katniss Everdeens out there.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Sun Mar 09, 2014 5:19 pm

The only thing that really makes a Mary Sue is whether or not the plot and other characters simply don't matter in the face of how awesome/angsty/whatever the protagonist is.

The Mary Sue calculator site was a piece of shit because it relied entirely on tropes that have little or no bearing on whether or not a character is a Sue. If you had a side character that had a dog that would fetch beers from the fridge for him, the thing would scream Bloody Sue. Like, wasn't the lowest score value something like "Not a Sue, but needs to be toned down a bit"?

You're better off just relying on someone who reads it and says "Nope. No sir, I don't like it."

The thing is, that calculator was a reflection of bad habits we'd all gotten from reacting to Sue fics. Instead of looking at what really makes a Sue, i.e. does the presence of this character break the story so it's all about how awesome or pitiable they are, wasting everyone's time in the process?

Because if you go strictly off of a few details that "ring the Sue alarm" sooner or later you're going to wind up calling bullshit on an event in story and someone will be able to step up and say "No, actually, I've done that before."

I think the community's general response has led to interpreting more and more things that can be really cool, or fairly harmless and still somewhat-grounded wish fulfillment fantasies, as the truly godawful shit that made a Sue.

Kinda like how before long, everything was EYEBLEACH BRAIN BLEACH MY CHILDHOOD OH NOES and people had to reach harder and harder to justify a fic as truly "godawful" instead of "just mundane crap."
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:01 pm

Cyberwulf wrote:
BAHAHAHAHAHAHA

That's some stellar argumentation there.

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ONE BOOK

ONE BOOK YOU'RE JUDGING HIM BY

OUT OF SEVERAL BOOKS, ABOUT FIVE CARTOONS, ONE LIVE-ACTION TV SHOW AND EIGHT MOVIES

but yeah i'm sure frank miller is the one who knows batman the bestest and everyone else just writes him badly

I never said that my exposure to Batman was just that one thing. That was an example. As an another example, I don't think Batman was a Mary Sue in the live-action TV series either, based on the episodes I've seen. People on D&D forums have been arguing about Batman's alignment, and apparently he can Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, or Chaotic Evil depending on the story and who is writing him. I think the final consensus was that any alignment is valid for him. There isn't just one Batman, and that's not just my opinion.

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adventuresofcomicbookgirl wrote:
I just described Batman.

You don't know Batman, fair enough (my Superman knowledge is severely lacking), but all of that is actually true.

Slanted descriptions are easy. I think I could write a pretty decent (if highly misleading) argument to show that Donald Duck is a Mary Sue. That kind of thing is even worse than a litmus test that at least tries to be objective.

Anyway, characters in original works have a lot more leeway on Mary Sue traits than fanfic characters. For example, Reinhard von Lohengramm (from Legend of the Galactic Heroes) has rather strong Mary Sue traits, but his character works in the story he's in. In an epic narrative about great historical events, it makes sense to focus on the exceptional characters who shape the history. Now, if you were to add in a fanfic Reinhard's little sister (or little brother) who is just as (or even more) formidable in the things he's good at plus some extra coolness to make her special and have Reinhard defer to the character, you would quickly reach an unbearable territory. Your original character would deform the story to the point where the dynamics are just too different for the fans of the original who generally don't want to see their favorite former main characters becoming some new character's fawning support cast.

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How do you think fanfic authors actually get good at writing? Maybe a tiny percent of them are naturally talented. The only way to get good is to practice, to get constructive feedback, to hang out with other authors and learn from them. The best place to get all those things, if you're writing fanfiction, is the internet. Sorry that makes the good stuff harder for you to find, but if all the teenagers writing mediocre Mary Sue-fic were hounded off the internet, in a few years' time there'd be no new good fanfic authors.

If you think being called off for writing Mary Sues equates being "hounded off the internet", I get the impression that you don't actually like constructive feedback.

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No, the author was pointing out that in many cases, the Mary Sue's supposed sins/failings are routinely excused in a canon male hero, and that it's rather troubling that it's acceptable to shit on the power fantasies of teenage girls while the power fantasies of nerdy guys (e.g. SPIDERMAN) end up beloved heroes.

The key word in the above: canon. Canon characters are those who define the power level of the setting. It's fine to write stories in which the main characters are very powerful on our terms. They just need to face challenges able to challenge them.

By the way, numerous canon characters could be total Mary Sues if they were transplanted to other works. Even a relatively weak superhero or Tolkien Elf could completely dominate a mundane high school setting, and so on.

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It's funny you should say that, because here's what the post has to say about Bella:

adventuresofcomicbookgirl wrote:
[...]Bella Swan is one of the only characters I’d even begin to classify as a Mary Sue, yet it’s not really her supposed Mary Sue traits that bother me. I don’t mind that she gets what she wants and everyone loves her, that she’s Meyer’s power fantasy. What I actually mind is that Stephenie Meyer has her perpetuate harmful anti-woman stereotypes- women need to be protected, women are shallow, women’s worth rests in desirability. That’s what’s actually harmful about her and worth discussing.

And I'll add this - Twilight isn't a steaming pile of toxic antifeminism because Bella Swan is a Mary Sue with no flaws and all the boys fight over her because she's so special. It's because the men in her life stalk her, abuse her, assault her, and make decisions over her head "for her own good". This is packaged as True Love (tm) and marketed to...teenage girls. And then we shit on them some more for writing similar characters in fanfiction.

I mentioned Bella to show that by defending Mary Sues you are not only defending purple-haired half-fey half-god sorceresses who are the Chosen Ones destined to save the world and upstage the original main characters, but also indescribably beautiful princesses with multi-hued irises who wear long silk gowns studded with diamonds, have flowing hair to their ankles, and make every male in the story fall in love with their fragile perfection. Okay, so you don't see anything wrong with either as long as the male love interests don't get too unlikable. I don't share that opinion. In particular, I happen to think all that argumentation about feminism and power fantasies cannot remotely support the second and quite widespread type, making that tactic of defending Mary Sues as a group unworkable.

To be more exact, I don't think the second type even counts as a power fantasy. Romance doesn't equal power. Getting repeatedly rescued by people with genuine power doesn't equal power. People wanting an outlet for their power fantasies write about the hero (or at least the villain) and not about the hero's sidekick or the hero's dearly beloved (yet mundane) grandmother. You can write a power fantasy about the hero's OC girlfriend, but in that case the girlfriend needs to be powerful in her own right, preferably even more powerful than the hero.

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If teenage girls write female characters as weepy damsels in distress, that's our fault. That's the fault of every scriptwriter and author who can't write well-rounded female characters and opts to use a bunch of lazy stereotypes instead. And if they go in the other direction and write power fantasies, who can blame them? There aren't a huge amount of Xenas, Wonder Women, Major Kusanagis and Katniss Everdeens out there.

I think there is quite a bit of that sort being produced nowadays, actually. Anyway, even bad authors should even try to strive for something better in plot and characterization.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Tue Mar 11, 2014 3:57 am

Nerdanel wrote:


Anyway, characters in original works have a lot more leeway on Mary Sue traits than fanfic characters.

That's definitely true. We do tend to allow the original works more leeway. Just look at Drizzt from the Forgotten Realms books...he's the most perfect, awesome and infallible character ever written! His only flaw is the fact that he's a dark elf, and this isn't really a flaw for two reasons: 1) it's not his fault (it's everyone else's fault for being judgemental of him - when he belongs to a race that is known for being evil and killing people for fun using such tactics as deception), and 2) it just serves to pile on the angst, making him even more awesome as a character. I've actually gone off Salvatore's works because of this.

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Canon characters are those who define the power level of the setting. It's fine to write stories in which the main characters are very powerful on our terms. They just need to face challenges able to challenge them.

Agree with this too. Having magical powers isn't a Sue/Stu trait in a world where everyone else has access to the same powers. It's only Sue/Stu-ish if you have better powers than everyone else, but haven't earned those powers, or taken on a significant flaw in order to have them.

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By the way, numerous canon characters could be total Mary Sues if they were transplanted to other works. Even a relatively weak superhero or Tolkien Elf could completely dominate a mundane high school setting, and so on.

That's why, in my opinion, crossovers tend to not work...you're trying to blend two power levels that aren't necessarily compatible. If you were to mix Lord of the Rings with Harry Potter, for example, the children would shit all over Gandalf, whose powers are a lot more subtle - yet he's one of the most powerful beings in the Tolkien world! (although, to be fair, we don't know his full power because according to the book, we are only allowed to see his jokes). We also can't mix anime characters in Lord of the Rings, because they tend to be capable of fighting styles that would totally destroy Boromir, who is supposed to be one of the best swordsmen around in the 3rd Age. I'm not saying crossovers never work, but the power disparity between the universes tend to make things awkward.

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I mentioned Bella to show that by defending Mary Sues you are not only defending purple-haired half-fey half-god sorceresses who are the Chosen Ones destined to save the world and upstage the original main characters, but also indescribably beautiful princesses with multi-hued irises who wear long silk gowns studded with diamonds, have flowing hair to their ankles, and make every male in the story fall in love with their fragile perfection.

I dunno...is being beautiful, having long hair, and wearing fancy gowns, enough, in itself, to qualify for Sue-ism? Maybe the author just wants to write a story about an incredibly beautiful character. I'd only say it was Sue-ish if characters fall in love with her that wouldn't normally fall in love with anyone, or are already in love with somebody else, or if she has access to any skills or powers that she won't have earned - let's face it, being that beautiful, she won't ever have to do so much as an hour of hard work in her entire life, so there's no way she's going to earn any significant skills or powers.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Tue Mar 11, 2014 5:01 am

Something I wrote long ago that applies to this discussion...

"Mary Sue" by Ghost in the Machine

Another essay of questionable value by little ol' me. (I will be concentrating on the female of the species, but a good chunk of this applies to Gary Stus too.)

-----

Many moons ago, I wrote a few essays on bad fanfiction and what could be done about it. But I specifically did not deal with the concept of Mary Sues. I think it had something to do with the fact that I couldn't pin down what I hated most about her. Was it that her beauty was so shoved down everyone's throat? Was it her limitless skill in any talent that she needed to have in order to show up someone else? Was it her ability to solve every problem? Her total inability to be wrong? It wasn't her ability to die a tragic death, that didn't bother me much.

Of course, this essay wouldn't exist unless I'd had some epiphany about the concept, so here it is: Mary Sue gets away with stuff that no other character can.

Whether it's having long flowing locks that never tangle, the biggest can of whupass in existence, or the ability to rearrange canon relationships with the bat of an eye, Mary Sues do, usually with ease, that which the author would never allow other characters to do. (I realize that is a run-on sentence, but I think it works anyway.)

What I like most about this definition is that it's flexible. A character doesn't have to be a self insert or even an original character to qualify. Any character that is blatantly and ridiculously favored by the author (fanfic or pro, doesn't matter) can properly be labeled as a Mary Sue. What do I mean by blatant? Well, you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

Let's start with the most common Sue trait: unearthly beauty. Many a Sue has form and figure so perfect that men fall about her feet like rose petals and women have no recourse but to become shrewish harpies in response. Her long flowing locks never tangle, apparently being made out of Teflon®. Her eye color changes with her emotional state. Her breasts defy gravity and never, ever lead to nagging back problems. The clothes she wears, no matter how impractical for the task/environment at hand, always show her in her best light. How is this blatant favoritism? 'Cause it's crap.

Let us take these in order...

Many authors make their Sue astonishingly beautiful. A good chunk of this is wish fulfillment: The Sue looks how the author wishes they looked. In the case of a male author, the Sue mirrors the author's personal preference. Another large part of it is to have their character stand out from the crowd. In some genres, this leads to odd hair and eye colors. In others, a merely 'exotic' appearance will suffice and may provide clues to the Sue's special abilities. In and of itself, this isn't much of a problem. It's when every other character notices said appearance that there's trouble. When they alter their behavior in response to the character's beauty, it's a flare lit tipoff that you're dealing with a Sue.

A normal woman running through the forest primeval with unbound waist length hair will soon find burrs in it, assuming it doesn't get caught on a tree branch and bring her to a quick and painful halt. Long hair can be grabbed by an enemy and used to restrain, injure or even kill someone via strangulation. However, part of being a Sue is that her enemies are too stupid to attack such an obvious target. Or if they aren't, they soon become so as a Sue tends to lower the IQ of those around her in order to demonstrate her superior problem solving skills.

Eyes that change color with the character's emotions are another sure indicator that the character in question is a Sue. But only if it's in response to an emotional shift and not for some other reason. My eyes appear to change colors under different lighting conditions. I've got one character who routinely wears colored contacts. I can see an emotional upset causing the pupil to expand or contract, thus leading to a slight apparent change in eye color. If a character is a mutant, vampire, or other not-strictly human type, a change in eye-color, even if related to emotional states, may be considered acceptable, if annoying. But for a normal human's eyes to go from sky blue to emerald green because she's in love or sea green to bright red because she's angry is simply a dead giveaway of Mary Sue status.

Next up: Big Boobs. I'm a guy, so it's hard to deal with the concept of unnaturally large breasts without being sexist. Ah, to heck with it, I can be sexist for awhile. It won't hurt me any. Those who are excessively politically correct might want to skip down a bit, this could take a while.

Mary Sues tend to be in great physical condition and possess giant hooters. These two things do not naturally go together. Bras that provide enough support to large breasts are difficult or impossible to find. (In certain fandoms, bras shouldn't/don't exist.) Large breasts make jogging or running painful. (When was the last time you saw a female triathlete with big boobs?) While there are other, low impact, forms of exercise available, the Sue is seldom seen partaking of them, or indeed of any physical training at all. But they're still strong enough to swing a fifty pound greatsword with consummate ease and their double (or higher) D's never interfere with their incredible combat prowess. In real life, the damn things get in the way occasionally. But on the plus side, hypertrophic breasts make nice flotation devices if the Sue is swept overboard in a storm.

Now onto the social side... Ask any woman who actually has oversized breasts about the problems that come with them. Many men (and some women) think women with large breasts are morons and/or 'easy'. Stereotypes run wild and I will admit that I can be distracted by a nice rack. (Shame on me I know, but I did warn you in advance.) Still, one of the reasons why people have breast reduction surgery is to reduce or eliminate the negative social consequences of excessively large breasts. It isn't just the discomfort. The problem with the Sue's large breasts is the social consequences for her seem to be either nonexistent or strictly in her favor. Whether to gain the attention of Mary Sue's future love, or to clear the path by making any competing female insane with jealousy, they always work to her advantage, as do many other Sueish traits.

Clothing: Many authors use clothing to make their characters stand out from the crowd. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Superheroes wear costumes, most of which tend to be skin tight and very colorful. It's part of the genre. The problem with Sue clothing is that is described in excessive detail and is seldom appropriate for the setting in which it appears. Long, flowing, white dresses with low cut bodices are impractical for running through the swamp when you are being chased by ferocious lizard men. Spike heels aren't meant to be run in, no matter how often you see it in the movies. Exposed skin in the wilderness draws bug bites. The description of an outfit should not be longer than the rest of the chapter the description appears in.

"But it's a sign of her rebelliousness!" the author replies when questioned about an 'odd' choice in clothing. (For some reason, that brings to mind the quote: "Let's all be different, just like me." Unfortunately, a discussion of that quote isn't appropriate here.) Be that as it may, it's still an indicator as Sues are frequently rebellious, rules don't apply to them and they may flout authority without risk. (Just a little example of the 'blatant favoritism' thing I mentioned earlier.) If the dress code is 'business professional', someone dressed in a halter top and low rise jeans isn't going to garner a favorable impression. Yet such an outfit might be perfectly acceptable if the character is out clubbing. When the clothing is clearly inappropriate for the setting, and there are no negative consequences because of it, that's when clothing makes the Sue.

Incredible beauty isn't the only thing that can make a character a Mary Sue, even it's their most common trait. Personally, I find a character possessing uber-leet mad skillz just as annoying and just as clear an indicator of Mary Sue status. I have nothing against a character being skilled in some area. Or skilled in multiple areas. Or even having a knack for something and being better at it than their background and training would suggest. But when a character does everything better than everyone else, they are a Sue.

I read a lot of comic books. I've played a lot of superhero RPGs (pencil and paper, not the online stuff) in my day. I've got stories with superhuman characters here and on ff dot net. (Rasser frassing auto deletion of anything that looks like a web address.) I'm used to characters having abilities and skills beyond those of mortal men. But I can still spot a talent-Sue pretty quickly. It's easy because their list of talents is never-ending, or at least extremely implausible.

Proficient in six forms of martial arts, fluent in half a dozen languages, a crack shot with anything from a pea shooter to a rocket launcher, an expert fencer who plays half a dozen musical instruments, they've built their own computer, their own car, and their own multi-million dollar corporation... By age 12.

Thing is, if the character were 35, or even 30, I wouldn't bitch. Once you've mastered one form of martial arts, picking up additional ones isn't too hard. Accuracy with one weapon can be expected to carry over to others, although the people who really can shoot 'any gun, any time' are rare. Friend of mine from high school spoke four languages fluently by age 16 and could get by in at least half a dozen more. She played piano too. (And was blind, but that's not important.)

The problem is, it takes time to develop skills, learn languages, build things, etc. More time than a 12 year old is going to have had available. But just as, or perhaps even more, important is the favoritism shown by the author for the character's skills. Nobody is allowed to out skill the Sue in something the Sue is good at. Ever. She's not just a martial artist, she's the best martial artist in the story. Not just a musician, but a virtuoso whose skill can melt the hardest heart. Angels cannot sing nearly as well as the Sue and no language, no matter how obscure, provides a barrier to communication. (Because if someone doesn't know how special the Sue is, a way must be found to inform them of this fact immediately.)

Separate, but still related to the talent-Sue is the power-Sue. Power is a relative, not an absolute term. Moderate power in one setting might be too much in another and barely noticeable in a third. (Example: Spiderman is too powerful to exist in a real world setting, but barely a blip on the power radar in Dragonball Z.) So a power-Sue has to be judged not on her abilities, but how those abilities stack up to those belonging to other people in the universe she's in. A character with an ability no else has, when that ability allows them to defeat everyone else, is a Sue. If it's an ability that other characters possess, but hers is clearly strongest, that's Sueish, but not a dead giveaway.

And just to be clear, it doesn't have to be a 'super power' in order to make someone a power-Sue. Having a magic weapon, in a world where there is no magic, can make a character a power-Sue just as much as being able to bench ten tons when everyone else has human strength levels.

The final major area where Sueism can be apparent is in interpersonal relationships. If people don't act like themselves when the character is around, odds are she's a Sue. Mary Sue's mere presence can warp personalities to extents that are difficult to comprehend. (Because the author blatantly favors her, not because of any intrinsic interpersonal skills.)

Mary Sue can break any rule. Authority figures just love her spunk, even though anyone else who did the same thing would be punished. Or the ends somehow justify the means. Or the rule is simply a bad one and it takes the Sue breaking it to make that obvious to everyone. (Actually, I kind of like the last one, but I thought I should mention it anyway.)

Mary Sue can get any guy. Beauty alone is normally enough to ensure this, but if not, it may be done by authorial fiat. Previously existing relationships can be dealt with in a variety of ways. One: In response to the Sue's beauty and charm, the existing partner becomes a shrew and the guy in question breaks up with them. Two: The interfering party is hooked up with someone else, occasionally someone 'better for them', but normally with the first person that wanders by, regardless of their sexual orientation. Three: By stepping aside voluntarily once they see that the Sue and their boyfriend make a perfect couple. Four: By not being in the story in the first place, leaving a vacuum for the Sue to step into. There are other methods, but they're not really Sueish methods so we can skip them.

Mary Sue can solve any problem, personal or otherwise. Because Mary Sue is never, ever, wrong about anything, the solutions she comes up with always work. Her ability to warp others' personalities makes certain that no one ever questions or objects to these solutions either. It doesn't matter if her tactics amount to bullying, blackmail or fraud either, because since she's one of the good guys, everything she does must be good. Yes, there was an element of circular reasoning in there, nice of you to notice.

So far, this essay has concentrated on the characteristics of a Mary Sue and how to know one when you see one. Now, it's time to work on what comes next.

If your reading a story with a Mary Sue in it, ask yourself this question: Is the Sue affecting your enjoyment of the story? If the answer is 'no', then you've got nothing to worry about. Carry on. If your answer is 'yes', then you need to make a decision. You can drop the story, which is the easiest thing. You can continue reading, but with a jaundiced eye toward the Sue and what she does. You can call the author on the Sueish behavior of the character in a review. This can be cathartic, if not always helpful. The author is under no obligation to rework a character simply because you object. (See my other essays for reviewing tips. This concludes the blatant plug section of this essay.) But whatever you do, don't have a conniption fit over it. Your cardiovascular system will thank you in the long run.

If you're the author... you may have a problem. A Mary-Sue can work as a character, but I find they work better as an antagonist than as a protagonist. My short definition of the two terms is that a protagonist, the reader wants to see succeed against the plot problems in a story while an antagonist, the reader wants to see thrown into an active volcano. Doesn't mean they're not interesting characters, just not very sympathetic ones.

I'm not going to go into methods of how to de-Sue a character. Mostly because there aren't any good ways to do so. A beautiful character isn't likely to become ugly. If this happens anyway through some disfiguring accident, they become figures of pity and that can be Sueish in its own right as everyone feels so sorry for her about the tragedy. A highly skilled character is unlikely to forget those skills, although they can become rusty from disuse. A powerful character, if they lose their power, should be attacked/killed by their enemies as paybacks are a bitch. As to an infallible character suddenly losing that infallibility... I got nothing 'cause I can't imagine that ever happening.

As an author, your best bet is to not write the Sue in the first place. Some folks insist this can be done by giving a character flaws. I don't agree. Some flaws... aren't. 'Caring too much' isn't a flaw. 'Can't hold her liquor' isn't a flaw in a story where nobody drinks. 'Use of this ability will injure and possibly kill the character' can be a flaw, if use of the ability is integral to the plot. But like I said, I don't see the need for characters to have flaws.

Far better, if not always easier, to write them as balanced characters in the first place. If they excel in one area, they should be weak in others. Spending a childhood in intense physical training leaves little time for social development. If social development is tended to, perhaps their academics are weak. If that's good too, then tone down the physical training because there's simply not enough time to do that and everything else.

A beautiful (or clever) girl probably doesn't fight people herself, she has her boyfriend(s) handle that for her because she feels she is too important to risk. But just because a character is weak in an area, doesn't mean they should be completely helpless. If forced into a fight, the pretty girl should at least go down swinging, not simply stand there getting beat to death waiting for her knight in shining armor to arrive.

For new characters, skills and abilities should be on par with the existing cast. There might be things a new character does better, particularly if none of the existing cast is known for skill in that area, but if someone else is already considered 'the best' at something, they should probably remain so unless there is a good reason why they shouldn't. Example: Ranma 1/2 features insanely powerful martial artists. A new character might easily be academically superior to the existing cast as they aren't really known for book smarts. But having someone in his age group be a better fighter than Ranma, without some form of 'cheating' involved, and without the intensive training Ranma has undergone, is probably not a good idea. (Unless, as mentioned earlier, the character is an antagonist and not a protagonist.)

For existing characters, writing them in character prevents most problems right there. A strong character goes through obstacles, a smart character thinks his way around them and so on. Explaining and/or showing the development of new abilities does wonders too.

But the biggest thing, for new characters and existing characters, that an author can do to avoid Mary Sueism is this: Have the consequences to what the character does make sense. Break a rule without good cause, get busted for it. Pick a fight with a superior opponent, lose. Steal someone's boyfriend, make an enemy. Show someone up in a way that makes them look real bad, make an enemy. Beat someone up, make an enemy. Betray a trust, never be trusted again (and make an enemy).

I'll admit that you can bend the guidelines in the previous paragraph quite a bit in comedy. Getting an unexpected result can be funny. But for more serious work, solid links between actions and their consequences are vital. Start as you mean to continue because when you start from a solid base, you can do just about anything. That includes avoiding the perils of Mary Sue.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:21 am

Good essay, and spot on in many ways.

A few comments:

Ghost in the Machine wrote:
A normal woman running through the forest primeval with unbound waist length hair will soon find burrs in it, assuming it doesn't get caught on a tree branch and bring her to a quick and painful halt.
I've had waist length hair many times in my life, and roamed through many wild areas, but I can't say I ever got burrs in my hair or got it caught on a branch. What did happen, however, was that my unbound waist-length hair felt like a wool blanket, and in hot weather, that is pure misery, giving me a boundless desire to either put it up or chop it off.

Quote :
Next up: Big Boobs.  I'm a guy, so it's hard to deal with the concept of unnaturally large breasts without being sexist.  Ah, to heck with it, I can be sexist for awhile.  It won't hurt me any.  Those who are excessively politically correct might want to skip down a bit, this could take a while.  

Mary Sues tend to be in great physical condition and possess giant hooters.  These two things do not naturally go together.  Bras that provide enough support to large breasts are difficult or impossible to find.  (In certain fandoms, bras shouldn't/don't exist.)  Large breasts make jogging or running painful.  (When was the last time you saw a female triathlete with big boobs?)  While there are other, low impact, forms of exercise available, the Sue is seldom seen partaking of them, or indeed of any physical training at all.  But they're still strong enough to swing a fifty pound greatsword with consummate ease and their double (or higher) D's never interfere with their incredible combat prowess.  In real life, the damn things get in the way occasionally.  But on the plus side, hypertrophic breasts make nice flotation devices if the Sue is swept overboard in a storm.

Now onto the social side... Ask any woman who actually has oversized breasts about the problems that come with them. Many men (and some women) think women with large breasts are morons and/or 'easy'. Stereotypes run wild and I will admit that I can be distracted by a nice rack. (Shame on me I know, but I did warn you in advance.) Still, one of the reasons why people have breast reduction surgery is to reduce or eliminate the negative social consequences of excessively large breasts. It isn't just the discomfort. The problem with the Sue's large breasts is the social consequences for her seem to be either nonexistent or strictly in her favor. Whether to gain the attention of Mary Sue's future love, or to clear the path by making any competing female insane with jealousy, they always work to her advantage, as do many other Sueish traits.
As a female with large breasts (DD), I agree with a lot of this. Running and jumping can be painful without a very supportive bra, and while those are not impossible to find, they're not easy to obtain, either. It is possible to be in great physical condition, but a lot of exercises are made difficult by large breasts, and they do get in the way sometimes (and forget about wearing a cute little halter top or dress that ties with strings--the weight of those breasts will make the strings cut into your neck). They also make button-front shirts gape. Breasts are mostly fat, and they can be really heavy (I know a woman who had a double mastectomy to treat breast cancer, and she later joked about losing 40 pounds in 8 hours). Large breasts also do, in fact, make good flotation devices--I go to water aerobics in the summer, and when trying to work out in shoulder deep water, I have trouble staying on the pool floor and have to move to more shallow water. I can't say I've ever had any desire to make them look smaller or get them reduced, though--I'm comfortable with my body, and what other people think is irrelevant.

Still ... yeah, many of the physical traits writers want their special female character to possess can get in the way of the things they want them to do or the clothes they want them to wear, and the sheer unreality can pull you out of the story.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:52 am

Penguin wrote:
I think the community's general response has led to interpreting more and more things that can be really cool, or fairly harmless and still somewhat-grounded wish fulfillment fantasies, as the truly godawful shit that made a Sue.
IAWTC.  Whether or not making fun of Sues is bad sorta depends on how you are defining Sues.  I think there is a lot of unfair shitting on teen girl wish fulfillment, much of which happens because 'official' stuff does not provide young girls with as much wish fulfillment as they provide young boys with.  That sucks.  When people are quick to throw the title Mary-Sue at every girl character who does anything interesting it smacks of sexism.  Sorta like how the second you put a black person in a thing some asshole is gonna call it tokenism, completely forgetting what the damn term even means.

IDK, I generally judge how much I like a given Batman story by how much of a Mary-Sue he is in the story itself.  It is one of the biggest problems with Batman stories really, authors who spend the whole story fellating the guy :\ And boy howdy are there like a million webcomics that I haaaate because they have some self-insert Mary-Sue dude who is a 'wacky' asshole who gets away with everything.  Like man, I do not want to read your masturbation fantasies just 'cause you put them to pictures, dude.  

Speaking personally, I do not really like any fanfiction that centers around OCs, but if people wanna write it than why the fuck should I care?  If I see OC in the tags I just don't read it.  Yes, there are times when 'don't like don't read' is applicable, 9 times outta 10 you know there is gonna be an OC going in, if you have little to no tolerance for them than just avoid them.

Anyway, I agree with Cy; it is shitty to ridicule teen girls for writing their own power fantasies when hella professional writers do it like all the time.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Wed Mar 12, 2014 6:35 am

The ability to read fic where OCs are in relationships with canon characters.

I read three and it got to the point where I found myself reflexively hitting the back button like I was the last person on Earth and it was the only way to bring everyone back.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:32 am

I think it's fine to write out your own fantasies, and publish them, no matter how shitty, AS LONG AS YOU DON'T EXPECT EVERYBODY ELSE TO LIKE THEM. It's freedom of speech, and you can have it, but we have it too.

I wrote an OC/Canon fic once. Lots of people liked it. But the more there are, the harder it is to find good ones.

The trouble is how they bring in these OCs. It's like they've always existed and we're meant to treat them as Canon. Or they just beam on in and we know ABSOLUTELY JACK SHIT about them, like, ever, except, perhaps, that they have wings.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:05 pm

Harley Quinn hyenaholic wrote:
, AS LONG AS YOU DON'T EXPECT EVERYBODY ELSE TO LIKE THEM.
Hahaha, yeah that too. Some people are crazy about their OCs. An understandable misstep for a 13-year-old, but it gets embarrassing when adults do it.
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PostSubject: Re: Things the Sues Have Ruined for You   Wed Mar 12, 2014 9:23 pm

If you're in a fandom that doesn't provide a lot of options for Romance due to a lack of canon ships, it can be a pain if you choose to write for other characters who don't have love interests. I think CC/OC romances can work as long as the OC has a purpose to exist as oppose to just existing to hook up with a CC.

I think the reason why a lot of people write CC/OC is so that they can leave their mark. Even if you were take a canon girl who was either a guest character or mention in passing and make her your own, she's still canon, so in some author minds, it's not really "their" story they're telling.
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