Mary Sues (or Gary Stu for the male version.) Is a character who is perfect.
Young and good looking but oh so humble to the point of a fault. They’re ordinary and unable to see why they’re special.
They’re wise beyond their years. also, so skilled in whatever fits in their story magic, fighting, driving, living etc.
they have no problem saving the day, and without even breaking a sweat. They even have time to solve their octagon shaped love life. But somehow, no one is upset or hurt with whoever they pick, because they’re so damn likable. and everyone rides off into the sunset together.
Meanwhile, us readers are not only bored to death but we came back as zombies just to roll our eyes.
Everyone has come across these kinds of characters whether it’s in fanfiction or even in Published books, movies and TV shows, even if you didn’t know that there was a term for it, either way you were probably so annoyed with the character it made you want to pull you hair out.
So today I’m going to show you how to make sure that your characters aren’t eye rolling worthy Mary Sues.
Give them real flaws.
We want them to be perfect, perfect means likable and awesome!
But Real people are very far from being perfect, people are so full of flaws and holes that they look like Swiss cheese.
I’m not saying to make them so flawed that they’re pathetic (unless that’s point of their arc and growth in which case Rock on.) but a couple of small flaws or even one big one can go a long way to making your characters feel real, likable and relatable.
Make then so prideful that they can’t admit when they’re wrong.
Make them so stubborn to the point that they think they can do anything.
Make them so detached from reality that they can’t see that their life is falling apart.
Have no fear and make your characters as flawed as you feel is necessarily.
The authors that write Mary Sues a lot of time give their Mary Sues ‘flaws.’ like clumsiness, -but only when not fighting and/or when it would be funny to be so ungraceful, –
A troubled childhood -didn’t know that was a character flaw but okay sure authors. –
And low ‘self-esteem.’ -well, a warped form of it where it’s closer to just normal humbleness. –
And sometimes they use all three so called flaws.
Characters like this are just flat, unoriginal and just plain boring making the readers end up feeling cheated. please for the love of God, don’t do this. You are much better at writing than to resort to this kind of awfulness.
So, spend some time figuring out who your characters are. all of the good, bad and the ugly part of who they are as a quote unquote person. This will go along to making your story as great as you know it can be.
Don’t make everyone like them.
We want everyone to like our characters, they’re our children, our babies and parents doesn’t like to hear when someone doesn’t like their kid.
But not everyone gets along with each other. Sometimes people rub us the wrong way, sometimes they clash with us and our ideals. Sometimes we don’t like a person for no reason other than the fact that we don’t.
It’s okay to have friends should a lot of affection towards the characters, or have the love interest think that they were a gift from the heavens.
but not every person that your character comes into contact with needs to like them and fall to their knees as they walk on by. and no, having the antagonist hate them doesn’t count.
authors that write this kind of characters, or even author that write well-rounded characters will add a scene (or even whole characters.) that are supposed to show off that not everyone like them and for me as a reader it has the opposite effect on me where I feel like the author is trying a little too hard to show us that people don’t always them.
So instead of making a big deal out of liking them, try making scenes that not only show off the likability (or unlikable in some cases.) of your characters, but have other driving point of your story in that scene as well.
Like In my current work in progress, the human endeavor, Isabel faces discrimination for being homeless.
but instead of that being the point of the scene, the point of the scenes is: we see the anger and sadness that Isabel feels at the world for how things ended up for her and the self-loathing that she feels toward herself for feeling anything at all and that she can’t control her emotions.
There’s also another scene where at this safe haven for homeless kids, everyone votes to kick Isabel out because of the looming threats from Gang kids all because of her.
And instead of it being a scene just showing that everyone has turned their backs and started hating her.
it’s about Isabel’s internal monologue about realizing that she can’t to runway from her problems anymore, because it was putting everyone she loved in danger. She either needed to grow up and face her fears or the people that she had grown to love was going to get hurt.
The result of this method is now having scenes that have a lot more depth to them, because we are moving forward with the plot but also showing how the characters interact with each other whether it’s a good or bad one.
Make them fail and fail a lot.
Your characters don’t have to be the end all be all. They don’t have to be one of a kind.
Yes, they are the hero. but that doesn’t mean that the world need to revolved around them and only them.
It’s easy to make the story feel like the main character is in the driver’s seat but it really shouldn’t be that way.
It should be that they’re behind the wheel of a burning car with no power steering. The story shouldn’t be led by the actions of the character but rather that your character’s actions should be led by the story. I feel like this is the number one mistake that new and old writers make.
Think about all that has happened in your life, now think about all the things that you were in control of it happening. Sure, your actions had consequences, life is made up of a snowball rolling down a hill.
But there probably was a lot of things that blindsided you, many things that I’m sure took you by surprise and you had to adapt to the new problems in front of you, which lead to you grow as a person and made you who you are now.
That being said. People fail all the time. We don’t always succeed in all of our endeavors. And book people should be no different. In fact, they should fail even more!
Their homework that makes it so they don’t fail the class should catch on fire for no reason.
they should bomb that big gig that was going to put them on the map.
They should throw up as they are giving that big speech.
A big trademark of Mary Sues is that they’re not challenged at all and it’s not exciting seeing someone breeze through without any conflict.
The point of a story is to watch as the characters grow into themselves and get to the point where they defend the dragon, win the duel against the evil wizard, pass the test, win the heart of the person they love, conquer their fears and the human doubt.
All of which, wouldn’t happen if they didn’t have anything stopping or tripping them along the way.
And your story end up being 300 or so pages of someone going three states over for a sandwich that was a room away.
People want to root for someone. They want to feel like when the character conquers something that it was a win for them too. They want to be left on the edge of their seat, they want to feel like they haven’t breathed out for pages.
And as a writer it is something that we want too. We want to write words that will make people jump for joy. Cry from sadness and sigh out of relief.
we want them to laugh at the character’s witty jokes. And squeal when our characters confess their love to one another.
It’s not only because it’s rewarding to see all the time, energy and sleepless nights pay off when we see people form fandoms over our little darlings. it’s also our duty to the readers to make sure that we use all our talent and hard work to write the best story we can.
So, go on lovable kiddos, Write the characters that I know you can and speak wonder in the hearts of people all over the world. And let your character’s shine and speak for themselves. Just make sure that you avoid traps and pitfalls that I listed for you.
and make sure to tell me via comments/Twitter/facebook/whatever you choose, who is the most Mary Sue character you can think of?
Until next time.