What's new
Frozen In Carbonite

Welcome to FIC! Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

Define a mary sue

Accelerator

Well-known member
Author
No star wars!

Ok. What is a mary sue? The term has been thrown about so may times, it has become meaningless.

What, exactly, makes something a mary sue? And what differentiates them from a protagonist?
 

beast_regards

Well-known member
Badly written character. Usually due to ignorance of author, or general lack of skill, but could be badly written on purpose for various reasons.

It doesn't necessarily mean character being overpowered, stories can be made with overpowered protagonist without said protagonist being Mary Sue / or Gary Stu, as male counterpart.
 

JUSTSOMEALIN

Well-known member
Author
Badly written character. Usually due to ignorance of author, or general lack of skill, but could be badly written on purpose for various reasons.

It doesn't necessarily mean character being overpowered, stories can be made with overpowered protagonist without said protagonist being Mary Sue / or Gary Stu, as male counterpart.
Badly written character is EXACTLY what a Mary Sue does NOT define. Power level and level of influence, as well as accomplishments, have everything to do with it.
Being badly written is usually just a side-effect of all that. You can have a badly written character who gets their shit kicked in all day, and that would not be a mary sue.

Let it then also be noted that a charming and clever character is not a badly written one, but can still be a Mary Sue, so as to suggest that you can enjoy seeing or hearing the banter of said character while acknowledging they are a Mary Sue.

For example, Classic Lara Croft, from the older Tomb Raider games and the first three movies. She is charming, witty, and strong. Listening to her quips and insults as she casually engages in large scale gun battles and foils ancient evils is endearing, yes.
But what she accomplishes, how she literally shapes the universe by doing nothing more than joking and quipping in a sarcastic and witty manner, all while using only her guns and wits, and sometimes an ancient magical artifact which she just so happens to possess in her long library of ancient magical artifacts that she possesses, just shows how much of a Mary Sue she is.

This is a woman who stared a dark, evil spirit down in the eyes, and escaped it as she dared it with her dual pistols. Dual pistols, I repeat.

Contrast that to the modern day take of Lara Croft, a woman who had to struggle to gain all that she had accomplished and who fought through the harshest of natural environments and physical threats to accomplish her task of survival, and which sounds more satisfying?

The woman who, after surviving three days on a deserted island and was forced to fend for herself against savages and rapists, ended up scaring all of them away with self-assembled bows, bombs, a pickaxe, and stolen assault rifles?

OR

The woman who used her expertized marksmanship skills which are beyond the likes of all men to take down a man wielding a literal God's Blade, and then used the God-Blade to kill a God, all while giving a casually cheerful face?

One of those is a well-written, and well-believable character. The other is a Mary Sue.

Let us define a Mary Sue then.

A Mary Sue is a character who can break all the conventional rules of their universe to perform outlandish or incredible accomplishments. And they do this on a regular basis too, basically ignoring any of the struggle that a real person (or at the least, a person in that universe) would have in order instantly get to that satisfying conclusion.

Except, without the struggle, the conclusion is not satisfying.

This means that, whereas usually well-written characters can have the journey of a thousand miles start with a single step, the Mary Sue won't have to begin the Journey of a thousand miles, because the end destination just ran towards them.

Or otherwise:
Normal characters must adhere to the rules of the universe, but the Mary Sue shall bend the rules of the universe, and with that, the narrative, to their liking. Whether that be through birthright, or bad writing, it matters not.

Usually, signs of a Mary Sue are that they have no flaws, or that if they do have flaws, that these flaws are minor things such as being too clumsy, too trusting, or, GET THIS, too pretty! Very minor or even inhuman flaws which few people have.

Some notable examples of Mary Sues:

KIRITO
Lara Croft
Naruto (YES.)
 

beast_regards

Well-known member
Badly written character is EXACTLY what a Mary Sue does NOT define. Power level and level of influence, as well as accomplishments, have everything to do with it.
Being badly written is usually just a side-effect of all that. You can have a badly written character who gets their shit kicked in all day, and that would not be a mary sue.
Term Mary Sue was always, always used as criticism, and as an example of bad writing.
Laziest way to avoid being called Mary Sue is actually to make character lose often, even if such loses doesn't have any meaningful impact. Victimizing is also a common way to get sympathy.
 

beast_regards

Well-known member
KIRITO
Lara Croft
Naruto (YES.)
Kirito is a Mary Sue because he is badly written character and author of SAO obviously didn't had slightest idea what he is doing. This is mostly due to the fact that SAO as a whole had a lot more issues that main character.

Hence, yes, Kirito is a Mary Sue (or whatever you call male counterpart), but it is mostly used as criticism.

As for Lara Croft, it's difficult, because there are things like action heroes....

Action heroes are always cool under fire. It's not just Lara Croft. Protagonist of almost all action movies ever created would apply, as none of those are really scared, panicking, breaking down, or dying to punches that would kill a normal person. Mary Sue is a lot of things, but it is not a genre, or should not be applied to genre, only to individual characters that are exceptionally worse written than normal.

Same with Shounen protagonist, because they do have a lot of more Mary Sue traits. They are always universally loved, always possessing endlessly growing powers, universe bends around them and ... honestly, you do have point, they do have all Mary Sue traits by default, and in general, they tend to be overdone more than traditional Hollywood action heroes are. However, once again, Mary Sue wouldn't be a term for the character, but for entire genre.

And ... honestly, this is where it goes a full cycle, as you can argue that Kirito is a typical shounen protagonist, which he is, but ....

Honestly, at this point we would have to say everyone is Mary Sue, and since word applies to everyone, it lost the meaning.
 

bluepencil

Indentured Artist
Author
Kirito is a Mary Sue because he is badly written character and author of SAO obviously didn't had slightest idea what he is doing. This is mostly due to the fact that SAO as a whole had a lot more issues that main character.

Hence, yes, Kirito is a Mary Sue (or whatever you call male counterpart), but it is mostly used as criticism.

As for Lara Croft, it's difficult, because there are things like action heroes....

Action heroes are always cool under fire. It's not just Lara Croft. Protagonist of almost all action movies ever created would apply, as none of those are really scared, panicking, breaking down, or dying to punches that would kill a normal person. Mary Sue is a lot of things, but it is not a genre, or should not be applied to genre, only to individual characters that are exceptionally worse written than normal.
(nods) Even with regards to action heroes, there is a hella lot of difference from, say, Bruce Willis compared to Steven Seagal.

Action movies and games are about a vicarious experience of physicality. Good action heroes are not there for characterization (a basic motivation will do), but to see them prevail even when or after they get the shit beaten out of them. Remember that body language is still a language, and Jackie Chan speaks a different one to Bruce Lee.
 

Kinetic

Vivere est militare!
Mary Sue is what is born when author's desire for wish-fulfillment vastly outstrips his(her) understanding what makes good story and sometimes, but not necessarily, his ability to write in general.

The opposite to that is PSNC, i.e. Pain, Suffering and Needless Casualties. Being Taylor is suffering; liking it may or may not be recognized as some form of intellectual coprophagia.
 

Accelerator

Well-known member
Author
Look at the powerful people. If all the powerful people say that she's likeable or important or special?

Yep. Mary sue.

Especially if the dudes were normally villainous, cruel, uncaring, or psychopathic.
 
C

Celene

Guest
hot take. I don't actually think a more broadly defined mary sue is inherently bad.
 

JUSTSOMEALIN

Well-known member
Author
Action heroes are always cool under fire. It's not just Lara Croft. Protagonist of almost all action movies ever created would apply, as none of those are really scared, panicking, breaking down, or dying to punches that would kill a normal person. Mary Sue is a lot of things, but it is not a genre, or should not be applied to genre, only to individual characters that are exceptionally worse written than normal.
Your definition of a mary sue is explicitly wrong. Read my post before you reply to it.
 

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top