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This resource is outdated and has some sections that are poorly written. Several of the ideas are bad. I am working on revamping this to make it appropriate for all audiences and situations.

Here is a better guide.

When you have a story, there are characters that you like, characters that you love, and characters that you hate. Then there are those characters whom you adore. You think about them a lot. You know their personalities, zodiac sign, blood type, Myers-Briggs type, favorite foods, favorite outfits... you name it! You draw them in your sketchbooks and algebra notebooks. You imagine extra scenes from the character's childhood. You can't stop thinking about that special character!

Are you this obsessed with your characters? If you are, that's okay—I am too. However, if you have that much obsession concentrated on one particular character, it can grow out of proportion and you could end up with a Mary Sue.

Do you know what a Mary Sue is? There are several definitions, and here are the types I usually see:
1. an overly idealized character who serves as wish fulfillment for the author and/or readers
2. an obnoxiously overpowered and stereotypical character
3. a surrogate character for the author

Mary Sues are usually written by younger and more inexperienced writers. Look back through your old writings: you'll probably find a few. That's okay! Often by the time someone has been writing for a few years, he or she grows out of the "Mary Sue" stage. Other times writers can be plagued by Mary Sues throughout their lives. Thankfully, this can be avoided.


Mary Sue was originally a character in the short fictional piece "A Trekkie's Tale" by Paula Smith, which appeared in the zine�Menagerie #2�in 1974. "A Trekkie's Tale" was a satirical�Star Trek�fan fiction piece that was meant to poke fun at the unrealistic fan fictions that were often submitted. Mary Sue became a lieutenant at the age of fifteen, received a sexual request from Captain Kirk, saved the whole group and piloted the ship several times. She died at the end with all the other characters weeping uncontrollably at her bedside. �(The story is very short and is linked to in the artist's description. It's very ridiculous and I recommend you read it, just for laughs.)

Characteristics of Mary Sues and Gary Stus

There is no definite way to tell whether a character is a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu, the male version) or not, since the term is based on perspective. There are many Mary Sue litmus tests on the internet and deviantART, but they're often long and complicated. Basically Mary Sues and Gary Stus are flat characters that are very "unique" but actually fall into a lot of cliches.

Here are some warning signs of a Mary Sue or Gary Stu. While you can have a non-Mary Sue character with some of them, a pileup of too many can be a bad thing.
~ Heterochromia iridum (eyes with different colors, for example, one blue eye and one brown eye) or eyes of an unusual color, such as violet, very bright blue or green, red, or gold (Sorry, Edward.)
~ Hair of an unusual color and/or length (Hair beyond the waist is�extremely�impractical; please see the hair resource linked to in the artist's description) It's 100% okay to have a character with, say, purple hair if the character is an alien or something and it's natural for that race. The same goes for eye colors.
~ The character is very attractive.
~ A tragic past, which is often concealed
~ The character is an orphan. (Extra points: The character witnessed his/her parents' deaths, and perhaps even blames him/herself.)
~ The character discovers that he/she is related to a villain.�Luke, I am your father...�Sorry.
~ The character named him/herself and/or has a name that fits perfectly
~ Multiple characters or a very beautiful or popular character show romantic interest in your character
~ In fan fiction, the character intrudes on a canon pairing
~ The character is highly skilled in multiple areas (examples: technology, intelligence�which he/she may hide most of the time,�martial arts, music, cooking...)
~ The character suffers from amnesia
For more, search "Mary Sue litmus test" on deviantART or Google.

So, were you reading that checklist and thinking about someone? How many of these traits fit your character? One or two of these characteristics is okay, but if the traits keep piling on, then you might want to re-think the stereotypes that your character is falling into. Enough of these will make some readers sigh and perhaps put your work down, disappointed.

Still, guess what? These traits aren't everything! The most important thing is to�keep your characters realistic.�Consider what you and other real people would do in real life. These traits do not make or break a Mary Sue, and powerful characters are perfectly okay when done in moderation.

Keeping Characters Off of the Pedestal

A general set of guidelines

1. Try normal hair and eye colors. If your character's hair is bright purple, then don't say it was natural; a character is not automatically vain if she (or he!) dyed it. While it's okay to give a character, say, startlingly blue eyes, try balancing that with more normal traits. Also, it's generally a bad idea to center the character's beauty around the trait and constantly bring it up throughout the book. (We know that Leigh has beautiful hair. When she sweeps her long, thick auburn locks back into a ponytail for the third time, it gets a little old.)

2. Your character doesn't have to look like a Greek god or goddess. If you're writing a beautiful love story, remember that the majority of adults get married. Therefore, average-looking and ugly people are also capable of falling in love. Your character doesn't have to look like he or she stepped out of a magazine. It's also best to show inner beauty--it makes the attraction seem much more genuine. If you do have a stunningly attractive character, then make sure that it's only one or two characters, and don't dwell on it for page after page. Show some dimension instead.

-----> Note: Beautiful characters get used to the fact that they're good-looking, and for sure after a few years since they became good-looking, they're at least partially aware of it. They adapt to it. For example, a particularly cute girl might look up at someone with big blue eyes if she can't convince the person to give her what she wants. It could involve a humorous surrender ("All right, you and your friends can stay a little longer in the library") or the other character may continue stubbornly shaking his or her head.

Keep in mind that less attractive characters can often be more endearing. A girl with less-than-perfect looks may struggle with this fact, allowing the readers (who usually also have less-than-perfect looks) to sympathize with her and cheer her on in her journey for self-confidence.

3. If the character was orphaned years ago, please make it something that the character simply lives with and tries not to make into a big deal. (Of course, if the character was recently orphaned, it'll take a while to get over it.) Having a flashback to a scene in which the character's parents were brutally killed in front of his/her eyes is a huge no-no in lighthearted stories, unless the event has strongly affected the character (for example, the character is now hardened and unsympathetic or has a mortal fear of violence) and you're trying to explain why. Even then, be careful. Also, please restrain yourself from making the character secretly related to the antagonist. It usually doesn't add much, and it got lame shortly after George Lucas tried it.

4. Try to avoid dark pasts, past lives, royal backgrounds, and mysterious hooded strangers showing up on the driveway in the middle of the night. While the latter can work out realistically when done well, these things are clich�s that you might want to avoid. (Side note: To see a professional example, read�Inkheart�by Cornelia Funke. A mysterious stranger named Dustfinger appears early on, but she slowly reveals a lot of interesting and believable backstory. I recommend the book.)

5. The past is the past! If people can't get over tragic events within a few months, then they have a problem. Please do not glorify problems. Have someone take your poor character to a school counselor or a psychologist so he/she can feel better.

If you do give your character a mental problem or a traumatic experience, extensive research is a very good idea. Keep in mind that this sort of psychological issue will either (a) be trivialized and possibly offend people or (b) darken the story. The latter may be your desired effect, but... be careful. Don't just throw things in to elicit pity for your darlings.

This section does not necessarily apply to all mental abnormalities. For example, a character with Down Syndrome may lighten the story instead of darkening it. (My little sister has Down Syndrome. She is the cutest, most cheerful thing.)

6. Don't have your character learn at a crazy pace! It takes much more than two months to become a master at magic, so don't have your character suddenly doing that. Readers will be irritated by your character's unrealistic aptitude.

It's okay for her teacher to comment, "She's a quick learner and is determined to do her best. I only hope that she can learn quickly enough." Quick learners are common enough; I'm sure you've met a few in real life. It is not so okay for a teacher to say, "She's such a fast learner. I've never seen anything like it. It took me weeks to get that spell down, but she just nailed it on the first try." Seriously? Who can do that? That sounds impossible.

Remember: Your character doesn't need to be the best at everything! Being the best is an desire we have from childhood, but eventually we are able to conquer it in most or all of its manifestations. You don't need to make your character the most talented person in the world. Besides, if he or she is already the best, then your story is practically won!

7. Know your character's limitations. It's okay to have a character who is amazing at magic or speaks different languages. However, you should figure out exactly what your character can or can't do. For example, you should write down exactly which languages your character does know, and just how well he or she knows them. (Keep in mind that most humans can really only master four, and that requires a lot of free time.)

For magic, figure out exactly how much energy your character has and how much each spell can cost. (For me, this involves throwing kickballs at boxes and doing algebra on the driveway at 6 am, but you can always find a way that's less insane, such as reading and pacing in your room. Also, the neighbors stare less.) There is also the�Eragon�method, in which spells cost the energy that they would take to do without magic. (You would want to kill an evil guy by driving a stone through his head, not by beating him to death.)

8. Develop your character's weaknesses! Is she beautiful? She might be vain, overly wary of male strangers, or afraid to get her hands dirty. Is he smart? He might be conceited, lack street smarts, or look down on others. (There are plenty of modest beautiful and intelligent people, but these traits encourage snobbery in those who already tend to be snobs.)

Characters may have irrational fears, such as acrophobia (heights), arachnophobia (spiders), or zoophobia (animals). Clumsiness, low empathy, sensitivity, shyness, carelessness, stubbornness, and irritability are all possible faults for your characters to have. Don't worry—a few well-placed faults will actually make characters�more likeable�because readers can relate to them! Why else is the lazy, egocentric Garfield so popular? This can also be taken in moderation: for example, my character Rose is relatable not only because she is kind, but because she's shy, a bit lonely, and sensitive.

Keep in mind that for a fault to be a real fault, it needs to cause some trouble for the character. (If she gets and owwie and has a cute guy help her up, that's not much trouble.) A shy girl won't just stutter adorably around her crush; she might also have few friends and be left out of social activities. A hot-tempered guy won't just shout out brave speeches to the bad guys; he might fly off the handle and make a well-intentioned person cry. The characters' sadness or guilt stemming from this behavior is very relatable, and if the character is seeking to control this trait, readers may cheer him or her on.

9. Do you want your character to be like a real person? How many real people do you know? Plenty! You can borrow old memories of events and people and use them in your book. Little things can make readers smile, too. Your character can burn her tongue on hot chocolate or complain about needing to walk the dog in the winter. Borrowing memories and experiences from real life is absolutely okay! Again, it'll make the characters easier to relate to, and nothing is more realistic than real life.

10. Watch yourself! Are you putting the character on the pedestal in your own mind? Step back and make room for other characters! It's hard, but you can get a big cue from what you're doing yourself. The biggest clue to a Mary Sue is what you think of them.

The Scene of Ultimate Doom which Annoys Me to No End

Yes, it's true! You�can�annoy Luna Rose! Here's how to do it: Directly have a character state that one character is more important than him/herself.

A good example of this can be found in the first�Harry Potter�movie, towards the climax. Harry, Hermione, and Ron have just finished playing the enormous game of Wizard's Chess. Ron has been knocked unconscious, and Harry and Hermione don't want to leave him alone. In the movie, Hermione tells Harry to go on, saying that he's the most important one and it's�his�job to fight Voldemort. When Harry is surprised, saying that she's the smartest, she talks down her intelligence and says that Harry's courage and friendship are much more important. She urges him to go on while she stays with Ron.

The circumstances are slightly understandable: it would be hard to leave Ron alone. Still, Hermione's line in the movie is very protagonist-centered and unrealistic. It's not like she doesn't have courage or friendship! She came this far with Harry and Ron through all sorts of challenges, despite the fact that she's about ten years old, and she showed a lot of bravery throughout the challenges! It's not like she had low self-esteem, either. She wouldn't say that in real life.

Such a line should be avoided in books at all costs. Everyone without extreme confidence issues believes that he/she is valuable, and it's unreasonable to think otherwise. Pushing another character onward alone is just silly. If the protagonist's friend has been brave and loyal so far, he/she isn't suddenly going to willingly stay behind unless there is no other way to do things. The same goes for self-sacrifice: it's unrealistic. I've seen too many scenes in which a character suddenly lies down his/her life for someone else, acting completely out of character. There are only three ways in which self-sacrifice or staying behind could be believable:
~ The friend is too tired/otherwise handicapped to go on
~ One of them must stay behind/die and the character
-----> is less skilled or incapable of handling the upcoming danger
-----> is just that incredibly brave and noble (2nd instance only)

Examples: (As a warning, these are spoilers.)
~ In the movie�Eragon,�Brom dies in Eragon's place because he is such a brave person that he puts Eragon's life before his own. (In the book, Brom is mortally wounded in action and dies later.)
~ In the movie�The Black Cauldron,�the little creature Gurgi throws himself into the cauldron instead of Taran. Someone must willingly jump into the cauldron (a suicidal act) to destroy it. Before Gurgi jumps, he explains that he should be the one to jump because Taran has friends, while Gurgi does not. Gurgi never had any sort of self-confidence throughout the movie, making this act more believable. (Interestingly, a type of magic later brings Gurgi back to life, and he is assured that he has plenty of friends, Taran being one of them. The book by Lloyd Alexander is quite different; a badly wounded and noble man throws himself in and becomes permanently dead.)

How to Avoid Trouble
Characters don't have to sacrifice themselves! If the character dies, he/she doesn't have to be taking the arrow, sword, or other lethal object that was meant for the protagonist. He or she could die in the midst of the action, from wounds received during that time, or perhaps while protecting a different character. While characters, usually mentors, can realistically die in the protagonist's place, it's even more realistic to have the character die in some other manner. (It's more probable.) He or she will be mourned just as much, trust me.

...I've wandered a bit off-topic, haven't I? Basically, this is one of the little side-scenes that can be involved in stories, especially ones with Mary Sues.

Case Study
When I was little, I had a character named Amirra. I loved her to death, and I wrote two incredibly long books about her. Amirra was ten throughout most of the series. She was very short, and she had long, white-blonde hair. Her eyes were a striking bright blue. Her parents were killed when her village was destroyed by evil bandits. (She was three.) A dragon saw the tiny girl escaping, took pity on her, and took her in. They became bonded for life. She ended up on a journey across Highcliff, and she met a kind hermit and his adopted son, Ivo. She lived there for almost ten chapters until the hermit was killed by bandits. She and Ivo escaped and eventually ended up at a castle, where a group of people lived while trying to organize a militia to protect themselves from the Empire.

Amirra ended up running away (long story), getting attacked by bandits, and was badly injured. She was saved just in time by an Imperial patrol. The nice man in charge took her back and had her wounds treated, and eventually she returned to the castle. Amirra also met a spirit friend who resided in her staff. Eventually the castle people and the Empire people were reconciled with each other, especially when they realized that the bandit organization was the real problem! Amirra and Ivo mentioned in a prophecy, so the Imperial magician reluctantly agreed to train her, while Ivo learned sword fighting. A big dramatic battle was planned for the end, in which Ivo would convince the not-so-evil bandit leader to surrender, while Amirra defeated the evil magician and ended up dramatically saving Ivo. Then they all would live happily ever after.

So, let's count off the Mary Sue traits! She looks unusual, she has a very tragic past, she's an orphan, the hermit died saving her, she helps reconcile two enemy groups, she and Ivo are mentioned in a prophecy, she can fight bandits even though she's ten, she learns magic at an incredible pace, she plays flute beautifully, she is instrumental in saving Highcliff, and (the biggest feat) she gets the ill-tempered Imperial magician to like her.

That's a Mary Sue.

While my younger self would be giving counter-arguments (She can fight bandits because she adapted to living in the woods! Also, the magical spirit and the dragon helped her! She got hurt the one time she tried it by herself!), she's still a Mary Sue. No ten-year-old can do any of that. Eventually I realized that, the book was abandoned, and now Amirra is only used as a character to play with when I babysit my little sister. Her tragic past, history with Ivo and the Empire, and other relationships have all faded away. Now she serves as a reminder to other characters to be nice to Zack and as someone to save Princess Rose if she falls off the Edge [of the table] again.

Other Stereotypes and How to Fix Them

~The villain who does evil acts just to be evil
Fix it:�Think about your villain's background. Chances are, he or she has had a hard life. What is the villain's motivation? Ruling or destroying the world isn't good enough. Does the antagonist want power, money, security, status, what? How does the villain justify these acts to him or herself?�...This could probably use a whole separate resource.
Edit: And it has one.

~The nerdy computer geek (usually a boy)
Fix it:�Don't forget about other traits! This person has a life outside the computer, to some degree. If the person is intelligent, then he or she is likely to be curious about the world. (If the world is boring, then why learn about it?) What is the character's specialty? Other hobbies? If the person doesn't talk much to others, it's because the character is too shy, can't relate to them (esp. if he/she is a genius), and/or looks down on them for being so stupid or superficial. Try to develop your character's nice traits, too, instead of just the impartial intelligence.

----->Example: My little�character Zaen is extremely good with computers,�to the point where he can do amazing things. (He's an alien.) To my friends, Zaen is more memorable for his innocence, willingness to help others, unending curiosity, love of history books, and lack of understanding that too much sugar is a bad thing. I don't think they even�knew�he was that he was so smart until recently, despite the fact that in the book his intelligence is instrumental in solving the main problem.

~The conceited popular girl
Fix it:�Again, ask yourself why she's being so mean. She must not have had a very good past, either. Maybe her parents fought a lot and then divorced. Maybe she is secretly hurt by any attack on her ego, and in defense lashes back at the person who's challenging her.

If this girl is particularly mean to your protagonist, there's probably a reason. She might have a grudge, and perhaps your protagonist wasn't always so nice to her. Also, keep in mind that people tend not to keep friends if they're mean to them. She's probably really close to her friends, and perhaps they have sleepovers and watch romance movies while giggling and painting each other's nails. You could also try some deep research into�narcissism, keeping in mind that it's probably less severe during childhood and adolescence.

~The happy, stupid, sexy girl
Fix it:�By the time that girls hit age 14, most of them know how to respect their body and act maturely about it. (I'm fifteen, okay? I understand this.) Some girls who wear low-cut tops and short skirts are typically looking for attention. Maybe they don't feel good about themselves, and they're hoping for any affirmation that they're likeable, whether it's about their personality or their body.

Usually girls who wear less modest clothes tend to be extroverted and fun-loving, but not as stupid as you think. They know better than to go out with creepy guys or accept attention from anyone and everyone. They aren't oblivious. They wear these clothes because they're fashionable, and their friends are wearing them too. If it means a little extra attention from the boys...�that might not be so bad.

~The cutie who trips over everything
Fix it:�Give her some more depth. This personality type is so overused that while it's workable, it's better to avoid it altogether. If you do come up with such a character, remember to develop her strengths (she's bound to be good at something besides cuteness and enthusiasm) and her weaknesses. Show her more sensitive side from time to time. Try not to overplay her cuteness or clumsiness. To avoid the trouble, find a different type of character who could fit her role and put that character there instead.

~The mopey bishie boy
Fix it:�Dark and brooding characters can be so easily overdone. The manga genre has brought them pouring in, and people will probably be bored of them after a few years, which really dates your story. Thankfully, these boys can still be jazzed up!

To keep your character original, try to move away from his brooding side, and show that he has a real personality. What does he enjoy to do? If he's the romantic interest, please show that he's a good person, or more intelligent readers will wonder if he's a good match for your protagonist. Maybe he likes nature or fast roller coasters. If this is a romance, let him be the guy who can sit with her on the park bench while the sun sets, eat ice cream with her, and laugh about silly things. Now�that's�the type of guy whom readers can fall in love with!

----->Example: My character Dark could be labeled as a "pretty boy." He'd probably punch you for that. In the beginning of the book, he's a loner who doesn't really like other people. He's prickly and sometimes insensitive. When my dad read the book, he said that Dark was his favorite character! That was because inwardly, Dark was a fun-loving rascal. His point of view was really fun to write in. He thought the villains were stupid and deserved a good kick, and he'd be the best person to do that. He struggled over the fact that maybe Rose wasn't as bad as he thought. His point of view was fresh, funny, and sharp, making him probably the most memorable character I've written yet.

The Basic Idea: Don't base your main characters around a single trait! It's okay to start with one trait,�but then develop the character and bring out other sides and layers. While minor characters don't need much development (say, a friend who has fifteen lines throughout the whole book), make sure that your principal characters have many interests and traits. They will seem much more real afterwards.

If your character is in the list above, or matches a lot of the Mary Sue traits, it's okay! You know how to fix things. You definitely aren't a bad writer for it.

Remember that the things stated here are only guidelines, not rules. There are exceptions to every rule. (Yes, I know what's wrong with that statement.) These are merely things to consider, and perhaps take with a grain of salt, because the most important thing isn't to avoid making a Mary Sue. Just balance your main characters, make them realistic and relatable, and you'll be fine. The ideas stated above can be bent a bit and twisted around. Characters who have tragic backgrounds or unusual appearances may not be Mary Sues, just as Mary Sues may not have tragic backgrounds or unusual appearances.

Ask your friends: How many of them have had a Mary Sue? I bet that all of the writers would say they did. (I had two big ones: Amirra and Eve.) Every writer can take their Mary Sues and move on past that stage. It's just part of growing up. Mary Sues are not stuck as Mary Sues forever; they are completely changeable until the first book comes out in print.

Maybe you don't have a Mary Sue. Maybe you do. Either way, your story could always use another run-through with the red pen, and either way, you can make it great!
This resource has been edited extensively to clear up tone, since I was a pretty bad writer writing for a much smaller audience when I first drafted this. Content is mostly the same.

"A Trekkie's Tale" (If it gives you trouble, try accessing it via the TVTropes link, which is the last word of the first paragraph.)
The Hair Resource

Luna's Links
Comic by Me
Two satirical tutorials by =Glittercandy
"Ensign Sue Must Die" by *comicalclare, illustrated by *kevinbolk
*kevinbolk discusses a type of Gary Stu

Helpful & Educational
The Necessity of Flaws in Characterization by ~Faraleigh
"Murdering Mary Sue" (Note: There is no link, so if this doesn't work, find it in the "Writing Resources" folder of my favorites.)
A character balance resource by the awesome =Fyuvix
A list of negative character traits by ~AnikaandAj (great to look through)
A great litmus test suggested by ~Koyukuk (offsite)

There are many anti-Mary Sue stamps as well, but unfortunately I can only fit a few thumbnails in the description. :(

:bulletblue: More Resources

Oh my gosh! So I woke up this morning to 302+ feedback messages instead of my usual 50 or so... Thank you so much for the DD! :faint: I can't believe it! Thank you, =angelStained and `FantasyStock! I'd like to thank you all for the :+fav:s right here, since I can't go around to all your pages, and I'll try to reply to comments like I always do. :huggle:


Worried? Read this before asking for help!

Firstly, a character does not have to be devoid of "Sue-like" traits to be a balanced character. Secondly, I am willing to help and offer my opinion, but please read the penultimate entry of my FAQ first.

Please remember that Mary Sue traits can be found in real life (I actually have a lot of them :stare:), and that you should use your common sense when applying the ideas and opinions expressed above.
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Given 2011-09-05
Suggester's words: Extrasuperfabulous by =Luna--Rose is a wonderfully detailed, immensely helpful guide for avoiding one of the most common mistakes for writers: creating a Mary Sue. It's also written well and understandable by most. ( Suggested by angelStained and Featured by FantasyStock )

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ScarletandLunaRcool Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It is not so okay for a teacher to say, "She's such a fast learner. I've never seen anything like it. It took me weeks to get that spell down, but she just nailed it on the first try." Seriously? Who can do that? That sounds impossible.

It is only acceptable when the character cheats.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2014   General Artist
I know! It's a little hard for me to believe sometimes that stories actually say things like that and attribute it to the character's natural talent. But I've seen it before. :noes:

...Of course, I have a feeling that I wrote things like that back when I was little, so perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised.
ScarletandLunaRcool Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
ScarletandLunaRcool Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
*clears throat* m, Hi, I'm kinda obsessed with my OC, but only cause she's my main character, and was my first. Is she too Mary-Sue? This is her:  scarletandlunarcool.deviantart…
MaxineZoruaLuna Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2013  Student General Artist
I have a question umm it's ok if my character has a couple of these traits right?
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2013   General Artist
It's probably fine. There's some info regarding that in the Artist's Description; I would recommend you check it out.

I can't pass ultimate judgment on your character, because I'm not inside your head. However, I'm releasing a new guide on Mary Sues next Friday (assuming dA fixes a categorizing bug in time) that will go into much greater depth, and perhaps it will be able to help you. :)
MaxineZoruaLuna Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2013  Student General Artist
Ok just wanted to ask for another opinion :D
Bat-Snake Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Let it be noted that the dude who died in the book of The Black Cauldron was a total ass =P 
kevintheradioguy Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2013  Professional Artist

I can't help but re-reading your guides. So much fun. Often I just want to print then and hit some writers in the face (which I might actually do~) with their super-handsome magic-weilding swordsmen who f#ck every girl on their way, own a kingdom, have their own pet dragon, are practically immortal, travel in space and win all the wars (real thing, btw, from a 100000 print edition!).

I was wondering, though, just out of curiosity (because nothing will make me change how the story goes, and I don't really care about my chars being Mary-Sues, I know they're not f not on purpose), since you write as well, how Mary-Sueish would you take the 'The character is an orphan. (Extra points: The character witnessed his/her parents' deaths, and perhaps even blames him/herself.)' if my main char had lost mom and dad, but since she's 42, they died of age?

RomadE Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
On the scene where Hermione told Harry to go because 'he's the most important'... Would it have been any less protagonist-centered if the reason was because Harry is the one Voldemort was looking for and no one else?
(That, however, sounds like a reason not to go ahead, I admit)
RosaRainbow Featured By Owner May 30, 2013  Hobbyist
Thank you so much for posting this! I find all of your guides to be extremly helpful while I'm writing! ^_^
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013   General Artist
You're welcome, and thanks! :D
PizzaPotatoNBacon Featured By Owner May 18, 2013  Student General Artist
:clap: That was very helpful.
Wonderful explanations and solutions! And the whole "Making a character put another over them self" really opened my eyes. :nod:

While I agree with most, #5 doesn't settle with me very well. One does not simply forget something so bad after a few months. (A family member died of illness? Unless your character barely knew them or hated them so much, it'll be really, really hard. Being raped is something one does not get over.) There are a lot of real life people who fall under this- I actually think it makes your character "perfect" if they do get over it. As for tragic pasts, with the violence in our world today, it's not that uncommon. If you write a story in where the world is similar to ours, being born in a third world country where your mom was too poor to keep you but wanted you to live better, so you went to the orphanage/ social services [where no one really loved you]? i live in a third world country, so i should know. i'm not an orphan though- i live way better than a lot of kids in my country

I think tragic pasts are a big flaw when it's impossible to happen/ unbalanced in the story's setting. If I said my character had a miserable life, but every other citizen did as well because of a dictatorship, it's not such a bad thing.
Another situation where it can go wrong, is when it's made to look like a pity party, or when it gets "annoying" in the present. Sure, a character does not forget their miserable past, but if written wrong, it makes the tragic event look superficial. "OH MY DARLING ANGEL WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GO WHY WHY WHY", really lessens the significance of the event and mocks it in a way, and the reader could be pissed.
In my opinion, a character can barely speak or even move when something really bad happens. They have no motivation at all. Sometimes, they feel that they have no "purpose", but that could be what the story is about. Healing alongside their actual quest? Friends helping them get back up? But if it's all "BAWWWW" along the way, they're better off as a minor character/extra.
A third problem is when it happens and your character survives when the rest of their race can't. :B Even then, traumatic experiences can cause a brooding personality, really. One can't help but put their walls up when all you know is suffering. You just have to write it well. (Though, yeah, it's bets for one to avoid this until they can pull it off.)

Though I highly agree with the mental illnesses. Research IS always needed. While Psychology is subjective- one doctor says you're insane and the others says no, a good and general idea of the illness is needed.

But again, great guidelines. :nod: This is more of my opinion, really. =P
Thanks for writing this, and have a nice day!
Ramani-Rayne Featured By Owner May 9, 2013
Thanks for posting this - good food for thought.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner May 10, 2013   General Artist
You're welcome, and thanks! :aww:
YukiOnni Featured By Owner May 4, 2013
Can I still use the amnesia line since my character doesn't follow any other of the Mary Sue lines to the extreme?
Shota-loli-chan Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This was super helpful. >w< Thanks so much for posting this! :heart:
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013   General Artist
You're welcome! :aww: I'm really glad to hear that.
sandtree Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013
But if the chara is an ophran, say because the parents were soildres or causualties in a war it doesn´t nessearly make her a Mary-Sue IF it is common for this universe that a career in the military is open for males and females alike or a war is in the timeline?
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013   General Artist
Having one trait on a list does not automatically make a character a Mary Sue. :aww:
sandtree Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013
okay, thank you
AlbinoOtaku Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2013
Unfortunately the main character in my novel (been working on it for to years and was the first real thing I ever wrote) is a Mary-Sue. And something which is tragically hilarious is that her name is Sue. No I did not plan that, it just turned out that way. Ironic huh?

Anyway, she's not an annoying pink haired multi eye colored 12 year old magical genius. She is however very plain. Her characteristic consists of, fear of thing changing/being different, fear of people and social interactions, and general anxiety. Other than that I can't say much, she leans on her friend as an emotional crutch and never experiences true happiness. She is unable to make herself happy.

Until she meets the other main character who... is... an... orphan... Oh, shit! I swear to God I just realized this! Well fuck. Guess who's rewriting the main character? Me!

Okay I'm getting off topic. I do have an excuse though! At the time when I first started writing it I was battling with an anxiety disorder. (I guess you could say I was going through my own tragic back story) and I modelled her after what I was feeling: an inescapable fear of unhappiness, which drove me into even more unhappiness. I was terrified of everything and let me tell you something sister, it was bad.

But, don't worry. I'm now on medication! :iconimhappyplz:

But happily I'm fine now. And I do intend to develop her character greatly through out the book, but I just felt like sharing this to the world. Thanks for the help.
ShayLaLaLooHoo Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Clumsiness has turned into a Sue thing, sadly.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012   General Artist
A lot of authors are giving characters an idealized form of clumsiness, instead of the real thing. :nod:
ShayLaLaLooHoo Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
People I know are now pretending to be clumsy and are proud of it. It's obnoxious.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012   General Artist
I can imagine. D:
10kdays Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I know you're saying you have a lot of messages but I have to comment on how incredibly helpful this was. Even though I don't think I have mary sues at the current moment (although they need revising), it is good to know what to look for when developping them. Also, the fact that you are fifteen I think you said is amazing. I was reading this and thinking "someday when I'm older and experienced maybe I can give help" and then I read you were fifteen and I was like "maybe in the next couple of years...? :) Sorry for the long comment.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012   General Artist
Thank you! :huggle:

(This has been edited a bit since I was fifteen... although not too much. ;P)
You're never too young to have valuable thoughts. :)

Don't worry about the length of your comment. Believe me, I've gotten much longer... XD
10kdays Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Your welcome.
yes I agree, youg people can do just as much as old people. Uusally. and the comments always seem longer while I'm writing them.
ridergal126 Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2012  Student General Artist
i can't tell u how much this will help!!
Faraleigh Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2012  Student Writer
Wonderful guide! I’m so happy it’s gotten as much attention as it has. I almost didn’t read it (when I did) because of how long it is. I was already having to fight with a constantly crashing IE to view anything on dA. I am not regretting that I pushed through the crap, though.

This is great not only as a guideline for avoiding Mary Sues/Gary Stus, it’s a great resource for characterization in general. You constantly push for depth and reason to be instilled and you encourage critical thought. All of these things are integral tools to effective storytelling. I’m incredibly tickled (and, honestly, a little jealous) that you’re only 16 and are able to think this clearly. I can’t imagine where my writing skills would be today if I’d been as sharp as you are. :) You are going to go far, even if just as the Super Editor.

I think the greatest strength of this piece is that you make it very clear that exceptions and bends in the rules are more important than the rules themselves. You encourage your audience to not throw anything outright but accept the challenge of making things right. It is, of course, good to throw things out but never just because some rule says so. The main protagonist in my story suffers from amnesia (though it only stole the last 20 years of memory) and, as cliché as it is, I’m dead-set on making it work because it’s a must for the story (not to mention incredibly fun). As one of my favorite authors (Jim Butcher) said in his blog ages ago, it’s about how you present the clichés. You can have a story about a white knight saving the princess from the evil knight and his dark sorcerer, mix in a dashing rogue and a werewolf, and get crap or you can get Star Wars. It’s all about how you present it. But I digress.

I really enjoy how generic you make this. You use (in my book at least) tame examples so your guide works for everyone working in fiction. I also really appreciate that you have a section in here with specific bad examples and provide solutions, or at least prompts for solutions.

You’ve done a fantastic job with this. I must figure out somewhere to put it so more people will find it…

Some nitpicky blah-blahs and yadda-yaddas:

Typo: “Being the best is an desire we have from childhood”

Brava! Fantastic point. :heart: “Besides, if he or she is already the best, then your story is practically won!”

Typo: “If she gets and owwie”

Typo: “Amirra and Ivo mentioned in a prophecy”

Typo: “I don't think they even knew he was that he was so smart until recently”

As a final note, there’s a novel I self-published when I was 19. I started writing it when I was 13. My god was it horrendous. Nearly the entire cast (I am only leaving wiggle room in there for the sake of fairness… I really can’t think of one character who isn’t) was Mary Sues and Gary Stus, fraught with tragedy and unnecessary badassery. I tried to instill some reason and some balance to some of the characters at some point, but my efforts failed. And now I pretend like the book doesn’t exist. :ninja:

Oh, and thanks again for linking my piece in here. :) I’m honored to be connected to this, even if just a little.
ChrissietheArchen Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
D: i started writing when i was like 8-10. Guess how all my characters ended up like! Mary/Gary-sues galore. Give of take a few characters (2). 
sketchris Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I've been wondering this for a while, but why is this:

~ The character suffers from amnesia

Listed as a mary-sue trait? Just curious.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012   General Artist
Many young writers devise a plot in which a young person suffers from amnesia and goes on a journey to rediscover him- or herself, and often learns that he or she is a warrior, the Chosen One, or some form of royalty (usually a prince or princess). While good stories can be written about amnesia, there is a large amount of Mary Sues who suffer from it, so it is recognized as a form of cliché if done poorly.

As with all things on the list, it's one of the patterns in stories with Mary Sues, but including it in a story does not automatically mean that there is a Mary Sue. :)
sketchris Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Ah.... I see.....

Is there any way you can give me feedback on one of my character's stories I recently built upon?
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2012   General Artist
Um, yes, although I may take a bit. ^^; My inbox is liable to be a mess for the next week or more, but I've promised myself that I'll manage it better than I usually do.
sketchris Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
It's okay :] I can wait
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2012   General Artist
Just drop me a link whenever you're ready and I'll get to it as soon as I can. :D
sketchris Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Alright :] it may be a while or I don't even know if I will or not XD I might just try working on development instead. Save you some trouble :3 but I'd love for a character critique sometime in the future anyway.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012   General Artist
Okay. :D
DarthLych Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for this, I try to make my characters more than just Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu's. Faving this, hopefully it'll help keep my characters from becoming a bunch of walking stereotypes.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2012   General Artist
You're welcome.

All characters are unique in some respect. I'm sure yours are much more than stereotypes. :hug:
Cyber-Flames Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Student General Artist
Sometimes I look back at some of my veery old OCs, then look at my current ones, and I say "Aggggggggggggggggg how did I evar think they were original?!?!?!?!?FFFFFF---"
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012   General Artist
Hey, we all go through those stages. :D
You read about mine...
Cyber-Flames Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Student General Artist
yeah =3
AirGirl13 Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2012  Student Writer
I can sometimes avoid shedding too much attention on one character by writing in first person, but with a character who isn't the REAL main one. ex: I used the caretaker of the boy who was trying to find out who he was in life and what he is. That way I have to share the spotlight.
Thanks for writing this! It helped a lot!
MatisAwesome Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2012
I just wanted to say that although the whole heterochromia thing is veeeery uncommon it's not impossible. Alexander the Great had one light blue eye and one dark brown eye. So, it should be alright if it's not overused. I know that there's a bunch of other traits that have to add up to being a Mary-Sue but I just wanted to say that it is possible. Also, I've actually seen a lot of people with central heterochromia, which is when there's a different colored ring next to the pupil.
MissLunaRose Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2012   General Artist
Oh, yes. Heterochromia iridum is a real thing—I mentioned it because some authors like to give it to their characters to make them more "special snowflake-y." I believe it's been overused enough that it irritates some people. Statistically, it's possible; realistically, it can be used immaturely. But there's certainly nothing wrong with a character having heterochromia iridum by default. :)

Central heterochromia... Oh, wow! I have that; I had no idea there was a word for it. Thank you for teaching me something new! :hug:
MatisAwesome Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2012
You're welcome :D
YamiBloodshedBakura Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2012  Hobbyist
Can you add something about 'demon' or 'dark angel' sues? You know, a Sue that just revolves around darkness because it's 'cool' and all? Some traits i see about them is the eye and hair color, and most people makes their hair white and eyes red, and they use dark or shadow related theme powers. They either have a double persona or is cold and ruthless or something like that. I once encountered a person who RPs as a Canon Character, but she's just using the name of the character and she made almost EVERYTHING about her character like an OC. Help, please? It irritates me
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