Monday, June 30, 2008

The Cardinal Sins of Roleplaying - The Mary Sue

In light of my previous post on "Godmodding", I can't in good conscience leave another heavyweight RP sin to sculk in the shadows. At least, not while I'm awake and on a blogging roll. ;)

• The Mary Sue •

Ahhh... The Mary Sue. Quite possibly the most reviled thing in all literature. Most people who are familiar with the term think that Mary Sues only exist in the realm of fan fiction. But they are sorely mistaken... You see, the Sue can be in ANY form of fiction, whether it's fan-based or original. Here is the "textbook" definition of what a Mary Sue is:

"Mary Sue, sometimes shortened simply to "Sue", is a pejorative term used to describe a fictional character who plays a major role in the plot on such a scale that suspension of disbelief fails due to the character's traits, skills and abilities being tenuously or inadequately justified. Such a character is particularly characterized by overly idealized and clich├ęd mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors." (Taken from Wikipedia - Mary Sue)

Simply put, Mary Sues are an embodiment of what its author/player wishes they were like. A great example of an original fiction Mary Sue is Anita Blake of the self-named series by Laurel K. Hamilton.

Now before you get too scared... Let me say that there is nothing wrong with putting a little piece of yourself in your characters. It helps you relate to them and find passion in writing out their exploits. However, there's a point where it gets out of hand...

Mary Sues come in all shapes and sizes, but here's a list of some of the more common traits.
  • Perfect
  • Popular
  • Beautiful
  • Tragic (not always though)
  • Misunderstood
  • People are strangely attracted to her.
  • Sole savior of the planet.
  • Has some sort of hidden power (or twelve) that emerges at JUST the right time.
  • Has mysterious/soulful/sorrowful eyes. Usually in the crimson, violet, emerald, and sapphire hues.
  • Has no visible faults or flaws. Aside from being perfect and beautiful, of course.
One other variety is called an "Anti Sue". Basically the polar opposite of what a Mary Sue is. An Anti Sue is so ugly/mentally insane/disliked/oh-so-tragic that it gets to the point of being laughable. I suppose you can say they're the extreme version of an Anti Hero.

If you have fallen prey to making a Mary Sue, don't feel bad. It's an EXTREMELY common thing for all budding writers to do and I admit to making a Sue or two within my life. The big thing is to know of what a Mary Sue is and make one anyway despite of it all (*coughLaurelHamiltoncough*). If you're concerned if your new, or existing, character might be a Mary Sue, there are many reliable litmus tests to see if you're standing on the precipice of Sue-dom (or falling right into the abyss, for that matter).