Most of us have heard the terms Mary Sue and Gary Stu before heck, they may have been aimed at us before but how many of us actually know the definition of a Mary Sue? We simply believe that a Mary Sue/Gary Stu is a badly-developed character, but are we aware of what defines a Mary Sue? From my personal experience, a Mary Sue/Gary Stu is a character who:
Has barely any [exploitable] flaws.
Is virtually perfect. (These two are pretty obvious)
Often serves as a self-insert for the author/audience. (Im dying to mention a book here, but I slam it too much; if you know me, youll know what Im talking about)
May have influence over other characters. (Such as turning a villain into an ally due to her radiating beauty!1!1!)
The author describes painfully detailed. (Mary Sues hair was a shimmering yellow incandescent flourish with copper strands entwined within the fury)
I could go on for a while, but you get the point.
This guide will focus on the basics of character building which can go terribly wrong. The factors I will touch on in this guide are only the superficial definitions of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu; I could go so much more in-depth, but Id have to annotate other peoples works. (Flamebait much?)
While I write this guide, I will be constructing my own personal Mary Sues and Gary Stus for the sake of demonstration. The Mary Sue will be named Krystaille ( Pronounced Crystal ) and the Gary Stu will be named Lauriette.
To tidy the article up, different sections will be separated via subheadings. To jump to a specific section, press Ctrl + F and enter the specific number of the subheading. The specific numbering is:
1.1 What's in a Name?
1.2 - A Character's Appearance.
1.3 - Does This Make Me Look Fat?
1.4 - Where It All Began</u>
1.5 - FAQs</u>
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Whats in a Name?
Krystaille and Lauriette they seem to be pretty fun names, right?
Wrong. In fact, even typing the name Krystaille makes me want to facepalm.
Many people believe that a persons name is a reflection of who they are; this applies even more so in literature as the author actually has control of names, not the fictional parents. (For example, my name is Natalie; people believe that that is an elegant, sophisticated name I am neither. ) If you go ahead and name your character something extreme/flamboyant, judgements will be plentiful.
Keep names simple, but not too simple. Find a name that both suits your characters personality and rolls off the tongue; we may want to simplify names, but we dont want to make them boring.
Before setting a characters name in stone, you might want to research its meaning first. This may be useful to see how relevant the name is to the characters personality and may also be used as an exploit later on (for example, if a name reflects stubbornness, the character may be stubborn at some point in the novel). A good place to research names is Behind The Name.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves in characters; if I see ANYONE doing this, I will PERSONALLY gut you like a fish if I ever critique you. Listen, we all know how super kawaii desu sugoi Japan is, but does the whole freaking world have to revolve around Japan? If you have a character whose parents are both from America, England etc. with no connections to Japan whatsoever, DO. NOT. GIVE. YOUR. CHARACTER. A. JAPANESE. NAME. Dont think Im a big meaniepants for calling you out on this; I know plenty of respectable writers who would pull you over their lap and give you a good paddling for doing this. Just dont do it, it makes you look like a weeaboo Mary Sue author.
Along with researching a names meaning, make sure to research its origin. For example, you may be tempted to name an Indian character Sari, but did you know that Sari is the Finnish version of Sarah?
If you insist on being different with your names, make sure theyre actually relevant to their place of origin/where they live. Whats the sense in giving an Italian person an Irish name?
A Characters Appearance
Krystaille has 32DD boobs, a tiny waist and a huge ass a perfect hour-glass shape. To show off her figure, she goes to the nearest Hot Topic and dresses herself head-to-toe in black. She has a beautiful, longing gaze with dazzling blue eyes and wavy, perfect blonde hair. She has several tattoos all over her body, despite not being old enough to get a tattoo where she lives.
Lauriette is so gorgeous that girls scream whenever they see him. He has long, champagne-coloured hair and dazzling topaz eyes. He walks around in high school shirtless because the teachers dont dare disobey his hawtness (plus its a good opportunity to show off his 28-pack). When hes at home, he likes to dress in bondage gear because hes so damn hot and bondage is so dam smexy!1!!11!
If you think theres nothing wrong with how I just described them, get the hell off my internet.
I want to make this clear: there is nothing wrong with having a good-looking character. What IS wrong, however, is how an author portrays them. Its okay to have a character who you initially describe as handsome/pretty, but if you climb over mountains in an effort to describe how glamorous a character is, kill them dead.
Its always best to have a sense of humour/be laid back when planning a characters appearance. Usually, the most likeable characters are the ones people can relate to. For example, my main character is a tall, flat-chested teenage girl who cut her hair to neck-length in protest of Mother Nature not giving her any boobs.
If youre making an RPC, avoid making him/her out of a recolour/trace of another character. Not only are recolours against dA rules, but sensible people wont take your RPC seriously. Even if you cant draw, its still better than leeching off someone elses creation, right?
Try not to make any bystander characters jealous of a characters looks its a sure sign of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.
To slightly tweak what the Mary Sue Litmus Test says, If all of the other characters are jealous of one character in particular because of their looks, douse yourself in cold water RIGHT NOW.
Try to avoid abnormal eye colours for no reason. I once saw an OC with rainbow eyes; that same day, I lost all my faith in humanity.
Stick with the one hair colour (with the exception of highlights/mid-tones). You dont want to pull an Ebony and have three different colours in your characters hair, do you?
If your storyline is set in the human world, try to avoid abnormal hair colours for both humans and demons/otherworldly beings; a demon would try its best to blend in with the crowd, right?
Dont be afraid to poke fun at your characters imperfections (such as chunky legs or hands). In fact, your readers will probably respect you for it.
Does This Make Me Look Fat?
Ive already described how Krystaille and Lauriette dress; now its time for the dos and donts of your characters wardrobe.
Im not suggesting that you all become fashionistas, but try to ensure that your character dresses for their shape. For example, if you have a slightly overweight character (which is HIGHLY doubtful if youre a Suethor, but oh well), you wouldnt want them running around in tight-fitting leather, would you?
Your characters wardrobe does not necessarily have to reflect on their personality. Imagine how your reader will react when they find out that a notoriously shabby character is actually quite smart.
Avoid obscure clothing like bondage/copious amounts of leather. If you dream of getting published, your fetish might be hard to swallow for other people.
Even if your character has the best wardrobe in the world, try not to describe it too much. Doing this distracts the reader from the storyline and makes them bored.
Try not to base your characters wardrobe out of wishful thinking. By doing this, youre more liable to put more wishful thinking into your character in other places.
Where It All Began.
Krystaille was born as the princess of Madeupesville. At the tender age of six, she witnessed her parents being murdered after hunters decided they wanted Krystaille for themselves as she was so perfect. She managed to escape, swearing revenge on her parents killers. She has killed many people mindlessly due to her torment, but she still insists on finding them.
Lauriette was brought into the spotlight at the age of two when he was forced to become a child star by his pushy parents. The pressure of being loved by absolutely everyone caused Lauriette to develop Rebellious Princess Syndrome and run away from showbiz. Now, he resides in the safety of high school, dating you excuse me - your original character.
Assuming youre writing about young characters, I dont care how awesomely original/tragic you think it is, dead parents are boring. The only time when dead parents are acceptable is when they have an impact on the storyline (for example, Sam and Dean Winchester [from Supernatural] want to find their mothers killer). If you just want an excuse not to develop two more characters (poor you!), at least make one of them live abroad or have a fallout between your character and their parents.
If your characters parents died of something believable (such as pneumonia due to old age), scratch that last remark.
Try to avoid unnecessary abuse (such as rape or being beaten by members of their family). I dont mean to be insensitive, but it really IS boring; I roll my eyes when I see it in someones back-story.
If you want some sort of torment in a characters back-story, I would suggest falling out with their parents. It might be a good idea for the character and their parents to make up at some point.
If abuse really is a necessity in your characters past, try not to make them emo because of it: theres nothing more inspiring for young readers than a character who can come out of a terrible scenario with their heads held high. ( I feel like Im on American Idol )
If your character is somewhat responsible for someones death in their past (like Krystaille), dont make them angst over it for eight-hundred million years its just boring and not original.
Hey, you barely have any literature in your gallery. What gives you the right to judge my characters?</u>
I write fanfiction for practice over at FanFiction.net, but I keep my own ideas private. Currently, I have a good idea for a book, but Im not putting pen to paper until I have more writing experience/have done research etc.
If its fiction, you dont need to do research!</u>
Youve been taking writing tips from Stephenie Meyer, havent you? Oh, you poor thing.
Whats this Mary Sue Litmus Test you keep mentioning?</u>
This is the Mary Sue Litmus Test. It helped me a lot when building characters; I once got a character down from 27 to three. Now, my main character is at a minus two in that test.
What happens if a lot of my characters do everything you say not to?</u>
Basically, you need to give your characters some TLC or in some cases, some distance. There are some excellent character-building guides on the Internet, plus it would be a wise decision to ask an author you respect to analyse your characters.
YOURE SO MEAN!</u>
Stop crying; if I didnt point out the flaws in your characters, someone else was bound to.
Do these apply to fanfiction characters as well?</u>
Most of them do, but I wrote these tips when imagining an original universe, not a canon one. You should still use them for fanfiction characters, but I would recommend you visit the Fanfiction Universe section of the Mary Sue Litmus Test.
You mentioned someone called 'Ebony' in this guide - who is she?</u>
Ebony (full name of Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way) is the biggest Mary Sue that has ever existed in fanfiction. She was created by Suethor Tara Gillesbie and is the product of a Harry Potter fanfiction named My Immortal. My Immortal can be read here, but it isn't for the faint-hearted.
I fully intend to continue this anti-Mary Sue guide, but I would really like your input and suggestions for the second part of the guide.
Thank you very much for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.