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May 30, 2009
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With the creation of several self-publishing websites such as Lulu and the general standard of what is deemed to be publishable declining, every thirteen year old girl and her pet goldfish believe they have what it takes to be the next big author. In an attempt to churn out a book series of six-hundred pages in one weekend, many juvenile wannabe authors neglect the very building blocks of their fiction: the characters.

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:

:bulletpurple: Has barely any [exploitable] flaws.
:bulletpurple: Is virtually perfect. (These two are pretty obvious)
:bulletpurple: Often serves as a self-insert for the author/audience. (I’m dying to mention a book here, but I slam it too much; if you know me, you’ll know what I’m talking about)
:bulletpurple: May have influence over other characters. (Such as turning a villain into an ally due to her radiating beauty!1!1!)
:bulletpurple: The author describes painfully detailed. (Mary Sue’s 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 I’d have to annotate other people’s 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:

:bulletpurple: 1.1 – What's in a Name?
:bulletpurple: 1.2 - A Character's Appearance.
:bulletpurple: 1.3 - Does This Make Me Look Fat?
:bulletpurple: 1.4 - Where It All Began</u>
:bulletpurple: 1.5 - FAQs</u>

I hope you enjoy! Please support this article by favouriting it if you liked it. :D

What’s 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 person’s 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. :flirty: ) If you go ahead and name your character something extreme/flamboyant, judgements will be plentiful.

:bulletpurple: Keep names simple, but not too simple. Find a name that both suits your character’s personality and rolls off the tongue; we may want to simplify names, but we don’t want to make them boring.
:bulletpurple: Before setting a character’s name in stone, you might want to research its meaning first. This may be useful to see how relevant the name is to the character’s 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.
:bulletpurple: 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. Don’t think I’m 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…don’t do it, it makes you look like a weeaboo Mary Sue author.
:bulletpurple: Along with researching a name’s 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’?
:bulletpurple: If you insist on being different with your names, make sure they’re actually relevant to their place of origin/where they live. What’s the sense in giving an Italian person an Irish name?

A Character’s 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 don’t dare disobey his hawtness (plus it’s a good opportunity to show off his 28-pack). When he’s at home, he likes to dress in bondage gear because he’s so damn hot and bondage is so dam smexy!1!!11!  

If you think there’s nothing wrong with how I just described them, get the hell off my internet.

:bulletpurple: 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. It’s 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.
:bulletpurple: It’s always best to have a sense of humour/be laid back when planning a character’s 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. :B
:bulletpurple: If you’re 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 won’t take your RPC seriously. Even if you can’t draw, it’s still better than leeching off someone else’s creation, right?
:bulletpurple: Try not to make any bystander characters jealous of a character’s looks – it’s a sure sign of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.
:bulletpurple: 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.’
:bulletpurple: 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.
:bulletpurple: Stick with the one hair colour (with the exception of highlights/mid-tones). You don’t want to pull an Ebony and have three different colours in your character’s hair, do you?
:bulletpurple:  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?
:bulletpurple: Don’t be afraid to poke fun at your character’s imperfections (such as chunky legs or hands). In fact, your readers will probably respect you for it.

Does This Make Me Look Fat?



I’ve already described how Krystaille and Lauriette dress; now it’s time for the dos and don’ts of your character’s wardrobe.

:bulletpurple: I’m 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 you’re a Suethor, but oh well), you wouldn’t want them running around in tight-fitting leather, would you?
:bulletpurple: Your character’s 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.
:bulletpurple: 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.
:bulletpurple: 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.
:bulletpurple: Try not to base your character’s wardrobe out of wishful thinking. By doing this, you’re 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 parent’s 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.

:bulletpurple: Assuming you’re writing about young characters, I don’t 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 mother’s 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.
:bulletpurple: If your character’s parents died of something believable (such as pneumonia due to old age), scratch that last remark.
:bulletpurple: Try to avoid unnecessary abuse (such as rape or being beaten by members of their family). I don’t mean to be insensitive, but it really IS boring; I roll my eyes when I see it in someone’s back-story.
:bulletpurple: If you want some sort of torment in a character’s 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.
:bulletpurple: If abuse really is a necessity in your character’s past, try not to make them emo because of it: there’s 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 I’m on American Idol… )
:bulletpurple: If your character is somewhat responsible for someone’s death in their past (like Krystaille), don’t make them angst over it for eight-hundred million years – it’s just boring and not original.

FAQs


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 I’m not putting pen to paper until I have more writing experience/have done research etc.

If it’s fiction, you don’t need to do research!</u>
You’ve been taking writing tips from Stephenie Meyer, haven’t you? Oh, you poor thing.

What’s 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.

YOU’RE SO MEAN!</u>
Stop crying; if I didn’t 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. :heart:
Add a Comment:
 
:iconstrikingtheanvil:
strikingtheanvil Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2014  New member Hobbyist Artist
Love what you have to say! Exceptionally helpful and funnily sarcastic.
Reply
:iconguyette:
Guyette Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This was extremely helpful. I have always heard of the dreaded Mary Sues before, but I never really knew what exactly to stay away from. I have been working on remaking some of my characters from when I was younger and they (unfortunately) were terrible Mary Sues. Thank you so much for making this. It helped me a lot.
Reply
:iconfinniy:
Finniy Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
3 words: I love you.
Reply
:iconrookie141:
Rookie141 Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
my name... tells about my personallity? actually i try to give my characters reather fitting names but mine does not fit to me xDD
cool guide :)
and gary stu makes me mad cuz one of my characters is named gary xDD

btw: what are you writing about (FF)? i need to improve my english ^^
Reply
:iconcrisishalfprincess:
CrisisHalfPrincess Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thank you so much. this is the mary sue guide i always wanted. Please write more things in this guide!!
Reply
:iconsaiyan5nine-tails:
Saiyan5Nine-Tails Featured By Owner May 31, 2013
I wonder how many points on this chart one of my OCs in a Martin Mystery fan fic would peg.

Either way, I like the point you are making.
Reply
:iconsilver-bluewind:
silver-bluewind Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Student General Artist
About the Japanese names thing, I believe it's actually more common the other way around. Lots of Mary Sue makers who make fanfictions for anime tend to give their characters Western names despite the anime having nothing to with anything Western.
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:iconnxtoukolove:
NxToukoLove Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Lovelychu
Reply
:iconbulldozerivan:
BulldozerIvan Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Taking your test for "Cataclysmic Horizons"...

Candi's described, but not painfully. She has clear flaws, including obsession with sex. She's pretty, but not loved-by-all. In fact, she's the target of frequent sexual harassment and abuse from her peers in school, largely because she doesn't "give it up" as much as they think she should. (Yes, I tend to portray all public schools as evil in that story.) She has one rape in her backstory, but not from a family member. It only really bothers her when the attacker returns and starts committing acts of terrorism, and she has to fight him. Otherwise, she has all but forgotten him. Her parents are dead, but so are 75% of the Midwest in her continuity. (The country has been destroyed and taken over by Jihadists.) And they actually did a few interesting things in a story of their own preceding hers. Black hair with some red highlights. Other than Ciem suit, all her clothes could pass for something a normal human being would wear. She's not emo per se, but she is very clingy around her boyfriend.

Testing an actual fanfic..."Q-Basic Gorillas: The Movie"

Stacy's father is missing, but not necessarily dead. Her mother is quite alive and well. Has no idea what's going on, but isn't stupid either. Character is depicted to be somewhat Mexican or Filipina and half-white, not really defined. Clothes and everything else could pass for someone real. Primary purpose in story is to witness things happening and scoff in disbelief.

Col. Flix, same story...adored by his team, but he's a gorilla. His flamboyant arch-nemesis likes to crack jokes with him while fighting him. (More than that...Flix is a parody of Gil Grissom on CSI mixed with Optimus Prime.) Socially reclusive. One-ape army. Deadpan snarker. Does not understand when questions are rhetorical. Wields a guan-dao. Wears a silly red bandana on top of his helmet. Was promoted to a major as a teen, after he rescued a gorilla princess from a cannibal. Tends to go missing a lot. Wants to stop frozen chimpanzee villains from turning mankind into cats. (Makes sense in context.)

How suetiful/stuy would you say these characters are?
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:iconnekoiichi:
nekoiichi Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Really useful and inspiring. Thank you for taking your time making this entry!
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