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A Mary Sue is.... by ZeroGravityCroquet A Mary Sue is.... by ZeroGravityCroquet
I've noticed a common phenomenon among young/amateur writers: once they become aware of what a Mary Sue is, they are terrified of making one. They spew out a lot of well-meaning-but-misled advice like "DON'T USE X HAIR COLOR" or "AVOID TRAGIC PASTS". I like to call this phenomenon "Sue-terror".

What a lot of kids don't seem to get when they're first introduced to the world of writing is that Mary Sue, in all her forms, is not about the traits she has. Once you boil out all of the common Mary Sue traits, she is about two things: suspension of disbelief and influence on the plot. I referred to the plot aspect specifically in the stamp because I didn't want to make the stamp as long as the description is.


Anyway.

First, suspension of disbelief. This is where Mary Sue dances into the subjective range, because what might break the suspension of disbelief like so much stunt glass for one person, might be perfectly acceptable for another. There is a certain amount of SoD that is controllable, though, and that is a magic little thing I like to call context.

For example, purple is a common eye color for the stereotypical Mary Sue. But what if the character is from a race that has purple as a common eye color? The audience might be a little more willing to accept luminous purple eyes if your character doesn't have them for no reason. Same thing goes for other traits (e.g. hair color) or abilities. Having a very powerful character doesn't mean they're a Mary Sue. If you can balance out any trait in the context of the story, it can be perfectly believable. It's all an issue of where these traits pop up and how they're handled. The reason why many people take physical traits as a strong sign of a Mary Sue is because in a lot of really bad Sues, their physical traits are super-special or elaborated upon in a way that breaks the reader's suspension of disbelief. It's when the reader is no longer wrapped up in the plot, but is stuck reading the description of one person. This makes the readers go, "Okay, okay, we get it, she's special and beautiful, can we please move on and get back to the story now, please?"

Tragic backstories also fall under the issue of context and usage. There are lots of characters in well-known books, movies, etc. that have tragic pasts, but generally they're not considered Sues. The reason behind that is that tragic backstories, when not tacked on to gain cheap sympathy for the character or played up for preposterous amounts of wangst, can be done well. However, they are tricky to pull off right, and again, what one person might find completely acceptable will be cliche and eyeroll-inducing for another. Though you can't please everyone, your characters should be at least believable. However, I do advise one to handle tragic backstories with care.


Let's discuss plot influence next. In a story, the best way to identify a character that needs tweaking is how the character and the plot interact. What you want in a story is for the characters to be moved by the plot. They should be at the mercy of the conflict. They should be fighting it. When the plot is being moved by the character, that's an issue. Having a character control the plot kills suspense, and it kills the fundamental aspects of plot. Naturally, this is not a good thing, as the plot is a necessity for an enjoyable, believable story.

In fanfiction, it's easy to identify an egregious Sue from the way she sweeps in, makes all the canon males (and/or females) fall in love with her, and then fixes the main conflict with one pinky finger. Mary Sue also comes in evil varieties: a character that comes in, kicks all of the main hero's asses, woos the main villain with her oh-so-sexy evilness, then kicks some puppies and cackles nastily. Notice how, despite their complete difference in alignment, the two Sues share something fundamentally similar: they come into the story, and they do everything right. There's no substantial conflict present. They have, as the stamp said, bent the plot over the table and made it their bitch.

And in the end, that is really what makes a Mary sue.


Made with `DoItForTheLulz's stamp brush.
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:iconsonicthedeviant:
SonicTheDeviant Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2016
If Akai-Dalia were the same way she was before, I would send this to her and say:

Like a bitch.
Reply
:iconmidnight21:
midnight21 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Definition of a sue, based on a really bad role play I did with someone for the past four years.

*Has purple and blue furred kitsunes with tiger genetics and has wings of an angel
*Can do just about everything and has no weaknesses.
*Is hated by many yet is extremely popular somehow
*Main male character is a demon, a god of light, a king, a rock star, a model, a warrior, possesses the power of thunder, can heal, can shapeshift... i think I better stop.
*Her characters are very controlling and abusive to other characters and they always have to be the center of attention.
*Every single offspring born to these characters have to look and act like them. you are not allowed to express yourself through character and genetic development, make your own choices or the changes you need to so that you have characters that work for you and enjoy using in the rpg. You're pretty much stuck with using characters you hate just to make that person happy and if you dare change any of it, you'll be faced with temper tantrums, the silent treatment, and demands to change it all back or else. it's like you're not allowed to grow or evolve as an artist and it gets to the point where you can't deal with it anymore.
*The RPG consists of nothing but drama, violence and gore. You get so sick of it that you start begging that person to stop and let your characters live normal and peaceful lives but she wouldn't listen and keeps putting your characters through it anyway. Your characters are expected to endure it and act like nothing bad has happened to them. If they ever experience some kind of anxiety, stress, depression or PTSD, that person will complain how role playing with you isn't fun anymore.
*If a character yells at that person's character for something, they will look down to the ground and say "i guess i'm  just too pure," not wanting to take responsibility for their actions and put people through guilt trips to avoid getting into trouble with other players.
*Cubs are expected to go through abusive training and become powerful warrior monarch mary sues in the future. They cannot be anything else and if you try to think outside of the box or try to kill them off she will use her male character to bring them back from the dead and throw them in prison until it's time for the poor cub to be taken to the forest only to be abused by the man they call father... They too are expected to be glad to go through the training, even looking forward to it and act like nothing traumatic had happened to them.
*Her male character always seems to destroy planets whenever he doesn't get his way then brings it back from the dead, expecting people to bow down to him and accept him to be their God king.
*the other person is not welcoming of your lifestyle or pop culture. that person will try to change it to be just like theirs.
*They also want to change your characters too, coming up with a bizarre story that doesn't even relate to your storyline and expects you to go along with it.
*is always power playing and godmodding your characters and will never stop until your characters and storylines become an extension of hers.
*If the role play comes to an end, that person will claim all the offspring characters as their own and take full credit for your concepts and designs. You can't call her out on it and expose the truth because they'll only lie about it and twist the situation around to cover their butt. Then they'll project the blame on you and accuse you of character theft....
*The person will kill off one of your characters then brings it back to life then expects your character to be best buddies with hers when they should really be executed for endangering the lives of others.
*Everything has to be their way. no exceptions, no compromise.
*Your characters don't get the spotlight at all. If your character is getting married the attention is always shifted to her characters and it somehow becomes one giant rock concert.

And that's the gist of what that rpg was like.... never again.
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:iconfrankier-o:
frankier-o Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2015  Student Digital Artist
i have a character and i have created a whole futurama au, but the au favors all the characters. i made sure the au makes sense to the original plot, with some changes to the ages of characters. 
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:icondarklighteryphon:
darklighteryphon Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015
So True.
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:iconmipmippp1:
Mipmippp1 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I was just thinking in Twilight Sparkle when I was reading this. Twilight Sparkle is a complete Mary Sue in MLP...
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:icon8bitstitchpunk:
8BitStitchPunk Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I agree with you on the "context" thing. If you come up with a Harry Potter OC with purple hair and eyes, that's going to come off as Sue-ish. But a Steven Universe Gemsona with purple hair and eyes is fair game, since all Gems in-universe have unusual hair/skin/eye color. 
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:iconcerisbeech:
CerisBeech Featured By Owner May 28, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I agree with your reasons, especially when people say one trait makes someone a sue for no reason. That, to me, is annoying.

A real Mary Sue is typically a self-insert that can do no wrong and never has to face hardship, for a random power up will be pulled out of their but to save them.
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:iconacabaz:
acabaz Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
mary sues are freaking annoying! THIS IS SO TRUE!
Reply
:iconleaves-from-the-vine:
Leaves-from-the-Vine Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wait! Light Mary Sue vs. Dark Mary Sue!

They would both cancel out and...? Implode?
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:iconinternetexplorer968:
Internetexplorer968 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Nice. :)
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:iconbutterscotsh:
Butterscotsh Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
But, what if a character is the main reason for the conflict of the plot? And what if it's that character is the main character?
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:iconrobotic-mind:
Robotic-Mind Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2014
Yes! I hate how Mary Sues butcher stories.
Reply
:iconcandyninjalady:
CANDYNINJALADY Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2014  Student Digital Artist
A lot of people keep saying my oc is a Mary Sue JUST because they got one characteristic of a Mary Sue! Then before you know it they start spamming all your comments and blocking you
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:iconshuzutrap:
shuzutrap Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Hi Fwive
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:iconwingsofasong:
WingsOfASong Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is exactly my thoughts on this. Thank you for this lovely stamp and insightful description.
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:iconrockmangurl:
RockmanGurl Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014  Student General Artist
Yes, yes, and YES! To me, that's the problem. If it's on AU fic though, it's still about keeping everyone in character and having the plot go as realistically as possible.
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:iconforbiddenzero:
ForbiddenZero Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
They are made to be perfect and better than the overall characters. They are overprotected weaklings with no character persona and it's disgusting and ruins the overall anime or story. Yuuki Kuran and Kagome are perfect examples.
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:iconshewolfzoroark:
shewolfzoroark Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I have a character with purple hair, golden eyes and pale blue skin.

She is a mutant. 

She's also kind of an ass to people, too. So many people have said she's a Mary Sue because of how she looks.
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:icondabair:
DaBair Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Just look at Enoby.
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:icongranitecheese:
GraniteCheese Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Aurora has purple eyes! Just saying.
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:icon100dragonhearts:
100DragonHearts Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2014
I realllly don't like how self-inserts are always expected to be female characters. I mean it's kind of sexist. Have you heard of a Gary-Stu?
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:icontigerdragonmaster:
TigerDragonMaster Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I've seen many descriptions of what makes a mary sue and I think this one is the best. Also it made me laugh for a solid minute :)
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:icontaschasan:
Taschasan Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
And the worst is: "She's so beautiful, everyone wants to fuck her or hate her, it's really a curse." ugh, whenever I see that I don't bother with reading anymore.

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:iconchrisquattrofuschia:
ChrisQuattroFuschia Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2013
I agree with your definition of a SUe.  However, controlling the plot might be legit if the writer founds out some plot holes that is LEGITIMATELY bad. Like what Yahtzee said, people make a sequel because they don't like things inside a game.

For example, AKB0048. It might be one of my fave anime, but there's one thing I cannot get for the life of me. Near the end of the second season AKA Next Stage, DES succeeded in invading Akibastar when throughout the first season, AKB0048 defeated their foes rather easily.

That's just doesn't make a lot of sense, so I make the OC and AKB0048 did a pre-emptive strike, preventing an invasion of Akibastar.
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:icontokiogirl21:
Tokiogirl21 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I found out today that people on tumblr made fun of my OC. Frankly, I'm not bothered by it b/c this character's not going to be in my story (i've decided to do one after all the artwork come 2014) for very long. She's fated to die.
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:iconobsessive7s:
Obsessive7s Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2013
I LOVE YOU!! I LOVE HOW YOU EXPLAINED THIS!! I have 2 OCs who are twins and i purposely made the 'evil' very close to a Mary-Sue to make her hated for my comic that's in progress. And this has really helped, thank you!!
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:iconseven-deadly-turtles:
Seven-deadly-turtles Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2013  Student Artist
I don't say avoid tragic pasts, I say avoid useless tragedy that sheds nothing on how the character acts in the future 
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:iconlittleblackdragon:
LittleBlackDragon Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Now this is a definition I can get behind, and I think this is the most important thing when working on a character. Does the plot move the character or does the character move the plot? Also, suspension of disbelief is a big one. It can be subjective, but there is a limit.

I find balance is often my issue with traits both physical and personality wise. Sure, she has unique traits, but does she have ordinary traits as well? Or flaws? Does she have strengths and personality flaws that will fit in the context of the story or make the story interesting? I don't mind OCs being paired with canon characters or having powers, but is the set up interesting to read? Can you believe that the characters would interact with the OC in such a way? And again, with your question, is she moved by the plot or is she the one moving the plot instead?

But you listed probably the two biggest questions you should address when making a character: whether an OC for a fanfiction can suspend disbelief (is believable enough) and what their relationship is to the plot.

I tip my hat to you.
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:iconpsychograndmaster:
PsychoGrandmaster Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, the magic color changing eyes and purple hair fall into WSOD for me. If the character is in a world where having purple hair or color changing eyes is otherwise impossible and the character has them JUST CUZ, then I call Sue, as that breaks the WSOD. If it's not strange in the world to have purple hair and rainbow eyes, or if it is but there's a good reason behind it, then WSOD isn't broken for me, and I don't feel the need to characterize the character as a Sue based on outer appearance.
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:iconcrescent-horse42:
Crescent-Horse42 Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Exactly, all other factors just make him annoying if not done right, not a mary sue, heck, immortal characters can be done right if you know how to. :XD:
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:iconcareduck:
CareDuck Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I know character who has blue hair but is the opposite of a Mary Sue he's mean, he is somewhat disliked by his closest friends, and almost always gets it at the end.
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:iconlyricalitynin:
lyricalityNin Featured By Owner May 22, 2013  Student General Artist
Thank you for this. Thank you so much.
Reply
:iconheatphones:
Heatphones Featured By Owner May 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have the feeling you just described my ChimeraSona... ._. Her Feathers are purple, her eyes as well. (And she can summon Wings, her eyes glow orange when this happens.) There are two Characters that are in Love with her and she is a bit gruff and in Love with herself.

Unless the Peeps are her friends, she treats others skeptic and she has a HUUUUGE sad Background Story of her never meeting her family and that she fights together with her best friend, who is also a Zombie, because they live in a dark World and three of her friends died...

Though. She has many many flaws. She is strong and fast, but also needs to eat and rest a lot and she can not stand physical harm, once she gets hit from someone. She also has some Anger Issues. Nor she can control the Huge Power that is in her, what makes her less mary sue-ish again.
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:iconajinu-okami:
AJInu-Okami Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I did not know purple eyes are a sign of MSs... But my one of my OCs has purple eyes and hair for a reason because it follows a race who when they hit 15, their hair and eyes change color to whatever it was to be.
Good definition of what a Mary-Sue is ^^
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:iconmmpratt99:
mmpratt99 Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional General Artist
What if this character has eyes similar to that of Elizabeth Tayor, eyes were a deep blue that appear as violet?
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:iconincuriouscat:
IncuriousCat Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Best Mary Sue definition I've found so far.
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:iconsheepwolf7:
sheepwolf7 Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great definition, yeah lots of them in fan fictions
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:iconhiukinukiro:
HiukiNukiro Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
fack... that sums up everything I was unclear on, thanks!
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:iconaquosboost:
AquosBoost Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Pink hair and purple eyes- Hairdye and colour contact lenses?
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:iconamaranthine-eternity:
amaranthine-eternity Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
I agree! It's the effect they have on the story/other characters, not their traits! Otherwise, all tragic chacters ever written would automatically be Sues.
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:icondaughterofdungeonbat:
*hugs* that.... that was beautiful.
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:icongryffgirl:
Gryffgirl Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2012
Great stamp and I agree with your notes! :)
Reply
:iconxxxlilyzmgold2:
xxxLilyzmGold2 Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2012  Student General Artist
I think natural purple eyes are fine in anime fanfics or any shows where it's acceptable. Same thing with any weird hair/eye color/hair style. But otherwise, no. If it's unnatural, it's okay.

I think I have one (or two) O.o So I'm gonna look over that
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:icontheoriginalarts:
TheOriginalArts Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Seems legit.
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:iconsillygothic:
Sillygothic Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
a definition i can FINALLY agree with!
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:iconcynderxtigress4ever:
cynderXtigress4ever Featured By Owner May 26, 2012
thank you so much :iconbegplz:
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:iconmelancholy-meloy:
Melancholy-Meloy Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :)

I have characters with odd physical appearances and when people see drawing of them they immediately start screaming, SUE!

So what if she has pink hair? she's from the future damn it, and there are people walking around with weirder body modifications! Anyhow, Yes I agree and all that. ^-^
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:icontherealnf:
TheRealNF Featured By Owner May 1, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I am specifically trying to write a story with a SIDE character being one of these. You will probably all hate me for it.
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:iconrosemary-the-skunk:
Rosemary-the-Skunk Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is so true. We don't hate Mary Sues because of her magic powers or eyes that change color. We hate the fact that the entire plot revolves around her, and how horribly she, and the stories she ruins, turn out to be.
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:iconmintaka-tk:
Mintaka-TK Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
You're right - a Mary Sue is at heart, a character that twists the plot to his/her advantage. Technicolour eyes/hair or tragic backstories may be common Sue symptoms, but a writer can try to justify it.
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