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Old Aug 17 2009, 01:30 PM   #1
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Question Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

I have a basic idea that they get almost everything they want. As for writing how do a person without getting into what I've posted?
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Old Aug 17 2009, 02:26 PM   #2
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

The Mary Sue/Gary Stu phenomenon is, at its root, merely poor characterization. The fandom likes to make up lists saying, "Your character might be a Mary Sue IF" and you check off boxes if your character has purple or yellow eyes, if they're a genius at music or magic or whatever, if they're a prince/princess/whatever, if their parents are dead, or abusive, or whatever, and add the totals up, but it's a load of bull. Strong writing can shore up fantastic premises...you just need to keep mindful of the little details, so your character is grounded and rounded.

As to how to avoid it...practice, mostly. It's all in the little details of how you present a character, and how you drive them forward through a story, how you work their chains of logic. Sure, you might *want* some high-placed person of authority to be just thrilled by your character, and go out of their way to help them get what you want your character to have (either because they pity your main character, or think the character is a genius, or whatever), but if you do that too much people start to disbelieve you. An author absolutely needs readers to trust them...once readers lose trust in you, it's hard to get it back. The less trust you have, the less you can pull off in a story.

To avoid poor characterization, a lot of it is being aware of how the real world works, and borrowing just enough from the real world that your readers trust you know what you're talking about so you can shove the more unusual things down their throats.
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Old Aug 17 2009, 07:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

The CLASSIC, prototypical Mary Sue was from the Star Trek fandom and was named Mary Sue (hence the trope name). She was beautiful and good. SO beautiful and good that the canon characters all loved her. Villains would change their wicked ways because of her goodness. She was THAT WONDERFUL A PERSON. As the reader was forcibly reminded every five minutes. The fanfic plot revolved around her even when it logically should not have. And to cap it off, she of course died in tragic and heroic circumstances, making everyone mourn her terribly and promise to be better people, yada yada.

Basically a Mary Sue, in fan fic, is an original character, frequently the long-lost daughter/sister/lover of a major character and/or is introduced as a love interest for a canon character. Mary Sue can do no wrong. The plot, even the fic universe, bends to suit her needs. Heroes love her, villains convert for her, even people who should be her romantic rival can't help but love her because, well, she's just so gosh darn wonderful! Often, she has a tragic past (dead parents, abusive family, psycho ex, whatever) but she has risen above it and is a better person for it, and often she will die in a self-sacrificial or otherwise suitably tragic manner. Gag.

The term's gradually become conflated with "self-insert." A self-insert is a (usually idealized) version of the author. Given about 80% of fan fic out there is self-insertion wish fulfillment, that makes for a lot of Mary-Sue labeling.

As one LJ community noted, "These days a Mary Sue is any female character under the age of seventy who can walk home in a rainstorm without drowning."
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Old Aug 17 2009, 08:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

One of the best ways to avoid it too is to have a Beta Reader. Ideally someone who is familiar with the genre or story you are writing you fic in, they are someone that you can use as an outside reader. Helps.
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Old Aug 18 2009, 01:49 AM   #5
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Thanks, all for the help. I have an idea based on Pern, and wanting to started it with the grandparents who have some empathy for healing folks/animals in the bloodline, its skips the mother and gets passed down to her only daughter to survive to carry on the bloodline and has a knack for it. I do not know when I well get time to write it but could use some help, without sounding like a "Mary-Sue".

Taking some of the background of my own grandparents and some of my own parents with relation to a Pern environment.
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Old Aug 18 2009, 10:06 PM   #6
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

For me, the biggest marker of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu character is unrealistic-ness. OK, is that even a word? What I mean is, the character is somehow finding themselves ridiculously fortunate windfalls that do not happen to real people. The 14-year-old Starfleet officer. The preteen goldrider and Sr. Weyrwoman (yes, Todd McCaffrey I am talking to you.)These people are good through and through- they are SO sweet they can leave a bad taste in your mouth!

So, I think that your concept for a character could work out to be reaZlly awesome, but you mustg make her real. It's cool that she has inherited this empathy for healing, but maybe she also is disorganized and forgetful. Everyone has their flaws, and no one is ALL bad or good. The world would be boring if they were.

Personally, I that Anne's DoP series has some great examples of characterization, both 'how to' and 'how not to' do it. Toric is the guy that most would love to hate, but I beleive that he went bad over time and as a result of what he saw as unfair treatment. Lessa makes for an awesome heroine (especially for the first 3 books, in my opinion), but she can be snippy and quick to judge- and absolutely refuses to admit errors. F'nor can be so altruistic it's, like, frightening, and he's also very impulsive (and also, he's a few eggs short of a clutch sometimes). Canth just rocks!
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Old Aug 19 2009, 02:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Quote:
For me, the biggest marker of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu character is unrealistic-ness. OK, is that even a word? What I mean is, the character is somehow finding themselves ridiculously fortunate windfalls that do not happen to real people.
I disagree with this, or at least, with how you wrote it. While you go on to clarify that yes, you do mean "unrealistic" characters in specific cases are ok, it still upholds the ridiculous idea that you CAN'T have a 14-year-old Starfleet officer, that you CAN'T have a preteen goldrider and Sr. Weyrwoman, even if you did not intend to have it read that way.

"Unrealistic ideas" by themselves are not an automatic marker of poor characterization. And I kneejerk when people imply, purposely or by accident, that they are, because that advice isn't sound. If it was, the entire world would write litfic about dead-end 40-somethings that never pursued their dreams and who are now working 60 hour weeks at the factory to feed their 8 kids.

It goes back to balance, like I said. For a 14 year old Starfleet officer I'd expect to see a depiction along the lines of how Ender was portrayed in Ender's Game. Or any child that started working at an early age, and having serious responsibilities.

There are certain ideas that are risky to write, yes. But if you borrow enough "reality" from the real world to balance your fantastic ideas, and you have enough skill so you know how to present it to your readership, you can pull it off.

Also, if a writer writes a story using what I'd call "high-risk" ideas, it would behoove them to not be upset if the readership doesn't swallow it...having extraordinary characters can be a mark against you, OR a mark for you depending on if the story works overall, and the story working/not working is a question of the author's skill at writing.

BUT, I would never tell someone to not use a specific premise.

(I don't really mean to direct this to you directly, Weyrlady, as I think we are on the same page, but the way you worded it makes it easy for someone to fly in, pick what they want out of it--see, yellow eyes are bad! So is purple hair and wings and magic! Never write about under-age heroes either!--and not "hear" the rest.)
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Old Aug 20 2009, 09:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

I think it's when the "unreality" of the character is taken to absurd extremes is when it strays into Sue/Stu territory. But I agree that's not itself a defining characteristic.

Also, you have to be careful with "I gave him/her flaws!" as a defense. Especially as the most common attempt to dodge the Sue/Stu label is to give them flaws that aren't. For a professional example, look no further than Bella Swan (for chrissake, her name means "Beautiful Swan"--I C WAT U DID THERE), with her "I'm too pale, too thin, too gawky, I have dark hair, and I'm SO clumsy." Because being a pale thin brunette is such a social curse. And the clumsy quickly passes into absurd territory. She's still a hopeless Mary Sue and author avatar to boot.
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Old Aug 21 2009, 01:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Could be worse....John/Jane Doe springs to mind as a common practise for naming someone who died or has disappeared off the face of the earth and doesn't want to be found. Why not Gary Stu/Mary Sue as the goody-two-shoes?

What do they call the bad ones? I've forgotten......
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Old Aug 21 2009, 07:43 AM   #10
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

I thought that the mark of a GS/MS was that just reading about them rots your teeth!
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Old Aug 21 2009, 03:57 PM   #11
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

I thought it was your brain cells.
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Old Aug 22 2009, 05:58 AM   #12
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

I do hope not. I can do without my teeth .....
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Old Aug 22 2009, 02:58 PM   #13
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2cent Writing so its not Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by D. M. Domini View Post
I disagree with this, or at least, with how you wrote it. While you go on to clarify that yes, you do mean "unrealistic" characters in specific cases are ok, it still upholds the ridiculous idea that you CAN'T have a 14-year-old Starfleet officer, that you CAN'T have a preteen goldrider and Sr. Weyrwoman, even if you did not intend to have it read that way.

"Unrealistic ideas" by themselves are not an automatic marker of poor characterization. And I kneejerk when people imply, purposely or by accident, that they are, because that advice isn't sound. If it was, the entire world would write litfic about dead-end 40-somethings that never pursued their dreams and who are now working 60 hour weeks at the factory to feed their 8 kids.

It goes back to balance, like I said. For a 14 year old Starfleet officer I'd expect to see a depiction along the lines of how Ender was portrayed in Ender's Game. Or any child that started working at an early age, and having serious responsibilities.

There are certain ideas that are risky to write, yes. But if you borrow enough "reality" from the real world to balance your fantastic ideas, and you have enough skill so you know how to present it to your readership, you can pull it off.

Also, if a writer writes a story using what I'd call "high-risk" ideas, it would behoove them to not be upset if the readership doesn't swallow it...having extraordinary characters can be a mark against you, OR a mark for you depending on if the story works overall, and the story working/not working is a question of the author's skill at writing.

BUT, I would never tell someone to not use a specific premise. <snip>
No I was thinking more that part of the bloodline come from being a wood-smith journeyman who be came a Master who ran a sawmill, would that be workable, the family had run it as a craft-hold, running the mill off one of the faster flowing rivers. Just an run-of-mill lol family, that finds love, and starting out in a new holding.
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Old Aug 23 2009, 09:10 PM   #14
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Allow me to try again. . . to me, the biggest marker of a Sue/Stu- like inddividual is someone to whom everything gets handed to on a silver platter. (AND when you read about them, it rots your teeth!) Like Anareth said, it's when the unrealism gets carried to absurd extremes.There are plenty of other things that make for a MS/GS, that's just a big one.

I think your idea's a totally workable one, Ginnystar, go for it! I know what it feels like to to be told "NO" repeatedly, and also what that does to one emotionally/phycologically, so won't do it to another person. My very life's an "unrealistic idea". . .

I personally have a character who is a goldrider, and also has what in 'modern times' we'd call spastic cerebral palsy.She can't feel her legs much of the time, and walks with crutches. Her Wingleader makes sure that she has the tools and support that she needs, then treats her as he would any other weyrling in training, which means that sometimes he has to come down very hard on her. He may correct her, but never physically hurts her- and it makes her a stronger person. No free pass because she rides gold; she has to earn it just like everyone else.
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Old Aug 23 2009, 11:44 PM   #15
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

I haven't written in a while, and the only Pern (or McCaffrey related) fic I did was FLIGHT.

I am writing again though I've bitten the bullet and started a Star Trek: Voyager fic. Slow work at the moment as I'm writing it in my free time and there's scant little of that at the moment.

This one seems to be 'writing itself' and I'm happy with it's progress so far.
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Old Aug 24 2009, 12:21 AM   #16
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Good luck on your Voyager fic, Kugai!

Also, just something I wanted to add. . . an excellent resource that I've found is "Gotham Writers Workshop"- they're a writing school in NYC. Their on-line classes are a bit beyond my price range($$), but I was able to take a class through Barnes & Noble University, and I got one of the instructional books, Writing Fiction, which is an amazing resource. It has tips on characterization, theme, plot, dialogue, you name it. Also Gotham's website www.writingclasses.com has informative articles and excercises that arn't in the book, and apply no matter what genre you're writing in.
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Old Aug 24 2009, 10:24 PM   #17
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Weyrlady View Post
Allow me to try again. . . to me, the biggest marker of a Sue/Stu- like inddividual is someone to whom everything gets handed to on a silver platter. (AND when you read about them, it rots your teeth!) Like Anareth said, it's when the unrealism gets carried to absurd extremes.There are plenty of other things that make for a MS/GS, that's just a big one.

I think your idea's a totally workable one, Ginnystar, go for it! I know what it feels like to to be told "NO" repeatedly, and also what that does to one emotionally/phycologically, so won't do it to another person. My very life's an "unrealistic idea". . .

I personally have a character who is a goldrider, and also has what in 'modern times' we'd call spastic cerebral palsy.She can't feel her legs much of the time, and walks with crutches. Her Wingleader makes sure that she has the tools and support that she needs, then treats her as he would any other weyrling in training, which means that sometimes he has to come down very hard on her. He may correct her, but never physically hurts her- and it makes her a stronger person. No free pass because she rides gold; she has to earn it just like everyone else.
Weyrlady is it your Pern fic "Dragonrider with a Difference?". Quite a cool story. So do Dan J. and I about told NO about doing something. We were told we could not make it up here in Wausau, WI its been nine years and ten years total!
Today we ordered a new computer, and are working on getting a new printer, for its died over the weekend a hardware, and ink toner carrier issue. Quite but didn't get emotional some general anxiety about it.
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Old Aug 26 2009, 01:23 AM   #18
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Default Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Quote:
Weyrlady is it your Pern fic "Dragonrider with a Difference?". Quite a cool story. So do Dan J. and I about told NO about doing something. We were told we could not make it up here in Wausau, WI its been nine years and ten years total!
Today we ordered a new computer, and are working on getting a new printer, for its died over the weekend a hardware, and ink toner carrier issue. Quite but didn't get emotional some general anxiety about it.
Yup, yup, that's it. One of my goals with my crutches-user golder is to show that she can be a real dragonrider, and a Weyrwoman with a capital "W", and a Moreta-Lessa-Zulaya-type, and be sexy since so much of Weyr life seems to depend on it- plus that crosses a huge barrier, and have a disability at the same time. Tall order, I know!

Best of luck with your new 'puter, and hopefully we'll soon "hear" from you on it!
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Old Aug 27 2009, 08:08 PM   #19
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Re: Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues. Could some help to understand this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Weyrlady View Post
Yup, yup, that's it. One of my goals with my crutches-user golder is to show that she can be a real dragonrider, and a Weyrwoman with a capital "W", and a Moreta-Lessa-Zulaya-type, and be sexy since so much of Weyr life seems to depend on it- plus that crosses a huge barrier, and have a disability at the same time. Tall order, I know!

Best of luck with your new 'puter, and hopefully we'll soon "hear" from you on it!
Thanks Weyrlady!
I've come up with a working title so far Hoofs and Woods, which when it 'pop' into my mind I was at it.
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