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Murdering Mary Sue

Every aspiring writer has met her at least once, whether in his own works or in those of others. The alluring temptation of a perfect character taunts the author from one side while his muse urges him to keep writing from the other. Who wouldn't love her? She's the most beautiful, talented, fantastic woman in the universe, with not a flaw in sight. Every woman wants to be her; every man wants to marry her, so why would anyone want to kill her? Who would want to murder Mary Sue?
I would. I and many greater authors have been working hard to keep this succubus in her proper place: the trash can. Mary Sue is one of the worst enemies of good fiction, second only to poor spelling and grammar. And the seductress tempts even the most cautious writer. Her many disguises can make her difficult to spot, allowing her to weave her way into every plot twist and turn, slowly destroying the author's work. By the time she’s found, she may have done so much damage that the only way to repair the story is to start over entirely. This is why we need to learn to spot her early, and kill her before her destructive charms go too far.

Who Is She?

Surprisingly few authors I’ve met have ever heard of Mary Sue. Admittedly, she’s very difficult to define, given that no two Mary Sues are exactly alike. The best definition I’ve seen opens a Wikipedia article on the subject, and can be summarized as such:
Mary Sue is a derogatory term for a fictional character whose traits, skills, and abilities are inadequately justified, thus failing to maintain believability. These characters are overly idealized and cliché, lacking in noteworthy flaws, and usually function as an author’s means of wish-fulfillment or self-insertion. A Mary Sue is often described in excessive detail when compared to other main characters, and is found most often in fan fiction and original fiction. The unbelievable nature of the character frequently causes the audience to immediately dislike her.
Now that’s a mouthful! It’s very difficult to describe Mary Sue in any less terms, however the bottom line is simple: Mary Sue is unrealistic. This is why many beginning authors are deceived into creating her; they try so hard to write something unique that they forget the element of believability that has to be maintained. This isn’t confined to female characters either. Mary’s male counterpart – Gary Stu – is just as bad. Good writing depends upon spotting these characters before they get out of hand, and the following guideline will help you get started.

What’s In a Name?

Let’s begin with perhaps the most important part of any story’s main character: her name. Without a name of some sort, a character is quickly brushed off as unimportant, as background, as a minor detail behind the real protagonists. Yes, names are very, very important. There are many essays on choosing the right name for your characters, and giving a complete tutorial of this task is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we will only focus specifically on what should not be done when naming characters, or at least used with caution.
#1 Variations of the author’s name. Is your character’s name the same as or a variation of your own name, be that your first, middle, last, or nickname? Using my name as an example (Katherine Elise Logan), Mary Sue could be called any of the following: Katherine, Kathy, Katie, Kate, Kat, Katran, Catherine, Elise, Ellis, Logan, Kel (my initials), Kelly… and so on. This isn’t even including nicknames. Now, an author shouldn’t be discouraged from using his own name as his character’s just because it could lead to a Mary Sue; it is generally only considered bad when used to name a main character in fan-fiction. Obvious allusions to the author (such as using your name exactly) should still be avoided unless the character is supposed to be the author, since readers will immediately recognize this as a self-insertion.
#2 Unusual spellings of ordinary names. This is an easy one to catch. There is a significant difference between a character named Alexander and one named Alyckzandre. Generally speaking, names shouldn’t look like they were generated by randomly pushing buttons on a keyboard. Avoid this as much as possible, unless there is a logical explanation for the unusual spelling. For example, Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars is a new twist on Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In this book, the name of the main character is Alyss, and its spelling is contested by the Liddells when they adopt her and force her to use the more traditional Alice. The reason for her unique name is because she is from the magical world of Wonderland, where such things are the norm.
#3 Opposite gender names. As with unusual spellings, characters shouldn’t be given names meant for the opposite gender. Note that there are many unisex names such as Shannon, Nancy, and Kyle, as well as short versions of longer names that sound like they were meant for the opposite gender (Charlie for Charlene, Ash for Ashley, etc.). These do not fall into this category.
#4 Nouns and verbs. Have you ever been tempted to name a character any of the following: Raven, Willow, Speed, Ruby, Eclipse, Katana, or anything that was a noun or verb (regardless of spelling or variation) not normally used as a name? This, like naming a character after yourself, isn’t necessarily bad, but should be used with extreme caution. Anime in particular is notorious for using this method of naming. Take the villains from the first two seasons of Sailor Moon, who are almost entirely named after gemstones: Malachite, Nephrite, Jedite, Zoisite, Queen Beryl, Prince Diamond, Sapphire, Emerald, and Rubeus, a male variation on Ruby.
#5 Self-named characters. Unless the character was an orphan or had some logical reason to change her given name, there is no reason she should be naming herself. Because she didn’t like her original name is not a good excuse.
#6 Another character’s name. If you’re writing a story in which the main character is a wizard, don’t name him Harry. Borrowing interesting character names from other fictional worlds is fine as long as the similarities end there.
#7 Anachronistic and foreign names. It’s going to be really hard to take your medieval knight seriously if his name is Sir Jamal, especially if he’s Anglo-Saxon. Likewise, it makes no sense for an African-American gangster with no Asian heritage to be name Kojiro. Make sure your character’s name fits with his time and culture.

Looks Are Important

The first thing readers usually learn about a character is her appearance. Writers are constantly struggling with how much detail is put into this important part in the characterization process, and beginners tend to waver between too much or too little. Mary Sue is always described with excessive detail, often having grossly more descriptions than her non-Sue cast. The following points are what should be looked for when figuring out what your character will look like.
#1 Look-a-likes. Never, ever should a character’s description begin with anything along the lines of “looks just like…” That said, you shouldn’t use details that are obviously the same as another, existing character; we all know who has messy black hair, round glasses, and a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead. Characters who look just like you should also be avoided, although this isn’t nearly as damaging. Lastly, making minor changes to the character’s appearance (“It’s a moon shaped scar!”) still counts as making a look-a-like.
#2 Exceptionally beautiful characters. The man is tall, dark, and handsome; the woman is curvalicious. Describing your character as an idealized beauty is a major warning sign of Mary Sue. A character should never be completely “perfect” or “the most beautiful woman in the land.” Make the man short and fat. Give the woman small breasts and a crooked nose. It’s these details – the flaws – that make the character interesting. Having no flaws makes the character flat. Also keep in mind that how other characters react is important too: even if your character looks like Quasimodo’s identical twin, it defeats the point if all of the other characters still think she’s the most beautiful thing that graced the Earth. Have some think she’s ugly. Have some not care at all. Only have a scarce few who truly fawn over her.
#3 Unrealistic physiques. How would you look if you lived off of pizza and chocolate cake and never exercised? You certainly wouldn’t be pencil-thin, and neither should your character if this is how he eats. As with the above, characters should have figures that fit with their eating and exercising habits. A college student who eats poorly and doesn’t exercise doesn’t have to be a blimp, but there is no way she is going to have a nice flat stomach or rock hard abs. Simply put, be realistic.
#4 Poetic terms. It’s alright to say that your character’s flaxen hair cascades down her shoulders like a waterfall; it isn’t alright to say her luscious flaxen hair cascades gently down her bare shoulders, as smooth and pale as cream, flowing like a river in spring… blah blah blah. Using poetic or flowery terms to describe a character’s appearance is best done with caution and moderation. Hair should rarely be referred to as locks, waves, or curls, and there is no appropriate synonym for eyes. For the love of good writing, never call them orbs or spheres unless they are no longer in the character’s skull. As true as the shape may be, eyes are never completely seen and don’t look spherical.
#5 Colors. Certain colors simply don’t appear naturally in humans. The more a character’s hair, skin, and eye color deviates from what could naturally occur, the closer they are to being Mary Sue. In other words, a human with red or gold eyes and naturally hot pink hair is dangerously Sue-ish. This particular point, however, is directly relevant to the fictional universe in which the character exists. If Technicolor skin is the norm in your world, then don’t worry about making your character dark green.
#6 Stereotypes. As with look-a-likes, don’t use a stereotype to describe your character’s appearance. His outfit should not be “a ninja’s outfit,” or “pirate garb,” or anything similar. This is one of those instances where more detail (instead of less) is needed.
#7 Hygiene and injuries. This is one of those common sense mistakes: if a character has been working out for hours, he isn’t going to smell very pretty. Likewise, a character who has been in battle won’t just smell horrible, but will probably also be injured and bloody. Don’t be afraid to describe him as such, because it simply doesn’t make sense for an active, skilled warrior to come out of battle completely clean and unscathed.
#8 Practicality and anachronisms. A chain mail bikini is not practical armor, nor did it ever exist prior to modern times. Hot pink latex is not a practical spy suit for an ancient Japanese ninja. Skin-tight leather is hardly practical for anyone other than heavy metal singers. Just as you wouldn’t wear a suit of armor to bed, nor should your characters dress in clothing that doesn’t fit the time period or setting.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts
Personality is what makes characters come alive, and great care should be taken when giving life to your creations. How your character reacts to situations – or how others react to your character – is an integral to believable characters. Most Mary Sues have very flat personalities and are easy to recognize as bad, but characters with overbearing personalities should also be avoided. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t expect to find someone like your character in real life, then you shouldn’t expect her to work well in your story. This is also where the character’s history and heritage come into play. These details are the final part of fleshing out your character.
#1 Unusual sub-races and hybrids. Let’s just get this one out of the way: if you’ve established a norm for a particular race in your story, don’t have your character deviate too much from that. For example, if vampires in your world turn instantly to dust when sunlight touches their skin, don’t make your character the sole vampire who can prance around during the day without being harmed. Additionally, avoid anything other than half-human hybrids: half-angel/half-dragon is a bit extreme. Remember that your character’s parents had to conceive him in some logical manner. Lastly, your half-breed should have strengths and weaknesses of both races, not just the strengths. He should be a true half-breed: not as strong as a purebred, but not as weak either.
#2 Ms. Popularity. As mentioned in the previous section on appearance, your character shouldn’t be everyone’s favorite girl. Conversely, she shouldn’t be loathed or envied by everyone either. There’s nothing wrong with her being popular, but there should be some realistic reasons that readers can relate to. Even if those reasons are superficial (“She’s so smart!”), as long as someone recognizes them as such in the story.
#3 The best of the best. Being the best of the best is frequently a major plot point in stories. Just make sure your character is only the best of the best of one thing. Any more than that is unreasonable. Also allow ample time for this training. An expert swordsman who learned skills in a month that normally take years to master is absurd.
#4 Inexplicable wealth. This one is short and simple: if your character has wealth with no logical explanation (a job, wealthy parents, etc.), then he needs to be revised. Characters with money need some explanation for having it, no matter how they get it.
#5 Classic clichés. There are so many of these that they all can’t be fully detailed. The most common cliché background characteristics are:
  • The character suffers from amnesia.
    • The character discovers s/he is really a noble (before or after amnesia).
      • The character is a noble in disguise.
        • The character was orphaned or abandoned at an early age.
          • The character is unusually accomplished for his/her age, occupation, and/or social status.
            • The character is inexplicably multilingual.
              • The character inherits/possesses a powerful artifact.
                • The character was mistreated in some way as a child.
                  • The major villain kills the character’s family and/or friends during his/her youth.
                    • The character was responsible for the death of his/her family and/or friends (accidental or deliberate).
                      • The character witnessed the death of his/her family and/or friends.
                        • The character is “the chosen one.”
                          • The character is the last survivor of a race.
                            • The character was raised in extreme poverty.
                              • The character was a slave.
                                • The character ran away from an arranged marriage.
                                  • The character had some sort of pain-filled, horrible, tragic past.
                                    • The character has a job normally associated with the opposite gender.
                                      • The character seems to get out of tough situations on luck alone.
                                        • The character discovers a new power at a crucial moment.


And these aren’t even all of the possible clichés. To avoid them, ask yourself how often you’ve heard of something similar before. The less times you can think of, the better.

The Bottom Line: Use Common Sense
All of the above advice should be taken with a heavy dose of common sense. Just because your character has many of the characteristics listed doesn’t mean that she’s a Mary Sue, it just means that you need to keep an eye on her. There are plenty of characters that have multiple Sue-ish traits that aren’t: Harry Potter, for one. He was orphaned as a child, considered a sort of “chosen one,” has limitless access to money (though a brief, if somewhat unbelievable, explanation is given), is one of the best Quidditch players in the history of Hogwarts, is also the youngest Seeker, is uncannily lucky, and has a tendency to discover some new ability at just the right moment to save him. Yet Harry Potter is not a Mary Sue. This is a guide for everyone, and good writers will learn to use all traits to their advantage. As with any story, use your best judgment. With practice, you’ll never have to deal with Ms. Sue again.
PLEASE STOP ASKING ME IF YOUR CHARACTER IS A MARY SUE.

Remember, having Sue traits doesn't always mean your character is bad. Context and how the character is written are important! You can't give me a character blurb with all the potentially dangerous traits listed and expect me to be able to give you a yes or no answer. Writing well is far more complicated than that.

If you are worried about your character, trust your gut instinct and get someone you know will be objective to review your story, not just the character alone.


A handy test, if you still need help.

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For my second piece in Non-Fiction Workshop, I decided to rant about Mary Sues. I hope this helps some aspiring writers out there.

EDIT: O_o! Holy white rice, Batman! I got a Daily Deviation! *completely shocked* I must say I never expected to have this honor before.

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For an experiment in classic cliches (not to mention storytelling in general), check out my interactive fiction project: Edge of Thorns!
Add a Comment:
 

Daily Deviation

Given 2008-05-21
Who doesn't like a good murder mystery? In Murdering Mary Sue, by ~Cei-Ellem, writers will find a resource they can return to time and time again. ( Featured by GeneratingHype )
:iconthenerd0918:
TheNerd0918 Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2016  New Deviant
Do you think that my character idea's a Mary-Sue? She's the product of an experiment to make the perfect being. The scientists Idea was to mix four alien races to get their abilities.( In the world my character resides, their are multiple alien races that have settled on earth. Each with certain abilities/weaknesses) The plan was for her to be telepathic, have extraordinary intelligence, and incredible strength, all bundled into the non-threatening appearance of a human. Her powers constantly clash and exhaust her. The mistake the researchers made was giving her a human brain. Using telepathy or any sort of deep thinking are quick to tire her.

I was trying to make the weakest over-powered character possible.
Reply
:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
As mentioned in my comments on this deviation, go here to test the Sue status of your character.
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:icongreatrose101:
GreatRose101 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2016
"Just as you wouldn’t wear a suit of armor to bed."
Funny enough, I was thinking of writing a scene like that in😁
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Lol, as long as it makes sense in context.
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:iconsarielofdeath83431:
SarielofDeath83431 Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks so much for making this, seriously.  I have a few people I could send this to, but I'd not want to hurt their feelings... 

Any suggestions on how to tell them their character needs some serious modification (without hurting their feelings)?  Because I know this person put a lot of heart into this project, and to be told that their character is a big-time Sue could be a devastating blow.  
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Ask if they've ever thought of going back and fine-tuning their character. Sometimes, phrasing it as something positive is a good way to encourage editing. You could also ask them if they want your honest opinion of the character. If they say no, then leave it be. Or you could just show them this fun quiz to try out. Again, framing it as something positive is more likely to get your friend to take a look at it. That site also has a lot of really useful articles on writing and characterization, not just the nifty quiz.
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:iconsarielofdeath83431:
SarielofDeath83431 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Right, and I did try showing them a quiz (which said her character was a Mary Sue).  However, she seems to have either disregarded or forgotten this.  Should I just leave it be?  
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:icongreatrose101:
GreatRose101 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2016
Too be fair, the tests aren't always accurate. But then again I haven't seen your friend's oc yet.
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:iconsarielofdeath83431:
SarielofDeath83431 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah, and I do realize that, but trust me on this one.  Everything from being instinctively loved by animals to prophecies of greatness are to be found in this particular character, and it troubles me.  ^^'
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:icongreatrose101:
GreatRose101 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016
Well shit xD please tell me more! (no offense to your friend) 
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:iconsarielofdeath83431:
SarielofDeath83431 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Alrighty then; you asked for it. 

The character is named Kaizen, after her father (whose name is Raizen).  This character is picked on relentlessly by everyone around her, judged unfairly, underestimated, abused, undervalued, and, by and large, friendless.  Oh, and she's transgender. Later in the series, she'll supposedly get one wish, which she will use to turn into a biological male. (Either that or she fuses with her father and, for some, reason, still becomes male.  I don't understand the logic used here, but whatever. XD)

To her credit, this character isn't exactly the best-looking tool in the shed, but that's likely only because she's a self-insert--to a large degree, mind you.  This character has an animal sidekick based off our real cat at home; "our" coming from the fact she's my sister.  Yep... 

That's all I can think of for now.  ^^"
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:icongreatrose101:
GreatRose101 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016
Aw well that could have been good. The transgender part is odd(especially the "fusing with dad" part) 
I think it seems promising if she fixed it a bit ^_^' that is if you can get her to do so.
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(2 Replies)
:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
It's probably for the best, unless she asks you directly for input. Writing a Sue can be fun, if only for personal enjoyment. If she's looking into seriously getting published, that's different.
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:iconsarielofdeath83431:
SarielofDeath83431 Featured By Owner Edited Mar 10, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh no, she's planning on getting it published.  She even has a teacher with connections that's apparently more than willing to get it published for her.  That's actually why I'm so worried.  I'd hate for any amount of public scrutiny to have to break it to her because I couldn't work up the courage to tell her otherwise.  
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Suggest she get it professionally edited then. I've just finished writing my novel and am doing the first round of edits, but even I want to have it looked over with fresh eyes to check everything. 

And you can always tell her you're concerns.
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:iconsarielofdeath83431:
SarielofDeath83431 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
She's only gotten a few pages in so far, but alas, her writing isn't necessarily the best in the world.  Because of this, I do think professional editing could be quite beneficial.  I don't think even she would dispute me on that front. 

And yes, I have tried to express my concerns on at least one occasion (possibly more).  I don't think it's helping though... 
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
You may have to go hardball then: sit her down and have a serious discussion about it. Let her know that you're concerned because you're her friend, and you don't want to see her fail. Tell her why you're worried. Encourage her to take a writing class. Tell her to try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, aka 50k in 30 days, aka November). If she's serious about her writing, she will welcome constructive critique and feedback. If she can't handle even the slightest negative remark, then she is not ready to become published in any sense of the term.
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(1 Reply)
:icondesuuka:
Desuuka Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Dang, I'm glad I saw this while submitting some writing. Definitely will be referring to this as I develop characters. Luckily, my characters don't seem to be Mary and Sue (part of that is because of a collaborating friend) but I will be using this to improve further. 
I picked up a couple of cliches but c'est la vie. The goal is to make them more interesting than what I've come across haha
Thank you for writing this!
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Cliches are fine if used properly. Really, it all boils down to how you're using them rather than what they are. Glad this helped you, and thanks for the :+fav:! ^_^
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:iconmeicreepypasta:
MeiCreepypasta Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
I love stuff like this and reading through them, I always like to make sure my characters are believable and not too good at anything. This is far more in depth than the other stuff I tend to stumble across, I really enjoyed reading it. It also makes me hate my writings from when I was twelve even more.

I just don't get why so many people like characters like that and stories that have characters have no personality...
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
First, thanks for the :+fav:! ^_^

Usually, the only people who like Mary Sues are the ones who create them and their closest friends/sycophants. And have you ever seen two Sue characters trying to interact in an RP? Things never end well, as each one's creator tries to one up the other. It's not pretty. 

Springhole.net is an awesome resource site for tips on writing and such, and was actually the basis for this essay: I took The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test -- which has updated significantly since this, I should add --

 and elaborated on most of the points to better explain the concept to my classmates when I wrote it (none of them had ever heard of the term before). 
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:iconmeicreepypasta:
MeiCreepypasta Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
No problem ^^

AlsoI've had an rp where one was a Gary Stu and mine was just a normal character. I went crazy and ended up blocking them so I couldn't hear they're excuses for doing that.

It really bugs me when people don't bother thinking everything through, heck I left an account on quotev because when I was 12 I couldn't tell how bad I was doing with all the characters.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Heh, well, with practice comes improvement, yes? I've had my share of Sues, my worst being a character that got so overhauled, he barely resembles his original self, keeping only his initials and a few personality quirks. Looking at the two side-by-side, you can tell one was inspired by the other, but the re-written character is much more realistic (even for a vampire with unusual psychic abilities).

I always try to think things through when writing, occasionally to the detriment of my work, over-thinking to the point of being unable to write. I'm actually editing my first book right now and have had to remove an ability from a character that, in hindsight, was plot-breaking. Fortunately, I realized this relatively early, so editing out mentions of the ability won't be too terribly tedious.
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:iconmeicreepypasta:
MeiCreepypasta Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
Yeah, and I'm constantly trying to think of ways I can improve on my characters. With the two stories I'm doing whenever I think of a strength a character has I try to think of something that will counteract that. Especially if they are raised in a particular environment, also if a character of mine isn't human I'm always very big on making sure I don't make them more strong than they should be.

Sometimes though I just type things up without thinking at all then I sift through it so I can improve on my plot points and such, it helps me because I can spend some time being creative and random without worrying immediately about the flaws.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
NaNoWriMo definitely helped me with that. Forcing myself into a word count goal kept me from getting too hung up on minutiae until after I finished.
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:iconmeicreepypasta:
MeiCreepypasta Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
I can't work properly with a word count goal, even in school it's always too long and I don't know how to shorten it without rushing it.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
1,667 words a day is barely three typed pages, if that helps. And the point of NaNoWriMo isn't to write well, it's to write period.
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(1 Reply)
:icongypsybling17:
GypsyBling17 Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2016  Professional Artist
thanks for this help ^_^
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
You're quite welcome! ^_^
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:icongypsybling17:
GypsyBling17 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2016  Professional Artist
:)
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:iconjakvia:
Jakvia Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2015
This will help me a lot, thank you.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
You're very welcome! And thanks for the :+fav: ^_^
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:iconthelleli:
Thelleli Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Also, the family dying/tragic backstory thing really varies in Sue-ness by universe. A war-torn world where horrible things like genocide or famine are the norm makes it understandable to have lots of orphans and other horrible events, more so than a story set in a suburb in a first-world country.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Right, and how the character reacts to it also plays a role. There's a huge difference between a character who goes "I saw my father kill himself; woe is me!" and one who doesn't bring it up every waking minute to garner sympathy. Or even one who (gasp!) suffers from genuine PTSD from the event, up to and including having panic attacks at anything that reminds him/her of the incident (and ones that actually interfere with day to day life and are genuinely inconvenient).
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:iconthelleli:
Thelleli Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
My character suffers significant emotional damage from what she's been through and has legitimate mental problems, and not just to look "cool" or "edgy" and get away with things "normal" people couldn't. I hate the way mental illness is so often shown in fanfiction as well as rp...I'm glad someone gets it.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Part of my degree is in Psychology; I should get it. I have a couple characters in my novel with psychological disorders, including the aforementioned PTSD (he's had several panic attacks that have caused problems for him, because of certain triggers reminding him of his ordeals), paranoid schizophrenia (mentioned in passing as part of background for a backstory only character), and anti-social personality disorder (aka sociopathy) with mild schizoid tendencies. The last one may be seen as a cop-out (since he's the villain), but it's part of the reason why he acts the way he does: he genuinely believes in what he does, and lacks the ability to empathize with the protagonists. For example, he wants to kill his grandson, not out of any malice towards him, but rather because he doesn't view him as a person (he's a wizard, and his grandson is the result of a spell to create a copy of himself, which he no longer needs), and he wants to get the energy he invested into making him back.
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:iconthelleli:
Thelleli Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thelelli (A draenei from world of warcraft that I use for rp) has horrible night terrors concerning the night her sister died, in that universe it's canon that the orcs committed genocide against her race and so many of her family and friends died, yes, but in the universe she lives in that is sadly all too common...Her ordeals didn't just leave her an angsty character who cries all the time and expects everyone to comfort her...the trauma she faced was also during early adulthood, I didn't pull the sad childhood card...and it drove her to the path she is on to kill demons, her life was left in ruin by them and she ventured onto a very dark path to get her revenge. She gave up her eyes and a portion of her humanity (draeninity?) to rid the world of their filth, so she is very self-sacrificing and, although demon hunters are outlaws, she is a noble person. Of course, she is always left with lingering doubts as to the morality of her actions.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
And complexity is what makes characters interesting. Not "cool traits". ^_^
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:iconkashigrow:
kashigrow Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2015  Student Digital Artist
if "the character was a slave" is a cliche, then how do you explain books about the Underground Railroad?
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Two words: historical fiction. Or even non-fiction, in which case the characters would be, well, real people. Cliches aren't necessarily bad, but their overuse (as is the case with Mary Sues) is what makes them detrimental to fiction.
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:iconkashigrow:
kashigrow Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Aye.
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:iconkashigrow:
kashigrow Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I remember a character I made when I was 10. His/her name a "Reeta". S/he had no gender, and s/he always got kicked around. S/he (its easier just to say she, cuz mah Kindle keyboard, k?) was very nice, and tried to kill everyone with kindness. But then, tone day, she snapped, and started to hate everyone. Thats all I can remember. I think she died or something.
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
How do brown hair and eyes default to not having a tragic past? Personally, I have both and have lived through my parents' divorce, social anxiety, and depression, among other things. There is a logical gap somewhere in your assertion...

And you seem to have missed the point entirely of this essay. Any character can be a Sue if they are poorly written, and likewise any character can have a variety of "Sue-traits" without actually being a Sue. Your inquiry does not make sense.
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:iconadam-walker:
Adam-Walker Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2015   Writer
That is the most true thing I have ever seen. How does brown hair and eyes default to not having a tragic past?
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Heh, I see the original comment mine went to is gone. Glad you agree though.
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:iconadam-walker:
Adam-Walker Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2015   Writer
How does it though really? The same goes for a character being good in music and having a beautiful singing voice, how does it make a sue?
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:iconcei-ellem:
Cei-Ellem Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
That's the point of the essay: they don't, in and of themselves, make a character a Sue. They are, however, extremely common and frequent in Sue characters, and if a given character has a great deal of these traits, caution and care should be used. Review the character, makes sure it makes sense in context and isn't just being tacked onto the character to make her "cool" or "more interesting". Using the musicality of a character as an example, a Sue would be a great singer completely naturally, having never taken lessons, is better than all the other singers encountered in the story, plays multiple instruments flawlessly, etc. ad nauseum. A well-rounded character could be a natural singer, but also practices regularly, took vocal lessons to improve, still has trouble learning new pieces, plays a few instruments well but studied for years (perhaps even to the detriment of her social life), has actually lost competitions, and so on. The point is that traits should not be used as mere flavor text, but to add depth to a character.
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:iconadam-walker:
Adam-Walker Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2015   Writer
If this is about getting rid of Mary sues which it is this essay is perfect.
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