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TalonDragon000

[EDITED the questions. Thank you for the advice! ]

Hello everyone!

I am working on a class project on (you guessed it) Mary Sue characters.

This may seem like an odd topic for a university scholar, but it is very interesting to me. Once upon a time I made a Mary Sue character who was perfect in every way and loved to read about Mary Sue characters because they are such an ideal persona. So then, why do so many people dislike or even hate these once beloved creations? Thus, is the reason I search for the UNDERLYING reasons and possible perceptions of these "gods."

So, here is my task for YOU. If you would like to participate in my project please answer the following:

1) Why do people create Mary Sue Characters?

2) How do you feel about Mary Sue characters? (Also scale 1-5 from strongly dislike to strongly like)

3) How do you think others feel about them (Also rate on a 1-5 scale)

[Scale: strongly dislike (1), dislike (2), neutral (3), like (4), strongly like (5)]

Please provide the following information if you feel comfortable:

Would you prefer your username for anonymity or your real name [first name and last initial is fine]?

Links to examples of Mary Sue characters you've come across and your reactions to them

Any extra thoughts, advice, etc. that you think is useful?

THANK YOU TO ANYONE WHO IS WILLING TO PARTICIPATE. If you wouldn't mind, please advertise this forum so others can participate.

I am trying to gather both quantitative and qualitative research on the subject so I need all the help I can get!

10/1/2012 . Edited 10/2/2012 #1
yiranY

Is the research portion of the project mandatory/grants additional marks?

10/2/2012 #2
The Lauderdale

Watch out for leading questions! It's early days for your project yet, so I should point out two assumptions you have made that are likely to change the answers that you get from people.

1) You've said up front that this is about why Mary Sues are disliked, which presumes that the people answering will dislike them.

2) You write your second question as "When did you outgrow..." which presumes that the people answering will have outgrown them.

10/2/2012 #3
thelastpen

To add to what Lauderdale has said, you probably should consider separating your prompt into the two different questions that are in the prompt and tackling them separately. Namely, why do people create Mary Sue characters? and why are Mary Sue characters disliked?. The reason I say this is that it will A) likely increase the amount of responses you garner as there will be some who want to help answer one and not the other and B) allow you to properly address both aspects of the prompt.

It's really not that odd of a question to be posed to a university level student, particularly if you're in a writing course, though maybe a little amusing to have it couched in fanfiction/role playing terms. I mean, it's basically a rewording of "why do people like to create idealized characters and why are flawless characters not well received?" after all.

Personally, I dislike Mary Sues because they are flawless. A flawless character is a sign of poor writing and/or characterization, in my opinion. They're also not very interesting. Oh, Flawlessman managed to beat the bad guys? *yawn* What a surprise. But Superman was going up against someone wearing Krypotonite armor? Now there's a fight. It's the flaws that make a character, not the lack thereof.

10/2/2012 #4
The Lauderdale
Namely, why do people create Mary Sue characters? and why are Mary Sue characters disliked?. The reason I say this is that it will A) likely increase the amount of responses you garner as there will be some who want to help answer one and not the other and B) allow you to properly address both aspects of the prompt.

Splitting them up is a good suggestion. You might also garner interesting results by framing the second question a little differently, and in two parts:

1) How do you feel about Mary Sues?

2) How do you think other people feel about Mary Sues?

You may find some differences between the two.

10/2/2012 #5
TalonDragon000

It isn't mandatory, but it would definitely help.

10/2/2012 #6
TalonDragon000

Thank you (and everyone) for your advice! I've updated it to make it less leading.

10/2/2012 #7
Lorendiac

1. Well, my understanding of what "Mary Sue" is all about is "shameless wish-fulfillment fantasy based in one of the author's favorite fictional universes, doing all the things the author herself would love to do in that setting" -- more or less.

I think that explains the basic motive pretty well. (Although it's always possible that the writer is deliberately pandering to other people's fantasies, rather than just trying to write down her own daydreams!)

2. How do I feel about it? Put me down at 3. An easygoing, middle-of-the-road attitude.

I don't exert myself to seek out lots of Mary Sue-style stories to read, but you won't see smoke coming out of my ears if I suddenly realize the first chapter of a fanfic is introducing a cute female teenage protagonist who might conceivably turn out to be a total Mary Sue as the plot develops further!

What it all comes down to is this: When I start reading any given fanfic, the storytelling somehow manages to entertain me . . . or it doesn't. All else is negotiable!

If it doesn't entertain, I simply close the tab in my browser. After all, there's plenty of other stuff online that I can go read instead!

If it does entertain me with its first chapter, I'll keep reading some more chapters and see how it goes!

Either way . . . whether or not there is a possible "Mary Sue" at the center of the plot is not a crucial litmus test where my personal tastes are concerned.

(On the other hand, I have seen some reviewers whom I felt were making absolute fools of themselves when they started screaming "Mary Sue! Mary Sue!" in what they fondly imagined to be a scathing review -- in one memorable case, the reviewer seemed to be saying this just because there was a one-paragraph physical description of the female OC protagonist somewhere within the first chapter, although those few lines of description didn't even say the woman was particularly attractive! I swear I'm not making this up!)

3. How do I think others feel about them?

Well, that's a vague subject because one thing I've noticed is that not everyone agrees on just WHAT the correct definition of "Mary Sue" really is in the first place. Much less do they agree on HOW we can be sure to recognize one when we bump into her! (Nor, alternately, on how to "fully exonerate" a fanfic character of any suspicions of being a Mary Sue.)

So I don't think I can give a hard-and-fast numerical rating for this one. Some fans love stories about characters who strike me as Mary Sue specimens -- but the fans in question sometimes seem convinced that "no, this protagonist is not a Mary Sue at all! She's just a plucky girl in a strange situation!"

Does that count as them "loving Mary Sue," or not? I'd say it comes down to much the same thing as what I said about my own tastes -- the readers know what they like. If they don't like it, they won't keep reading it.

But tastes differ enormously, and I strongly doubt that the "average amount of affection for the average Mary Sue character" can be scientifically measured and pinned down to one number on a scale of 1 to 5.

Just call me "Lorendiac," by the way.

10/2/2012 #8
Aspiring Hobby

1) Why do people create Mary Sue Characters?

: I think sometime authors themselves aren't aware that they are creating Mary Sues. Like take me for example, I did not know at first when I started writing that the character I was writing was a Mary sue because I have read and liked the stories where he/she is shown as such. So as Lorediac said that yes, an author may create a Mary sue to fulfill their fantasies but sometimes it is possible that the author themselves are not aware.

2) How do you feel about Mary Sue characters?

: I think they are boring. I first found them interesting but after being exposed to writing so much I find them just plain boring and predictive.

3) How do you think others feel about them.

: That is hard to say because first of all everyone has their opinion and any blanket statement could not be made. As the saying goes, "one man's food may be the other's poison" or something like that... :P

You many refer to me as Alice.

10/3/2012 . Edited 10/3/2012 #9
DeleteAccount22

Erased.

10/3/2012 . Edited 9/27/2014 #10
The Prezident

Some call Mary Sue/Gary Stu a poison on FFN. I, for myself used to write as the centre character being Gary Stu. They bash other characters like there's no tomorrow. Mary Sue are either created accidently without the acknowledgement of Author, or they're created on purpose. The motive of their creation is to add some humour to the story. They do add some, but at last; they end up being hated by the readers.

10/3/2012 #11
yiranY

The reason I asked about the research portion is that I think you will have a sampling bias by posting in here. The turnover rate for this forum is pretty high if you like Mary Sues since people won't take you seriously (not that I like it, but it's still important to represent the "Suetiful" part of the reading population).

Anyway.

1) Why do people create Mary Sue Characters?

Usually it's because of wish-fulfilment fantasy (the authors placing themselves onto the character to fulfil wishes for fantasising). It's actually quite justified, since fiction is basically wish-fulfilment in one way or another. It also may be due to bad writing and simply forgetting to give your character any flaws (although this is rarer than the former reason).

2) How do you feel about Mary Sue characters? (Also scale 1-5 from strongly dislike to strongly like)

I'd prefer to read a fic that's not about a Mary Sue, and would stop reading if it became clear the protagonist is a Mary Sue, but if it's a random side character or the fic is surprisingly good even with the protagonist as a Mary Sue I would still read it.

3) How do you think others feel about them (Also rate on a 1-5 scale)

Including the entire fanfiction population, 3, because well, the average is the average. If we're talking about mostly experienced writers then I'd say somewhere about 1.5 because most people I've interacted with dislike it more than me.

Would you prefer your username for anonymity or your real name [first name and last initial is fine]?

I would prefer to provide my username. (BUT THE QUESTION DIDN'T ANSWER IT SO I'M NOT GOING TO PROVIDE IT, BADUM... wait you can see my username from the post.)

Links to examples of Mary Sue characters you've come across and your reactions to them

I actually have read quite little Mary Sue fanfiction: most fanfics I've read come from recommendations from my friends who aren't Mary Sue lovers either. Which means I'll be having only Mary Sues from canon works, e.g. not fanfiction. They may be debatable.

Canon Mary Sues:

Harry Potter from Harry Potter: He escapes from a bad muggle life to a good magic life where he is rich and famous and talented and has an unexplained (except for genes) talent for the magical sport that he has never tried before. Wish fulfilment

Eragon from the Inheritance Cycle: Well the author even admitted that he saw Eragon as himself. And Eragon really has no flaws, except I dunno, holding the Idiot Ball with things that don't even have consequences but that isn't a flaw because he's only holding it at certain times. (If you don't get what Idiot Ball means, it's really just that the author tries to give him flaws but they don't make sense and fail.)

Arya from the Inheritance Cycle: I can't even be bothered explaining in sentences. It's Eragon perfect elf race hypercompetent princess love interest for the other self insert

Bella Swan from Twilight: Oh no the new people won't like me *cue two boys having a fight over a crush on her* and that's as far as I read for Twilight.

Mako from Avatar: The Legend of Korra: Korra likes him because he's competent ignoring the fact that he's a j*** and it's just plain bad writing to portray him as the most worried person. Oh and he's also competent for no reason. (and no this isn't coming from a bitter Borra shipper, KORRAxPABU DA BEST)

Kudo Shinichi/Edogawa Conan and some other detectives from Detective Conan (Case Closed): Because being smart does not justify knowing random knowledge without research. It's so stupid, like, how come Conan has really bad singing skills and is perfect pitch? Also he learned to do everything including shooting a gun and driving a helicopter with his dad in Hawaii. All before he was 17.

Oh and I'm generally more angry because I actually use money in the process of reading/watching these unlike fanfiction.

Any extra thoughts, advice, etc. that you think is useful?

No. Unless you ask me specific questions.

10/3/2012 #12
Canisse

1) Why do people create Mary Sue Characters?

I don't feel like people mean to create Mary-Sues, they just love their character so much that they make it succeed, and succeed again, and so many qualities and so few imperfections that the character ends up way over the top. Then, they either don't notice anything at all, or think it's all fine, or are afraid that this might have happened. Mary-Sue tests wouldn't exist if people didn't think that they might accidentally create one.


2) How do you feel about Mary Sue characters? (Also scale 1-5 from strongly dislike to strongly like)

OK, that one's simple. I hate them (1). If I'm reading a story that contains a Mary-Sue, even if the rest is perfect, then I'm going to hate it (unless it's a comedy, because then it's fine to exaggerate). It's not that I get indignant over it or anything, I even sometimes try to stick it through, but I always fail. Mary-Sues spoil my reading.


3) How do you think others feel about them (Also rate on a 1-5 scale)

I'm going to say that most people hate them, and some love them (for the wish fulfilment), so I'd give it an average of 2.


Would you prefer your username for anonymity or your real name [first name and last initial is fine]?

Yeah, better be my username if you're going to use anything at all. Nothing against you, but I've always been taught not to reveal personal information over the internet.


Links to examples of Mary Sue characters you've come across and your reactions to them

Right, I don't actually have the link to it (because I obviously wasn't going to read it again), but it was a Naruto time-travel fanfiction. At first, I liked it, but then Naruto (the time-traveller) ended up being liked by every person he met, most of the time with good reasons, but still; he was also slowly revealed to be an expert in pretty much every ninja specialities that exist; as the story went on, he never failed in anything; he managed to motivate a group of kids about two hours after he first met them... just by being himself, apparently; he basically was better in every way than everyone else, and succeeded in everything. He was also a tortured soul, apparently, but let's not go there.

So, while I was reading that story, I was at first happy at all the successes, and then, as it kept going without a single hitch anywhere, I slowly got bored. I kept hoping it would change, because I genuinely liked how inventive the story was, but I eventually gave up.

10/3/2012 . Edited 10/3/2012 #13
Oracle Five

1) Why do people create Mary Sue Characters?

I believe that it's primarily the result of having too little experience with character writing. From a personal perspective, I can safely say that my first characters were most definitely Mary Sues. In my attempts to make my characters interesting, I gave them super-special powers that no canon character could hope to match, and inserted them into the canon universe by making them never-before-seen relatives of major characters. At the time, I thought this was the only way to make my original characters 'match up' to the canon characters I loved.

Now that I'm a much more experienced as a writer, I can find many other ways to make my characters interesting, and plenty of other ways to get them inside the canon universe. So all in all, I believe that anyone who keeps writing will get the hang of making non-Sue characters. Eventually.

2) How do you feel about Mary Sue characters? (Also scale 1-5 from strongly dislike to strongly like)

My rating for Sue characters is about a 1 or 2 (strongly dislike to dislike). Sometimes I can enjoy a story for a while, even when it has an obvious Sue character, but usually they're too distracting and put me off reading soon as they appear.

3) How do you think others feel about them (Also rate on a 1-5 scale)

[Scale: strongly dislike (1), dislike (2), neutral (3), like (4), strongly like (5)]

I think most people fall into the 1 or 2 range as well, in my experience. The only times people like Sue characters are either when they're the persons who've written said character, or if it's a canon character who otherwise fits the definition of a Sue.

Would you prefer your username for anonymity or your real name [first name and last initial is fine]?

I would prefer my username, thank you. Just 'Oracle' is fine.

Links to examples of Mary Sue characters you've come across and your reactions to them.

Sorry, I don't have any links available since I avoid Sue stories. Although I will admit to liking Peggy Sues (characters stuck in a Groundhog Day-type loop) as a guilty pleasure.

Any extra thoughts, advice, etc. that you think is useful?

...Not really? Sorry.

10/4/2012 #14
Meshakhad

1) Usually it's wish fulfillment - that, and lacking an understanding of what makes a character truly interesting. Often, someone writing a Sue doesn't want to create a realistic conflict, they want to see their character easily overcome all challenges.

2) Generally negative - a 2. If it's fanfiction, I will almost certainly stop reading. That said, if a character doesn't come off as Sue-ish right away, then I'll probably be fine with it.

3) Probably at least as negatively as I do, if not more. I doubt anyone genuinely thinks that Sues - all Sues, not just the ones they've written - are good. So a 1 for general opinion, of those who have formed an opinion.

4) Use my username.

5) I don't have any fanfic examples I can point to, but I can cite one of my favorite novel series for having several arguably Sue-ish characters - the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. The Mary Sue label is frequently aimed at Honor herself. Aside from being a brilliant naval officer, she's also a noblewoman and admiral in TWO separate nations, has a bond animal (to be fair, she's far from the only one in the setting) owns a Fortune 500 company, counts multiple heads of state as her friends, and is highly skilled in personal combat, both unarmed and with firearms. She is also, of course, a woman of courage and integrity.

What makes her compelling, however, is primarily that all of this doesn't come at the beginning - this is her at the current point in the series. Furthermore, it's not as if the author randomly gave her a bunch of new character traits. All she started off with was her natural talent, and everything else came later, all stemming from her skills. For example, while she is chairman of a Fortune 500 company, it's not because she's also a skilled businesswoman. It's because she earned a hefty chunk of prize money for capturing enemy warships or intercepting contraband, and used it as the startup cash for a venture that wasn't even her idea initially. And she also has her flaws, mostly some serious self-confidence issues, plus a tendency to blame herself for anything going wrong (beyond what is healthy in a naval officer).

6) My advice for authors wishing to avoid creating Mary Sues is to keep a little perspective. What makes a compelling story isn't the ending - it's the struggle. Every struggle has setbacks - show how your character deals with those and overcomes them.

10/8/2012 #15
LMRaven

Ahh, Mary Sue. It's so hard to be perfect like you. Your beauty rivals Helen of Troy. Your bravery is as sound as any knight. You are as selfless as any martyr with the voice of an angel and the body of a sinner. Your intelligence gives you the ability to overcome any conflict with grace and ease (insert sarcasm here).

Seriously though...

1. You will probably find many reasons why one inserts a "Mary Sue" into their stories. I think the most prevalent is probably a manifestation of the author's fantasy self. Another is the belief that "good" characters must be all good and "bad" characters must be all bad or a person can't be a true heroine or hero if they have flaws. So untrue. The best characters are flawed and multi-faceted. They often exist in various shades of gray, not black and white.

Sometime people write Mary Sues on purpose knowing they are writing one. Maybe something happens mid-tale to completely change the character from a Mary Sue to something else.

2. My view on the Mary Sue is generally a negative one. So I will say a 1 and a 2 on that question. It depends on how obvious and vomit inducing the Mary Sue is.

3. Well, I can't really speak for others but if I would say, based on what I've read from others, is that the general opinion is more of a negative one.

4. You can use my username or the first two letters, LM.

5. I don't have any examples because Mary Sue stories are not on my reading list.

6. How to stay away from the Mary Sue? Easy. When you are writing and you feel your character is straying to far into the "perfect" territory (beautiful, smart, popular, etc. with only superficial flaws), change it. You have a Mary Sue on your hands.

10/9/2012 . Edited 10/9/2012 #16
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