Author has written 8 stories for Yu-Gi-Oh, Rurouni Kenshin, and Naruto.
It's pronounced lahn suh and it is the Mandarin word for my favorite color. Take a guess which one.
If you see one of my stories on another website, it has been posted without my permission.
Five Ways to Tame the Mary Sue
You can thank AngelicaRoses for inspiring this compilation of writing advice.
There are actually a lot of different ways of avoiding the Mary Sue label that depend on the specific genre you are writing in, so I will give you a few tips that seem to transcend all genres because they are actually basic writing techniques that apply at all times no matter what you are writing. I’m going to use my posted story Ryukaze as a reference because it became a great example of writing a character with all the Mary Sue qualities without her becoming a Sue.
1) Prologues and flashbacks are the kiss of death. Prologues are an outdated way of establishing setting and background details intended for plays, not fiction. Establish setting in the first chapter and scatter background details throughout the story. Information you feel needs to be explained in a flashback is better explained through character conversation. (See Ryukaze, chapter 25 and 32). Once you've established the setting and time of your story, never take the reader backwards. It's confusing. Consider if the information is really important to the progression of the plot and if it is, figure out how to consolidate it and casually insert it into a conversation or the character's inner thoughts. A character remembering an already written conversation is not a flashback; write it as a thought in quotations and italics. (see chapter 34)
2) Never start the first scene of the first chapter with an OC. Always use a canon character imperative to the story and use their interaction to introduce the OC. The only time this doesn't apply is if you are writing a sequel of an already loved OC as I did with The Obsession. You see, in fanfiction, people are reading stories because they already love the canon characters, so lead with what they love and as the canon characters come to gradually know and love your OC, so will the readers.
3) Nobody falls in love immediately. Yes, you are writing fanfiction. Yes, it is in a world that doesn’t exist. However, people relate to reality, so make the characters realistic and the reality is no one genuinely falls in real, forever, till death do us part, love immediately.
4) Give the reader information with a spoon, not a shovel. The second biggest mistake amateur writers make is giving all the description and information at once.
Example: She was 5’5’’ with blonde hair down to her waist and blue eyes. She wore a white sundress with yellow flowers and matching sandals.
This isn’t writing. It’s a list. Mingle description with action instead.
Example: A long, golden strand slipped over her shoulder as she leaned down to smooth out the wrinkles in her white sundress.
The reader doesn’t need to see everything you see, only hints of it. They will form a picture of your OC in their own head and it will never be exactly the same as yours. A great example of using the spoon instead of the shovel is spread throughout my story Ryukaze. My OC does in fact meet all the criteria of a Mary Sue, but she didn't appear to be one because I sparingly spread out all of the details across the whole story and I avoided the number one mistake Mary Sue writers make which is:
5) Never, ever describe your OC as beautiful, EVER. Let the canon characters do it for you and they better have a darn good LOGICAL reason for why they would.
If you want to convey your character as beautiful, show it, don’t say it. People speak more through actions than through words. Let your characters do the same. If the canon love interest can’t take his eyes off of her, this conveys that she is pretty. He finds himself obsessed with the way her hair falls about her face, again implies that she is pretty.
In chapter 2 of Ryukaze, Sasuke calls Sorano “pretty in an innocent way” in his thoughts and then immediately decides that she is a “trophy girl, weak, useless.” He basically catalogued her features and made a decision about what kind of person she was, a very Sasuke thing to do since he is used to pretty girls throwing themselves at him.
Neji’s perception of her in the first chapter is completely different. While he noted the same features Sasuke did, he never labeled her as pretty, being more focused on her nature than her looks, a very Neji thing to do. Even though he becomes her love interest, he doesn’t refer to her as pretty until chapter 7 and even then it’s a passing thought about something else. “How much information does she have locked in that pretty head?”
In chapter 5, Lee refers to Sorano’s beauty several times, because he’s Lee and all women are beautiful to him. It was a telling gesture that Sasuke, Neji, or Naruto didn't dispute the label either but knew exactly who Lee was talking about.
In each of these instances, it’s natural for these men to observe, think and act as they do, describing or implying the OC as pretty without making her a Mary Sue because it just makes sense.
There are lots of other ways to avoid the Mary Sue label, but these are the five main ones you should be wary off. Even if you have already read Ryukaze, I suggest you do so again but while looking for how I used these particular techniques to throw people off the scent of Sorano’s Mary Sue-ness. The reality of writing an OC in the Naruto-verse is that she will almost inevitably be a Mary Sue because of the nature of that world. So you have to distract the readers with good writing techniques so that they will fall in love with your OC without preconceived notions about who she is.
A little advice on what to avoid in your summary:
-Anything saying: What if/what happens when (ie: When such-and such or so-and so does "something" what happens if/when yada yada yada) This is seriously cliché.
-Anything telling you exactly what happens in your story. (ie: So-and-so did this and became this..."something" happened and now so-and-so does or is like this, etc.) Tempt readers with a little mystery, not the complete rundown.
-A summary that is 90 percent author note. If you want to tell people about changes you made, do it in the actual author note and use your summary to entice them to come in.
-Anything explicit. FF forbids anything exceeding a G rating from being in the summary and there are a lot of young eyes on this site. Please respect that. If you aren't certain if what you want to write qualifies, consider if you would ever hear or see it in a Disney movie like 101 Dalmatians or Cinderella. Instead of saying your story has "sex", using "mature content" works just as well and is less offensive. This is a community site after all.
-All caps. They only hurt the eyes and make you appear mad or desperate.
-Misspelling and bad grammar. If English isn't your first language, that's understandable. You'll only learn by trying. But remember (everyone) if you really want people to read your work and enjoy it, there is no excuse for spelling simple words like "was" wrong. Taking the time to check your spelling shows you love what you are writing and believe it is worth the attention, thus others will think so too.
-A bunch of garbled sentences thrown together (like pieces of conversation not directly linked). This only creates confusion, not interest.
-What?! (ie: What?! So-and-so did "this"?!) Again, seriously cliché (and annoying in my personal opinion) and falls in line with telling people exactly what happens in the story.
The purpose of a summary is to pique someone's interest so they will take a look at your story. Use a touch of mystery and suspense. Make the reader wonder, "What's the story behind this tidbit?" Writing a summary is like baiting a fishing hook. Use a rubber worm and you might get some lucky bites, but not enough to land the big one.