Author has written 1 story for Edgar Allan Poe.
Age: Young adult
"Something I've realized about Mary Sue: I think over the years, she's grown into a name so feared that the Sue-hunt has turned into a sort of a witchhunt. Many writers deliberately stunt their powerful characters in fear of the "Sue", a title that must be avoided at all costs, even if those characters have the potential to be brilliant if allowed to grow naturally.
The biggest casualties of the Sue-hunt seems to be characters that take off after Sherlock Holmes, Batman, the Count of Monte Cristo, and James Bond. These are not underdogs trekking arduously to Mount Doom. These are giants who lead their comparably less powerful entourage into battle, or even gods that lay the chessboard and manipulate everyone as easily as moving their fingers. Characters in this camp are always winning, and actually drive the plot with their competence. We're intrigued by what Sherlock is thinking because we know he's bound to be right. And the complex web of plots in "The Count of Monte Cristo" is made possible because the Count is so omnipotent that he can afford to strike down his enemies in elaborate and extremely ironic ways.
I don't think writers should feel the need to take these kind of characters down a notch just because "Mary Sue".
One of my favourite stories on this site features a deviously cunning protagonist who executes all kind of clever and hilarious plots. Nevertheless, the author felt they had to work hard to rein him in so that he doesn't turn Gary-Stu. As a result, the protagonist has to make human errors such as getting accidentally bitten by his own pet, panicking and in the process exposing his identity to yet another person against his wish. What the author does is their own choice, of course, and the story is brilliant enough either way. I just feel that even if such a character never makes a single mistake ever, I still wouldn't mind at all. You don't need to create suspense by having the readers ask "Is he going to succeed?" if the "How is he going to succeed?" is interesting enough.
Just because a character is always ahead of the game, always seeming to win or at least have everything under control, doesn't mean they're poorly designed. In my mind, a character is only illogically successful and Sue-ish if their victory looks like a miracle. For example, there's a difference between:
- vs -
While the outcome is the same, one is a miraculous arrival at the conclusion while the other is a reasonable deduction based on information that the protagonist can logically have access to.
There's also a difference between:
Again, while the outcome is the same, one is unrealistic while the other I think is perfectly fine.
I think rather than using those "Mary Sue litmus tests" that the internet provides us, we should evaluate our stories by the ultimate litmus test for all literature. That is, "if this isn't my work, would I enjoy reading this section/chapter/story?" Or even, "if this isn't my work and I've never heard of a thing called Mary Sue, would I enjoy reading this section/chapter/story?" Because many of the so-called rules of fanfiction, such as "Always have an equal number of wins and losses" and "Always distribute the competence. Everyone has to lean on one another" or even "Never give Frodo the Lightsaber unless you give Sauron the Death Star", are really meant to be generalized guidelines. Following them to the letter will produce decent work, but breaking some does not necessarily make a bad story. In fact, it just might make an extraordinary one.
The bottom line is, don't be afraid to make your protagonist kick-ass brilliant! The rules of writing might be more flexible than one might think.
- Taken(with permission) from epsi10n, a wonderful writer and author to one of my favorites, the Serpent's Reniassance
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