Who is Mary Sue and why does everyone hate her?

by Jane Woods


First of all let me say it is very natural for a writer to put herself/himself into a story. I would doubt the veracity of any writer who claimed that they had never done it. Pro writers do it all the time. They, of course, do it very well. They are also dealing with all original characters so they can put in anyone they chose. In fan fiction we are playing in a world created by others. It is a world that other people know and love as much as the writer does, therefore the options are more limited. A true Mary Sue is basically wish fulfillment. It is lots of fun to write yourself in and get the guy you want. It is even a fairly good learning tool and fun to share among intimate friends. It is not, however, what everybody else wants to read. We all have our own fantasies where we get the guy so we resent your Mary Sue for doing it.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: That is the biggest reason fangirls hate Mary Sues while writing Mary Sues themselves, folks! All the Suing/shipping is why I generally don't read fanfiction.

👩‍💻Jane Woods: As a reader, if I pick up a story and it is two or three paragraphs about a character I don't know I have pretty much lost interest. Generally the lead character is the one that the story revolves around and quite frankly, I read fan fiction for the characters I know and love and not any other. Those are my feelings as a reader. As an editor I can get past that because I know that my feelings do not reflect those of all my readers. There have been some very popular original characters over the years.

There is a pretty hard and fast rule in series television that the only strong guest star character must be the villain and that any love interest must be killed off during the show. The reason for that is that a strong good guy needs a strong bad guy to give him purpose and showcase his talents and a love interest changes the character too much. Both of these are true and apply to fan fiction as well. Look how many preveiously top rated TV shows have disappeared once the hero was ‘settled down'. {Moonlighting and Lois & Clark to name just two} The whole premise had changed and usually the show suffered for it. In most cases, this holds true for fan fiction also. I say most cases because there are some fans who do like to see the hero in that position. However, even in that case, it takes an exceptional writer to carry this off. And writers should be aware, that there are actually far more people that want to write this type of thing than there are people who want to read it.

🧝‍♀️Ocean Elf: Actually, I like to have the main characters nicely settled down into whatever romance they had going, so that part of it just fades into the background and makes room for more interesting subplots. I'd rather they dispensed with the romances anyway, especially among co-workers within the same office/unit etc.

*Snip whinging feminist question*

👩‍💻Jane Woods: All female characters are not Mary Sues. Some of Mary Sue's attributes include -- beauty, wealth, talent, extreme intelligence and the only point of her being in the story is to get the guy. Mary Sue can either rescue the hero or be rescued by him but, in any case, she overshadows everyone else in the cast with the possible exception of her guy and he generally plays second fiddle to her also. The real plot in any of her stories is how she can get the guy. If your character has a purpose in the story that actually advances the plot then there is a good chance that she is not a Mary Sue and does belong there. Even if that is the case, if you cannot write a story in your fanbase that does not include this character you may be obsessed with her and should try writing a few without her just to be sure. A recurring character in a minor role is far more acceptable than a "co-star."

The reason long time fan fiction readers hate Mary Sue is because we have been inundated with her for over twenty five years. We all have our own and if we want to read about any Mary Sue it will be the ones we created ourselves. Keep Mary Sue among friends but use the techniques you learn from writing Mary Sue stories to turn out the kind of fan fiction everybody wants to read. Make your characters strong and believable and most of all, make them people in their own right -- not groupies or bimbos. Women who are only complete when they have a man are boring in real life and boring in fiction. If you are going to create a character make it one worthy of everyone's effort. And don't worry if a little part of you creeps in to your character just make it the part that makes you what you are not what you might like to be. We'll probably like you a whole lot more than we would Mary Sue.

Good luck!

BTW -- If you think that I'm just a crabby old bat (well I am but that's besides the point) and I am not alone in my hatred Mary Sue.

Bottom line is Mary Sue is a big bore and NO ONE wants to read about her.


Mary Sue Page

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