Someone you know might be a Mary Sue — and that’s ok.

Mary Sues (and their male counterparts Gary Stus) are characters in creative works that are written to be unrealistically perfect.

They’re often the author’s stand-in or at least a character that the author loves and wants to showcase for readers.

Mary Sues often have superpowers or enhanced abilities. They’re so skilled, so talented, and so darn charming that other characters want to be near them. They can do no wrong.

The trope is named after a character from a 1973 Star Trek fanfiction who was accused of being too perfect.

And while being a Mary Sue is often looked down upon in creative writing circles, it doesn’t have to be!

 

Mary Sue Character

What Is A Mary Sue Character?

A “Mary Sue” is a character who is first introduced into the story as perfect and flawless in every way.

They are physically flawless, and have an ideal mental state; they’re usually smart, strong, beautiful and above all, morally perfect.

While this might sound like a superhero, the Mary Sue doesn’t necessarily have any special powers: she’s just a normal human being.

The term comes from 1973’s Star Trek fan fiction stories, where the main characters were often overly idealistic and unrealistic to the point of being ridiculous.

The term has spread beyond Star Trek fan fiction to be used in almost any situation where a character is too good to be true.

 

 

What Is A Mary Sue Character?

Mary Sue, also known as Gary Stu, Marty Stu, or Sue-san, is a term used in fanfiction and refers to a fictional character that is considered too perfect.

Typically these characters are thought to be self-inserts by the author and often receive criticism for being poorly developed.

They usually have no major flaws or negative characteristics and are considered to be an unrealistic portrayal of people.

Types of Mary Sues:

Mary Sue

this type of character is usually an author insert, but may also be an original character. The character can be male or female but the name ‘Mary Sue’ has become synonymous with female characters.

She is often described as beautiful and physically flawless and may have a tragic past that she overcomes through her actions in the story (e.g.: gains the love of all her family members).

She may also be unusually intelligent and talented in some area such as artistry or combat, but has no character flaws.

Gary Stu

A male version of Mary Sue who exhibits many similar characteristics. He may also possess extra abilities such as super strength or senses that have no limits or weaknesses.

Some fans claim that all male characters are secretly Gary Stus because they have positive traits or qualities that make them stand out from others

Interpretations Of Mary Sue

The Mary Sue concept is used to describe a character who is chiefly defined by her effect on others, or her relation to the story. This was originally coined by the online fan community, and is still used primarily there, but has been adapted for use in other fandoms.

The original guideline for “Mary Sue” was that she was a female character in a story who was perfect. She had no flaws, no negative characteristics – she was simply perfect. This can be interpreted a few ways, from Mary Sue being an idealised version of the author (which is technically the original definition), a token female who is added solely to please the author’s desire to write a female into the story, or any female character who has more than two of the following: They are exceptionally attractive. They are exceptionally talented. They have an exceptional way with people. They have an exceptional way with words. Their story arc makes them exceptionally important to the plot (i.e. without them, it wouldn’t go anywhere).

Mary Sues are not intended as serious literary creations, but as a sort of self-insert wish fulfillment; it’s expected that they’ll quickly be killed off or otherwise removed from whatever canon they’re inserted into so that they cannot continue to “overthrow

What Is A Mary Sue?

What is a Mary Sue, exactly?

Well, there’s no short answer that covers the topic completely.

Taken literally, the term refers to any female character in a story who is so idealized that she’s basically a female version of Marty Stu (from here on out, “Marty Stu” can be considered shorthand for any idealized fictional character).

The phrase “Mary Sue” itself comes from the name of a character created by author Paula Smith in 1973 for her fanfiction Stranger In A Strange Land. The character—a teenage girl who travels to another planet and becomes romantically involved with an alien—was intended as an affectionate parody by Smith. Unfortunately, the much more common usage of the term today has strayed far from that original intention.

More than anything else, it’s what you could call a “cliché,” in terms of characterization. If we were to give it a technical definition:

A cliché is a concept or plot point which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, or otherwise becoming trite or irritating through excessive repetition in fiction.

That said, this page isn’t so much interested in definitions as it is in trying to help those avoiding these pitfalls, so let

The Case Against Mary Sue Characters

Case Against Mary Sue Characters

Mary Sues are characters who are so perfect that they’re not interesting. They’re unrealistically talented and beautiful, unbelievably intelligent, and flawlessly moral and ethical. In short, they combine every single possible positive trait a character can have.

Trouble is, nobody cares about perfect people. Perfect people rarely have conflicts or problems because nothing challenges perfection. Drama comes from characters who have weaknesses and flaws, who start out with something to lose and then risk it or give it up for a cause.

Thus, the most important thing you can do for your characters is to give them flaws. This doesn’t mean making them imperfect; this means actively giving them bad things to deal with. Bad people are more interesting than good ones because their decisions have consequences. Giving your character flaws doesn’t mean giving them flaws just for flaws’ sake — it means making those flaws active parts of the story.

Let’s look at a few different types of Mary Sue-type characters and how to make them interesting:

The Chosen One

The Chosen One is someone who has always been special and destined for great things — she was the one the prophecy spoke of, the one who could save her people from destruction or bring peace to their land by

Mary Sue Examples In Film

The Mary Sue is a trope that describes any character who seems to be fangirl wish fulfillment, or who is so obviously designed to appeal to the demographic of the show’s creators that it detracts from the story. This can include characters who are too special and talented compared to everyone around them, characters with a tragic backstory which gives them unbelievable motivation, and characters who fall in love with a canon character for no adequately explored reason.

This trope has been around for a long time. The term itself comes from the name of a Star Trek parody featured in a 1973 issue of the fanzine Menagerie (since retconned by its author).

Some good examples of Mary Sues are Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Lloyd Braun from Fanboys. Other examples include My Immortal’s Tara, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog’s “Moist”, and Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Script Examples:

Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Robin Wright as General Antiope, Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta and Lucy Davis as Etta Candy. The film also stars David Thew

Mary Sue As Protagonist You Don’t Like

I didn’t like Mary Sue. She was too perfect, she had all the good traits I wish I had, yet she was completely uninteresting.

Tolkien’s Legolas, who is practically flawless in every way. A character that is just a list of better traits than you have, who does everything better than you do and whose only real problem is that he doesn’t quite know how to express his love for you.

That’s the definition of boring. The only thing you can do with a Mary Sue is put her in an extreme situation, where it’s more important to survive than it is to not be friends with the villain or where no one can stand up to her perfection. The only thing more boring than a perfect protagonist is an imperfect one who tries to fix every problem by himself.

It would be so much more interesting if we got to see how the world reacts to this perfect person instead of seeing them react to everybody else. We don’t care about the perfect person’s problems, we care about their reaction to our problems and what they can teach us about ourselves and the world we live in.*

I think it’s always much more interesting if a protagonist has flaws and a bunch of little things that make them human instead of perfection as a whole

Mary Sue As Poorly Written Character

The term Mary Sue is generally used to describe a character in a fanfiction piece who is unrealistic and has excessive traits, usually in regards to their abilities or personality. The character is usually female and the story usually focuses on romance between the Sue character and a canon character within the fandom.

The term is commonly used in anime, manga, video games, comic books and other fandoms.

Mary Sues are not limited to gender, however; male characters that are poorly written have also been described as such. Unfortunately, Mary Sues come in many guises and some might not even be recognised as a Mary Sue until after the fact. The most common ones are:

The character is too perfect and has no real flaws.

The character gains special abilities without any form of training or explanation.

The character is incredibly powerful/skilled/rich/beautiful etc without any form of explanation or reasoning for why they are like this.

The character has an extremely tragic past which helps them fit into their new life with ease and they can often relate to the canon characters despite their lack of experience with the events that happened before they joined the story.

Some people look down upon characters like these because they tend to be boring, predictable, shallow and annoying. These

Mary Sue As Clichéd Character

Mary Sue is a particularly interesting kind of character. She is not merely a writer’s wish-fulfillment, but rather an authorial stand-in for all the good things about the author. She is often described as being “too perfect to be true” or “the ultimate author fantasy,” but this description, while accurate, does not begin to describe the sheer awesomeness of the Mary Sue.

Truly, she is more than the ultimate fantasy of an egotistical author; she is also the ultimate ego-stroking fantasy of every lonely and maladjusted geeky girl who has ever wished that she were beautiful, popular, and universally acknowledged as being better than everyone else because she was so much smarter and better at everything than they were.

As far as I can tell, this definition applies to almost every single female character in every single piece of writing in which her gender has been identified (I am deliberately excluding male characters from this definition because I don’t want to see it applied to Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins). Regardless of whether these characters are written by men or women*, they are always pretty much the same: beautiful, graceful, brilliant (usually only in one area), and beloved by all. They have little if any real conflict

Mary Sue As Author Avatar

As someone who writes fiction and fantasy, I’ve seen firsthand how the Mary Sue trope can ruin a story. And it has nothing to do with fan service.

I’m not going to get into the history of the term “Mary Sue” here, except to say that it’s been around since Star Trek fandom in 1968. What I want to talk about is how the term is used today.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m going to assume you’re not writing a Mary Sue if you’re using one in your story. That said, I’m also going to assume that you know what a Mary Sue is, and why they’re bad. You don’t need me to tell you that they are, at best, a crutch for lazy character development.

If you do use one, however, there are ways to do it right.

To start with: A Mary Sue is not just a love interest or sidekick who happens to be perfect in every way; it’s a character who exists only as wish fulfillment for the author (I’m looking at you, Joss Whedon). In other words, if your fans are saying “what about this character?” or “but what about him/her?”, that character is almost certainly not a Mary

Mary Sue As Idealized Character

Mary Sue is a slang term used primarily in fan fiction to describe a fictional character who is perceived as overly idealized and lacking credible character flaws. A female character labeled as Mary Sue is usually characterized as unusually beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent, talented in nearly everything she tries, and beloved by everyone who knows her. She often saves the day through her competence or self-sacrifice. These characters are often intended as wish-fulfillment fantasies for the authors of original stories, but are viewed as crutches rather than genuine characters by critics.

The label “Mary Sue” can also be applied to original female characters written with these traits, or to their authors. However, some stories apply the term “Mary Sue” very broadly to any female character that is impressive in any way. The origin of the term is unknown, but it may have been coined on the Usenet newsgroup alt.startrek.creative by Paula Smith in 1973 in reference to a story she read in which James T. Kirk was paired romantically with someone named Paula.[1]

Self-insertion (also known as an SI) is a literary device used in various forms of media such as fan fiction and role-playing games where an author inserts themselves into the story as

Mary Sue As Power Fantasy

The Mary Sue, both as a trope and an analytical tool, has limitations. It’s useful, but it’s not all-encompassing. It doesn’t describe female characters or even Sues; it describes wish fulfillment within the narrative.

It doesn’t explain why the character is wish-fulfilling (except in cases where the author is deliberately writing a self-insert or deliberately writing badly) nor does it really say anything about how we interact with these stories/characters in or out of context. That’s not to say that fans can’t read whatever they want into these characters, but I think it’s important to understand its limitations if we want to use it as a tool for understanding fiction and fandom more generally.

The Mary Sue does a good job of explaining why some people are so invested in certain stories, though – namely those about prominent female characters who demonstrate agency and skill in their field and aren’t defined by men. This is true of male wish fulfillment fantasies as well, but because female characters have been historically subjugated on screen (and in print), this is particularly bad when they still have value primarily as sex objects/rewards for male characters. The Mary Sue provides a way for fans to recognize and appreciate stories that don’t rely on these

Mary Sue As Infallible Character

Mary Sue is a phrase used in fan fiction and role-playing to describe an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. The term is also used more generally to describe any original character in a story (fan fiction, novels, movies, etc.) who seems to be too good to be true, especially if the creator of the work appears to wish they were that character.

Taken from TVTropes: Mary Sue is an Audience Surrogate, a fictional character with authorial presence whose incredible talents and amazing luck make them look like the author themselves. The term comes from a parody of Star Trek fan fiction called “A Trekkie’s Tale,” in which a naive young fan named Mary Sue is transported into the series’ universe and promptly becomes Captain Kirk’s love interest and saves the day countless times before marrying Spock.

This was meant as a joke on the part of its author (Ron Goulart) about poorly written female characters in fan fiction becoming involved romantically with established male characters.

Mary Sues are supposedly intended as positive role models for young girls, but usually wind up annoying everyone around them due to their sheer perfection and implausibility. They’re typically described as being unusually attractive, possessing unusual hair or eye colors, having unrealistic talents or abilities

Mary Sue As Center Of Attention

Mary Sue, a conventionally beautiful and talented redhead, was the star of her high school in Richfield, Minnesota. She was on the basketball team, yearbook staff, and homecoming court; she also got straight A’s and had a job at the local movie theatre. Mary Sue was always surrounded by friends, both male and female.

Actress Carey Lowell has been quoted as saying that Mary Sues are “too perfect” and that “You don’t relate to people like that.” This view is shared by many in the real world who feel they cannot measure up to the fictional characters in books or movies.

Although it may be true that there are no real-life people exactly like Mary Sue (or Superman or Batman), there are still many actual people who fulfill many of her attributes. The term can then be used as a form of flattery or admiration for someone who shares similar traits or circumstances.

In literature, television and film, a character can be considered a Mary Sue when he or she:

Has more skill/talent/appearance in an area than any other character (making them almost god-like).

Is loved by all members of the cast (making them god-like).

Receives special treatment from an authority