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Thread: Analysis of Mary Sue/Marty Stu Trope

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    Default Analysis of Mary Sue/Marty Stu Trope

    Here it is. A thread dedicated to analyzing Mary Sues and Marty Stus. I've always disliked these types of characters for derailing the story or derailing the characters.

    What I'm asking is how this character type affects a story in a good or bad way and the effect on your overall opinion on the stories they're in.
    "Everyone creates the thing they dread. Men of peace create engines of war. Invaders create Avengers. People create... smaller people? Er... children! I lost the word there. Children. Designed to supplant them. To help them end."

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    But this is the traditional royal Canterlot voice! It is tradition to speak, using the Royal "we", and to use THIS MUCH VOLUME WHEN ADDRESSING OUR SUBJECTS!!

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    IM always worried ill create a character like this.
    IM really bad at creating rounded characters.
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    There's a reason they're disliked by people, because they're very predictable and warp the world around them in a way that, if following canon, shouldn't happen.

    Predictable in ways, such as:
    -they'll always have conveniency on their side.
    -they'll always do the right thing.
    -they'll always succeed at what they're doing (with minimum effort).
    -they'll always generate positive reactions from characters around them, even if they do something that shouldn't.

    World warping, such as:
    -put canon characters out-of-character (like, having a canon character who normally hates other people like the OC for some convenient reason).
    -heavily overshadow feats and accomplishments of canon characters to the point of ridiculousness.
    -have powers/abilities that break the rules of the world in which they're placed.
    -neutralise serious canon threats with their presence.

    Quote Originally Posted by kawaiiconcept View Post
    IM always worried ill create a character like this.
    IM really bad at creating rounded characters.
    I don't even see how one could seriously write a Mary Sue character if they're actively trying to avoid to do so. Original characters are likely to have several MS traits anyway (which is not a bad thing, by the way), but you'd have to be absolutely clueless at writing to make a full-fletched MS character.

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    Even professional writers can produce MS characters, and it is official canonical not in fan-fiction. **cough**XY!Ash**cough**
    Though I doubt the Japanese understand what is "Mary Sue", because this term is coming from the Western fanfic community, never ever used within Japanese fanfic community. So it is not a surprise that you'll find a lot of Mary Sueish characters (or a truly Mary Sue warping the physics of its very universe and character relationship) in many Japanese fictional works, whether that is in the form of novel written in words, manga drawn in pictures, or anime act on TV screen, simply because they really don't have a clue of this character concept called "Mary Sue".

    Although I do understand the reason behind why Mary Sue is hated, as that is story-wise a badly designed character. However, each individual "Mary Sueishness" are not necessarily bad traits. In fact, they are mostly just "essences" for non-commoner characters.

    The main checkpoint and admonition about character design behind the Mary Sue Litmus Test is: Do not make a character unusual unearthly abnormal freakish eccentric overpowered that had derailed from the physics of the universe, where he/she/it will make every other involved character become crazily OOC for the mere sake of his/her/its existence. Do not create a character where his/her/its existence is basically impossible accounting from the overworld rules of the fictional universe, even including multiple and parallel universe.

    Though, interestingly, in the recent years of Japanese light novel, that is just the route they are going: The protagonist is unusual unearthly abnormal possibly overpowered, because they are coming from/going to another world not of their own!
    And interestingly, many of them are rather entertaining (at least IMO). Though thankfully, most of such are comedies, so their eccentricity are mostly used as laugh-inducing material rather than serious issues, and still they didn't defy the law of physics of the other world, so I guess it counted as a safe call.

    Creating a character bound to the basic law of the world is the basic character design and story-writing requirement. But Mary Sueish abnormality shouldn't become a prohibition discouraging writers in creating story from the viewpoints of the abnormal character. The Japanese doesn't know what is Mary Sue, that's why they dare to write out so many stories of characters transferred to another world without much hesitation. Example: Hataraku Maou-sama, No Game No Life, etc.
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    I think a Mary Sue is often about what doesn't happen with a character than what does. A Mary Sue will never fail or have unheroic quality. They'll never run away or make a mistake or be morally wrong. Nobody in-universe will have an honest reason to dislike them besides their own jealousy or evil traits. Thats a definition that works across pretty much any genres.

    For example you could argue that Ash is a Mary Sue because he is always absolutely compassionate to his pokemon. He'll never be selfish or give up on them and that always gets great results for his pokemon. We are never meant to disagree, for example that his method of training was better than Paul's more ruthless methods. Ash could be considered unrealistically selfless. However it could also be argued that Ash was not a Mary-Sue because he often fails as a result of his own personal flaws, for instance when Ash lost to Brawly after he underestimated him. Or when Hoenn Drake thought Ash was getting cocky and completely wrecked him in battle to teach him about humility.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crystal View Post
    Though, interestingly, in the recent years of Japanese light novel, that is just the route they are going: The protagonist is unusual unearthly abnormal possibly overpowered, because they are coming from/going to another world not of their own!
    And interestingly, many of them are rather entertaining (at least IMO). Though thankfully, most of such are comedies, so their eccentricity are mostly used as laugh-inducing material rather than serious issues, and still they didn't defy the law of physics of the other world, so I guess it counted as a safe call.

    Creating a character bound to the basic law of the world is the basic character design and story-writing requirement. But Mary Sueish abnormality shouldn't become a prohibition discouraging writers in creating story from the viewpoints of the abnormal character. The Japanese doesn't know what is Mary Sue, that's why they dare to write out so many stories of characters transferred to another world without much hesitation. Example: Hataraku Maou-sama, No Game No Life, etc.
    This works, because they're in their own world. In No Game No Life, it doesn't matter how overpowered Blank is because the whole point of the story is to display their mad skillz. Without them, there wouldn't even be a No Game No Life to begin with. On top of that, there's at least effort put into the ways they achieve their victories. You get to see their thought process, every step of the game. They don't just wave their hand and win by default, like the general, badly written MS character from fanfictions would.

    Why MS characters don't work in fanfiction is because they mess up a world in which they don't belong. Fans read fanfiction to either relive the experience of the original work, see the original work from a different perspective or with a different twist, or to delve deeper into the world of the original work in some way or another. What people don't want to see is seeing the author having an ego-trip through their self-insert MS character, breaking everything that people liked about the original work.

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    There exist a fine difference between truly overpowered character by one's mere skill and experience, and seemingly-overpowered character that is overpowered by bending and warping the fabric and plot and characterization of the universe. The former is acceptable, and the latter is just Mary Sue which should be avoided by all means.

    Yes I understand that. But the problem is, very seldom writers and especially the readers understand this difference. Especially the readers and audience. That's why Alain featured in ME Special deemed as Mary Sue by many fans when he decided to enter the Kalos League and tromped the gym leaders in very short time, despite especially the latter event happens off-screen, so no one really knows what had happened and how does it happened. Though IMO theoretically speaking it is not completely impossible, especially when his skill is shown to be on par with E4 level prior to that. From my point of view, Alain especially his Charizard is surely overpowered, but believably overpowered, not Mary Sue where story plots are bend according to his winning streak favour, nor his existence made any opponent character become dummy weaklings. (Though I expected already someone will argue back immediately with the league battles results. And it is true that according to the choreography of league battles everything regarding on pokemon strength is questionable. But this discussion will belongs to another thread)

    Doesn't matter is the character existed in official canon work or fan-fiction, Mary Sue is still detested by the audience. That's why there developed a Mary Sue sub-type called Canon Sue, where it branched out to character design of canon work as well, no more a limitation to fanfic only.
    "人には知らない世界はそこに存在する、そして人には知らない冒険はそこに始まってる"
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    Is it possible to deconstruct the Mary Sue, and if so, how? Or are they considered "too powerful" in a writing sense that deconstructing them will only make them worse?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0bss1d1ankn1ght View Post
    Is it possible to deconstruct the Mary Sue, and if so, how? Or are they considered "too powerful" in a writing sense that deconstructing them will only make them worse?
    There are a lot of ways to deconstruct a character who is ludicrously powerful, for example in No Game No Life the siblings are great at gaming which makes them powerful and heroic in Disboard. But in the human world they were a total wreck, socially anxious and terrified with no real purpose in life or usefulness to other people. Sora is also perverted and arrogant towards women while Shiro is bad at understanding the personalities of others. A Mary Sue isn't someone who falls to pieces the minute their sibling is taken into the next room for 30 seconds. Being a Mary Sue isn't just being powerful, its being perfect in terms of personality, being always absolutely morally right. Its perfectly possible to have an omnipotent character not be a Mary Sue if their personality has many negative traits and its possible to have a Mary Sue with no superpowers in a non-action series.

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    A specific type of Mary Sue I outright dislike would be the Purity Sue. A well-written version of a pure character would be a character that archives purity though sheer willpower, resisting his or her personal demons. A Purity Sue stomps on that idea. The radiance of a Purity Sue is built solely by making other characters look like trash. This Sue is the one that picks entire droves of characters up off the floor as if she is some Jesus entity. I take it back. Jesus actually shows more traits than a shallow Purity Sue shows. This entire character is just a moving motivator.
    "Everyone creates the thing they dread. Men of peace create engines of war. Invaders create Avengers. People create... smaller people? Er... children! I lost the word there. Children. Designed to supplant them. To help them end."

    "Momentai!"

    But this is the traditional royal Canterlot voice! It is tradition to speak, using the Royal "we", and to use THIS MUCH VOLUME WHEN ADDRESSING OUR SUBJECTS!!

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    Mary Sue... Ah. I've seen those a lot. Well, let's begin with the analysis, shall we?

    The term has been thrown around so much it's hard to pin exactly what the term entails, but I personally consider it to be these traits:

    1: The character is infallible, or almost always right.

    Now, there's no problem with character having ideas that mesh with reality, or predicting future events, but when every single plan goes perfectly, and every single prediction comes true, then that's a problem. Characters are interesting when they fail, too. In fact, that brings me to my second point.

    2: Never seriously getting harmed, refuted, or refused.

    Again, there's nothing wrong with your characters NOT being barely alive piles of wounds and regret, or getting what they want every now and then (Something I myself needed to learn the hard way), but, if your character has no regrets or suffers no injuries (or always recovers perfectly), then you're entering territory where the reader says: "okay, this is a Sue,", and you don't want that. Further warning signs include being everyone's friend, and getting the most antisocial characters to trust and adore them.

    3: Unrealistic appearance, intelligence, physical ability, wealth, with no drawbacks or flaws.

    This is the trademark, shut the door, final nail in the coffin for most characters. Abilities or attributes that are unrealistic. Here's an example, with two character bios. One of them is a Sue. It will be obvious which one is.
        Spoiler:


    Actually, that mockup brings me to...

    4: Overtly long or poetic names.
    If you had a kid, you wouldn't name them "Ebony Raven Dementia Tara Way", you'd probably name them "Franklin Joeseph (whatever your last name is)"

    Long, unique names (if everyone has a Spanish name, a character with a Spanish name isn't even on the radar, so to speak) are often a sign of being a Sue.

    5: Overtly long or poetic descriptions.

    Let's say you have a friend named Jim, and someone asked you to describe him. Would you say:

    "Jim's about average in height, and is somewhat heavy. He has brown hair and large glasses, that somewhat make him look like an owl. Everything he wears is brown."

    Or:
    "Jim is exactly 5'7, and is EXTREMELY THIN AND FIT. He has gorgeous blah blah blah blah blah..."

    Describe your characters as if you were describing them to a person. Do not describe them to yourself.

    And those are the basic warning signs. I find it hard to read about characters without flaws, because I just feel like I am supervising a little kid's inner fantasies, with the character representing the child. No flaws. No worries. Just them and their whims. And that's not fun to read.
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    @Aduro gave out an interesting comment.

    Is it possible for a non-overpowered character be a MS in an actional battle fiction?

    It is true that always winning no losing is considered as one MS traits, but in this strictest MS Litmus Test I've seen in the internet, the things regarding on physical combat result was so little it only took up 2~3 points. The rest are mostly the basic personal information, background settings and character relationship.
    "人には知らない世界はそこに存在する、そして人には知らない冒険はそこに始まってる"
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    It really depends on the particular character. If there's a character who's wonderful and brilliant and super-attractive and everyone just loves them... then yeah, I'm gonna hate that character. But there are characters who are too kind and good to be true who I still like. Like Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket. She's like that, but her good nature still seems genuine. Especially since she really does go through some hard stuff, struggles in a realistic way. She's more insecure than she seems at first. And she's thoughtful; I liked her a lot more when it's revealed that she liked the person she ends up with since basically the beginning, and liked the same things about him that the readers (are at least supposed to) like.

    I've worried a little that Satsumi, the main character in my current fic, might be kinda Mary-Sue-ish. Because she's the daughter of canon characters, has an Eevee for a starter (I did make sure to make Eevee an available starter for all trainers [due to popular demand] in my fic, so it wouldn't seem special), plus a couple of other things... But I don't think I have worry, because she's not especially kind, or brave, or especially good at anything... She's got a lot of negative emotions; she struggles with them all the time, and they influence her behavior. The really, really important thing is that I'm deeply in touch with her character; I know exactly why she is the way she is-- the traits she inherited from her parents, how her experiences have shaped her... And I'm able to describe her emotions, thoughts, and impressions in vivid detail. If you can do that, your character will probably reach readers even if they are a little too perfect. Well, it's the same reason Tohru worked-- the emotion felt real.
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    The Mary Sue. The perfect little angel that destroys the story she's set in because she wrecks the canon to shreds.

    From what I've seen, Mary Sues are just what I listed above. They're perfect in any way possible. Even if she gets caught in a car crash that kills all fellow passengers, she emerges unharmed, maybe her overly gaudy makeup because she's that pretty is ruined- but nothing bad happened because Mary Sue cannot die because she's blessed with immortality or something. They're pretty with absolutely no explanation. Even the antagonists like them because she's so nice and one look can convert a wrongdoer into a person who realizes that they cannot continue their evil plans because Mary Sue will be caught up in the plan and will get hurt from it. They're half human half Pokemon who can use attacks with a magically talking Pokemon. She gets every character she meets to fall for her (regardless of gender) because Mary Sue is perfect and cannot do anything wrong and she's just that pretty and lovable. She fixes every problem without anyone batting an eye as she solves world hunger and creates world peace just because. Other characters are affected by Mary Sue, even the most non-caring person will care about her because you can't ignore Mary Sue. If this turns you away from a story, congratulations, you have a Mary Sue. They're the ultimate reader repellent if you would.

    The only good thing I can see coming from a Mary Sue is the author's wish-fulfillment goals being accomplished, which makes them feel good and makes them continue writing the character, which in turn makes them feel good, so they write Mary Sue again, which makes them happy... the cycle repeats. Mary Sues are only good for the author's ego, bad for literally every other person on this earth.
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    I once read an article about the Mary Sue trope. This writer wrote that Anti Sue exists. Anti Sues are basically talentless hacks of characters yet the universe bends their way. That's the problem right there. The universe established by the author is a universe that bends towards the Mary Sue. If gravity pulls matter towards the center, the character would push it away from the center. Magic A is Magic A? Not for Mary Sue.

    Authors who usually write Anti Sue stories try their best to make pile on as many flaws as possible, but the problem is rooted in the relationship with the character and the universe.
    "Everyone creates the thing they dread. Men of peace create engines of war. Invaders create Avengers. People create... smaller people? Er... children! I lost the word there. Children. Designed to supplant them. To help them end."

    "Momentai!"

    But this is the traditional royal Canterlot voice! It is tradition to speak, using the Royal "we", and to use THIS MUCH VOLUME WHEN ADDRESSING OUR SUBJECTS!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by U.N. Owen View Post
    I once read an article about the Mary Sue trope. This writer wrote that Anti Sue exists. Anti Sues are basically talentless hacks of characters yet the universe bends their way. That's the problem right there. The universe established by the author is a universe that bends towards the Mary Sue. If gravity pulls matter towards the center, the character would push it away from the center. Magic A is Magic A? Not for Mary Sue.

    Authors who usually write Anti Sue stories try their best to make pile on as many flaws as possible, but the problem is rooted in the relationship with the character and the universe.
    So basically speaking: they lack karma?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 0bss1d1ankn1ght View Post
    So basically speaking: they lack karma?
    I see them more like black holes, sucking everything like stars and planets to time and space into themselves.
    "Everyone creates the thing they dread. Men of peace create engines of war. Invaders create Avengers. People create... smaller people? Er... children! I lost the word there. Children. Designed to supplant them. To help them end."

    "Momentai!"

    But this is the traditional royal Canterlot voice! It is tradition to speak, using the Royal "we", and to use THIS MUCH VOLUME WHEN ADDRESSING OUR SUBJECTS!!

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    All this talk is giving me a weird idea: I should write a story about a Mary Sue writing a story about a mary sue
    Chapter 9 part 1 of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Destruction is out! Team Sharktooth finally make their attack on Florges Guild!

    And its sister fic: Desolate Lands

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    Quote Originally Posted by 0bss1d1ankn1ght View Post
    All this talk is giving me a weird idea: I should write a story about a Mary Sue writing a story about a mary sue
    So that will just be her own diary about her super-awesome fantastic life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crystal View Post
    @Aduro gave out an interesting comment.

    Is it possible for a non-overpowered character be a MS in an actional battle fiction?

    It is true that always winning no losing is considered as one MS traits, but in this strictest MS Litmus Test I've seen in the internet, the things regarding on physical combat result was so little it only took up 2~3 points. The rest are mostly the basic personal information, background settings and character relationship.

    I never really liked that test. Many of the questions are about supernatural or sci-fi concepts which won't catch Mary Sues in slice of life romantic or a realistic historical series for example. So many of them talk about prophecies, half-breed species and magical powers. The list might become useful if it was genre-specific and it had a graph of some kind with it showing where various characters ended up on the list. For example there could be a test for Mary Sues and they you could see where your character matches up to other characters in the same genre. If you're writing a fantasy character and he's above Harry Potter you might want to re-think them. If they're above Eragon, then c'mon you've got to be doing this deliberately because that's about as Mary Sue as a character can get without a sense of irony. I think a good way of making a fantasy character is with some tabletop RPG rules, give them an origin story and a reasonable amount of skills they can learn, mix in some personality flaws to make up for each good trait and you've got a more balanced character.

    Quote Originally Posted by 0bss1d1ankn1ght View Post
    All this talk is giving me a weird idea: I should write a story about a Mary Sue writing a story about a mary sue
    You could do a Mary Sue writing about a different kind of Mary Sue. For example you could have someone who's a Mary Sue because everybody loves them for no reason (ie like Lana from Smallville or Bella Swan) writing a story about a Mary Sue who is fantastic at everything and has to deal with inferior jealous people (ie like Sakamoto from Sakamoto desu ga).
    Last edited by Aduro; 28th November 2016 at 3:22 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crystal View Post
    So that will just be her own diary about her super-awesome fantastic life.
    Well to go deeper into my post: I was going with the idea that the Mary Sue author's life in the real world is terrible, which caused her to develop major depression, which in turn causes her to insert herself in a world of her own design so that at least she feels welcomed and needed. But then again, since I put it that way, it's not so much about a "Mary Sue writing a story about a Mary Sue", as it is an analysis on why someone would self-insert themselves into a story; escapism is just one of many routes, though I consider it to be the more interesting route. Another analysis would be that, they're actually just that self-absorbed as to put themselves into the story without blemishes- but you wouldn't really want to read a story about a jerk who's basically writing an autobiography but with superpowers, would you?
    Last edited by 0bss1d1ankn1ght; 28th November 2016 at 4:34 AM. Reason: spellcheck/grammar check
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    And its sister fic: Desolate Lands

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