Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:iconmakingfunofstuff: More from MakingFunOfStuff

Featured in Collections

Words by SuprSingr

rants by AwesomeHellee9

Literature by BlackRoseMaidenVI

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
April 16, 2012
File Size
9.1 KB
Submitted with


9,899 (5 today)
425 (who?)
                                  Clarifying Mary Sue

So, I realize that everyone has heard of Mary Sue characters, but the thing that bothers me is that Mary has never really been as clarified as she could be. Girls go around crying Mary Sue at every character with long pink hair, then go and create even worse Mary Sue characters in the false illusion that they're making nonMary Sue characters (or even anti-Sues) when in fact they're doing the opposite. Allow me to explain how this seems to happen.

First of all the term "Mary Sue" desperately needs to be clarified to these people, so this brings us to the very important question: What IS a Mary Sue?
At least everyone can agree on one thing. Mary Sues are characters that are so perfect it's annoying.

But. What do they mean by perfect? Everyone has different ideas of that, naturally. Unfortunately, this is how many fanfiction (and other) writers make their biggest mistakes.

When you hear the name Mary Sue what pops up in your mind? A beautiful princess who gets everything she wants, has magical powers and is loved by all the other characters around them? Is that really perfect to you?

Are you sure that in your heart you wouldn't rather be the mysterious emo that everyone else dislikes and is seriously misunderstood or the tough butt-kicking karate girl with short hair? These kind of characters can just as easily be Mary Sues as the girly girl Mary Sues that writers seem to be under the impression are the only ones.

"But my character has faults!" some might point out. Granted, this may be true, but your idea of perfect might in fact include these faults.

A common example of a Mary Sue fault that isn't really a fault is that they get into trouble because they are too caring or too nice to everyone. Well. . . This is an obviously stupid way to go about giving your character faults, BUT it's definitely not the only stupid way. You see, many people only pretend to give their characters "faults" by giving them something supposedly bad that they actually think of positively. Someone who thinks it's cool and funny to be sarcastic might make their Mary Sue character sarcastic, thus making them even closer to their personal definition of perfect.

Heck, if the author thinks shooting a gun off in an orphanage is a good thing and makes their character do it, then their character is STILL a Mary Sue, so long as it's portrayed as good (whatever "good" means. More on that soon).

Why do we hate Mary? While some of the writers might hate her because they hate girly girls in general (and labor under the impression that only girly girl characters are Mary Sues) true authors find her degrading not just because of her (usually) corny looks, background or history. Oh, no. That's the least of the problems with Mary Sue. We hate her, because she can do no wrong.

Mary Sue cannot do anything wrong. Sure, she can trip over a rock if it's funny and cute or maybe even accidentally press a button that blows up a city if it adds to the plot (naively assuming there is a plot). But she can't do anything that makes her a bad person. She cannot do anything morally wrong. At least, (and this is the most disgusting part) what's morally wrong according to the author.

"Ah, so as long as I make Mary do something unchristian she isn't a Mary Sue?"
No. Remember, this is perfect according to you. Even if you use the words "morally wrong" we all know that you're not thinking of it that way. You're not thinking, "This is the part of the story where Mary Sue makes a mistake that the audience knows is wrong and doesn't want her to do!" Give me a break. You're thinking, "This is the part of the story that makes Mary Sue more deep and mysterious and interesting!"

Also, it doesn't help that a lot of people skate over describing Mary Sue as sweaty, smelly, fat or anything like that even when it would be the realistic thing to do. Still, I'm not saying that just because you did use one of those words you're character isn't a Mary Sue either.

Mary can be your own twisted, lame or just plain pathetic idea of perfect.
Everything she does is your type of perfect. Basically reading about a Mary Sue regardless of what person's type of perfect she is feels like reading "BE LIKE ME, BE LIKE ME, BE LIKE ME," which is both tedious and insulting.

Then there are the "self-insert Mary Sues." There is nothing wrong with inserting yourself into a story. However, when people do this, they tend to make themselves seem (admit it) cooler than they really are. This could be by focusing on or emphasizing the (in some cases exaggerated) most interesting things about themself (which sometimes even leads to them getting big-headed and sometimes even believing they're really this mysterious, great person in real life). No wonder the phrases "self-insert" and "Mary Sue" usually go together.
How can you possibly try to portray yourself this way and not get a Mary Sue?

I guess, what I'm really trying to say, is that "perfect" is a very very very broad word to use as a definition for Mary Sue and if that's the definition you're going to use, don't you dare turn a blind eye to your own Mary Sues just because they don't fall in line with someone else's idea of perfect.

It doesn't matter whether they have long, flowing pink hair, special abilities, or who they fall in love with (it doesn't even matter if the author personally believes they ARE perfect). It doesn't matter if they're a tomboy full of flaws either. A Mary Sue is a character who is plainly, mercilessly and unfairly worshiped by the author (directly or indirectly, usually indirectly or even unintentionally so watch out). It's in the portrayal. What could be a Mary Sue in one author's hands could be a perfectly reasonable character in another's.

Real people could take a so-called "Mary Sue test" and score as a Sue. What then? Is the person unrealistic? Perfect? Not at all! How then do so many "self-inserts" get labeled as Sues? Because of how they are PORTRAYED.

How can stereotypical perfect characters in cartoons be bearable? Because the cartoonist is not worshiping them; they are making fun of them.

Mary Sues are not so much characters who are "so perfect that they are annoying" but characters that authors worship. "Perfect" is merely a differing opinion among everyone in the world. So Mary Sues are types of characters *portrayed* as perfect.

One could even go on to say that "perfect" isn't the only thing characters can be unfairly portrayed as. Instead of perfect, maybe evil, mysterious, deep, interesting, random, tough, or funny. It all comes down to how much the author is forcing their opinion on the audience (by doing so, they are either worshiping their character or a view of their character that we may or may not share, in an obnoxious and unfair way).

(I do have to admit at least, it seems that negative opinions are generally more tolerable than positive ones. Everyone loves to hate, but nobody likes a goody two-shoes, and calling a character out every so often can be good for a story).

One could go even FURTHER to say that not only characters can be unfairly portrayed, but THINGS in your story as well. Emotions, objects, lyrics, perhaps even the plot... The list is quite infinite.

One way to avoid doing this is to show and not tell (not even show AND tell. Worry about showing). Be fair. It's almost as simple as that: keep your opinions out of it.

While super-strong, beautiful, all-holy princesses can be corny and obnoxious that's not always the stuff Sues are made of and certainly not the only.


Many people who claim they hate "Mary Sues" actually just hate girly girls. Most of these people tend to be girls themselves, who are bitter at the stereotype and mistake it for Mary Sue or vice versa.

Others mistakenly believe that Mary Sues are girls who don't fight for themselves or rely on men. Regardless of whether that's stupid or not, it's NOT what Mary Sue means. One of these characters wouldn't be a Sue if the author portrayed them as an idiot. They would be however, if you were supposed to look up to them.

Yes, that's right: stereotype Sues made to make fun of Sues are contradictions, for Sues never make fun of themselves.
Also, Sues are not "characters who are underdeveloped." That is simply a bad character. Underdevelopment and Mary Sue characters, while they tend to go hand in hand, are not the same thing, and the absence of one doesn't necessarily mean the absence of the other.

When all is said and done, perhaps what we need to realize is that Mary Sue isn't a type of character, but a type of attitude.

Oh, and you know all of that goes for Gary Stus too, even though I used Mary Sue as the example instead of the less heard of male-version, right?
I tend to go back and add to this from time to time.
I'd LOVE to hear your feedback on this. Long comments are especially welcome!!

Proud Mary Sue hater forever!

EDIT: Another thing I thought of... It seems like Mary Sues boil down to the problem of narcissism especially since many people think of their Mary Sue characters as themselves (or something they want to be). I saw this stamp [link] and I highly recommend thinking about the point behind it. It falls into the same category as the whole Mary Sue/self-obsessed culture that there seems to so much of today. This is a rather excellent stamp as well [link]

Just for fun I'm gonna make a list of the most common types of Sues:
The "crazy psychopathic murderers"
The "sexy, butt-kicking ones that no one can get the better of" [link]
The "Random, crazy, hyper onez" (99% of the time being "random" really means being cliche).
The "depressed, deep, dark emo/goth/same-difference-always-dresses-in-black type"
The "warm/caring/friendly/a-million other adjectives that no one pays attention to" aka no personality kind.
For further cliches [link]

Fun fact: there is never, I repeat NEVER a need to state a character's breast-size. The end.
(In other words, avoid making things up out of narcissism and/or lust. It's unprofessional and lame).

I made a separate deviation on self inserts for more clarification: [link]
Add a Comment:
LaDeary Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Bravo. :iconclapplz: I shall strive for improvement, thank you.
The1Enchantress Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
So in summary, what I'm gathering from this and from some comments below, is that "perfect" characters, whether Mary or Gary, are those that have no need to grow/change, are always right in whatever circumstance, and are based off the personal motive of the author to promote the author's agenda. Is that about right?
EdenEvergreen Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2014
Hmm, I usually heard the male version of "Mary Sue" called "Marty Stu" ... but either way, the same principles apply. :nod: That rose, by any other name, still has thorns! ;P

One way that "Mary Sue" types always stand out to me is if they steal the spotlight on a constant basis.

Yes, the main character (if there is one) should get more attention than the minors. However, a balance is still needful. Every character should get a little time in the spotlight, even if it's only a short turn.

The spotlight thing is usually what separates readable fan-fiction (you know, the type that actually has a plot and keeps all of the canon characters mostly "in character") from vapid nonsense.

Also, as you mentioned, the "show don't tell" part is crucial. Show the characters to the audience, and let them think what they will.

I saw a forum signature you might also appreciate: "I am willing to suspend my disbelief, but not hang it by the neck until dead." :)
MakingFunOfStuff Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014
Thanks for the comment.
Haha, that's a great quote. :XD:
therebeunicorns Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2013
[Wall of text warning!]
I really enjoy reading your essays. They're short, simple and make their points well.

I believe that Mary Sue is a character that the *author* thinks is so perfect that the character does not have to do anything but show how perfect they are for the entire story. The character does not need to change--- because she's perfect! She doesn't need to grow--- because she's perfect! The same can apply to characters that are purposefully given so many flaws it's unbelievable, such as the depressed emo. The emo does not have to overcome any of her faults! She's totally awesome being her depressed, lonely self throughout the *whole* story!  This Sue-author will beat me over the head with her precious character until I 'get' how perfect she is, even if she isn't perfect but flawed. This author treats her flaws/struggles as endearing qualities and doesn't let me form my own opinion. Thus something that is supposed to be a flaw or challenge the character becomes something the author thinks is (or portrays as) a positive point. Like you said so well here:

"You see, many people only pretend to give their characters "faults" by giving them something supposedly bad that they actually think of positively."

When I see a Mary Sue of course I start to dislike the story. Not because of the Mary Sue. But because of the story itself. The story does nothing for me. It doesn't go anywhere. I'm stuck in a loop of perfection with a character I don't like--- I don't like perfect characters, and I don't like perfection either.

"(naively assuming there is a plot)"

There is rarely, if ever, a plot in a Mary Sue story. The author thinks that once their OC is done, 99% of the work is done. XD Yeah, because coming up with a plot takes only 1%, NOT.

There is one point you made I'd disagree with, unless I am totally misunderstanding you, and that is this line:

"One way to avoid doing this is to show and not tell (not even show AND tell. Worry about showing). Be fair. It's almost as simple as that: keep your opinions out of it."

I agree with keeping my opinions out of it, but if I only did showing in my original novel, it would be a million pages long. In order to keep pace while I'm writing my novel, I have to do both showing and telling. I show the things that are important, the things that add to character or plot, and sometimes I even show things like setting when I feel it plays an important role.

But there are many occasions when I find it most appropriate to tell instead of show. Let's say my character needs to run down the street to the house on the end. The running down the street is not all that important, it's what happens when she gets to that house that is important. Now, I could pointlessly describe every step she takes and what she feels while she's running, or I could sum it up in one sentence: "She ran down the street to the house on the corner." (which is telling) and save the showing for more important moments in the story.

A better example would be that I could easily get away with (or even prefer) 'telling' what happened to a character during her day rather than showing it all when it wasn't important (aka summarizing):

"I spent most of the day at school slumped over my journal and doodling. On the way home, I stopped and got a coffee.

When I came to the front door of my apartment, I noticed it was open just a crack. Heart fluttering, I just stood there staring. It was dark inside there, and the first thing that came to mind was not Oh my God! but Did any snow get on the carpet? I don't want any mold!"

Ahem. Maybe not the best sample of my writing ability ;_: but I kind of forced it out just for this comment, lol. As you can see, the first two sentences are 'telling' or 'summarizing' what happened during her boring day, while the next sentences go back to 'showing' or 'being in the moment' because something interesting has come up. that I've written that wall of text I'm wondering if I misunderstood you. Maybe you were referring to only doing showing when it comes to portraying to the main character? If that's the case, I agree with you. My main character did not introduce herself by stating her personality. The first chapter shows her personality in what she does and thinks. There's a bit of telling in the second chapter, where she simply mentions that she is diagnosed with a disorder. But it is done as a part of a longer introspection that, with her constant worry and doubt, only proves that she does indeed have this disorder. The small bit of telling was done to make a point.
yelinna Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2013
I think that famous anime characters like Utena (Revolution Girl Utena) or Ash (Pokemon) are Maries and Garies. You can feel the creator behind, trying hard to make them their idea of perfection.
scourge728 Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2013  Hobbyist Artist

no no no

ash is just a lucky idiot

RED is the Gary stu

yelinna Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2013
Ash is a "Lucky Idiot", he he, I really like that :dummy:
scourge728 Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2013  Hobbyist Artist

 its true


BiscuitDude Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
If a character is predefined by the author as a Mary-Sue, then it's the writer's challenge to not glamourise those aspects that make them so.

At least, I think that's what you're getting at. Otherwise I'd be questioning my own characters. A case of it's all in the execution, not the concept, I suppose?
Add a Comment: