The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

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Thread: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

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    Default The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    For my BW fic, I intend to write Hilda as a 14 year old girl who's a true protege at Pokemon training and can really kick ass without a Pokemon. Before the series began, she would rigorously train with her mother's help to always be strong and physically fit so when out in Unova, she can take care of herself. She's an outdoorsy tomboy who would go to the forest to camp out or even train to be a real survivalist in case she gets lost as a Trainer. She loves Pokemon and can even communicate with them (in contrast with N as shown in the story), making a few forest friends she often plays with. She does have friends like Cheren and Bianca and also enjoys other stuff people normally do. She can be playful and childish when in a good mood but when the situation calls for it like when dealing with Team Plasma or in any other battle, she become a serious and strategic contender who thinks quick and holds nothing back. She's nicknamed The Battle Maiden because of this and her birth name having the exact meaning. She's also an explorer whose curiosity often lands her in trouble but she manages to get out which she considers part of the fun. She's also sweet and compassionate and prone to hugging the hell out of anything cute (just ask her Oshawott). Of course, she's not infallible and can make a few mistakes and oversights here and there. Her heroic nature makes her reckless like when she actually goes to get her Oshawott back from Team Plasma mostly with a Pidove she caught on her own (she already knew it personally though) and her own manpower but her wits allowed her to succeed in saving her starter.

    Now I'm quite confident in this character. I won't self-proclaim that she's "great" but I'm sure that readers with not at all see her as a Mary Sue as far as I'm concerned since she'll have a tough time getting to the top. But, my characters aside, it makes me wonder about the fine line between an "amazing, well-rounded, badass" character and a "dull, perfect, contrived" Mary Sue. I've gone around hearing "they gotta have flaws or else they're a Sue" and such that I was once afraid that my protagonist would be ripped apart due to all of the above. But I'm now confident that if I give her a shot, things might not be (so) bad. All the same, I have to ask about this difference I've come to be aware of.
    Last edited by matt0044; 10th June 2012 at 09:48 AM.

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    Brock's Pikachu LightningTopaz's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    The way I see it, it's not so much as having flaws as it is how much of a struggle the character has. (although flaws do play a role.) If she wins without so much as breaking a sweat, masters a complex subject in an unreasonably fast timeframe, has superpowers and/or magical powers where they wouldn't make sense, and/or has everyone as an ally without having to work to maintain the relationship, we have a problem.
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    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    I agree with LT. As long as she encounters problems and has to deal with issues, I don't care how awesome she is at everything.

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Quote Originally Posted by AetherX View Post
    I agree with LT. As long as she encounters problems and has to deal with issues, I don't care how awesome she is at everything.
    Well, she and her Oshawott lose their first three battles against her mother and a Patrat, Bianca and her Tepig and Cheren and his Snivy but it's mostly because of Oshawott's Anxiety (it is his first time with a Trainer) which Hilda sorts out as she likes to get personal with the Pokemon she catches. She runs into issues like with butting heads with N and his beliefs that seem outlandish to her and with Team Plasma and Gym battles as well, she always has her work cut out her. I intend to make her earn her victories with blood, sweat and tears. Plus, when the Heroes of Unova legend comes into play, things get more complicated for her and if you play the games, you can imagine how.

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Think of it like this:

    If you write a story about how this character wins everything with ease and always wins and never loses and etc., your pretty much just writing a list of achievements.

    And nobody in their right mind wants to hear that.

    Now if you write about the troubles, the romance, the friends, and all of the enemies and heartbreaks the character had to go through to get there makes for an epic tale.

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Quote Originally Posted by Mellowaffle View Post
    Now if you write about the troubles, the romance, the friends, and all of the enemies and heartbreaks the character had to go through to get there makes for an epic tale.
    Good way of putting it. I actually know all this but my doubts made me pop the question about the specifics. I'm kinda self-conscious like that.

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Its fine. Even though one may know what lies in the dark, it is always nice to occasionally turn on a light.

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Quote Originally Posted by Mellowaffle View Post
    Its fine. Even though one may know what lies in the dark, it is always nice to occasionally turn on a light.
    There's also that infamous "I don't like this character so I'm labeling her/him a Mary Sue/Gary Stu" mindset that I'd encounter in the Anime forums where characters like Dawn or Iris would be labeled as such when technically it's not true. So I guess that made me worry.

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    Goronda Type Vice-Webmaster Evil Figment's Avatar Vice-Webmaster
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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    The best way to avoid getting your characters named Mary Sue isn't giving them flaw; it's making all the major characters as good as she is...especially the main villain.

    James Bond doesn't have much by ways of flaws, at all (he's a total Gary Stu, really). He doesn't need to (and yet is humongously popular), because, at the end of the day, the villains he faces are nearly as good as he is. If Gary Stu is battling a villain Sue, no one will pay much attention to the fact that they're both Sues, because even without giving them flaws you will be able to have each of them manage to pull surprise punches on the other along the way. Not because of Bond's imperfection, but because he's facing someone as good as he is.

    Major supporting character should also be close to your character in skill (or better), so that it's not always your MC solving issues - sometime it's his allies. For example, there have been people to say Harry Potter is a Mary Sue. But not many, because while Harry (except in book 5-6, which are the least populars ones for a reason) doesn't show that much by way of flaws, Hermione at least is almost always on his level (trading Harry's courage for massive intelligence). (Ron less so...Ron is also the least popular of the trio).

    Finally, and that one only applies to fanfiction, your character doesn't need flaws, but he should be no better than the same level as the official characters (if any official characters appear in the story). This ties in to the above two points: your character should be surrounded by, and facing, characters who are equal to him (or better), no matter how few flaws he has.

    At the end of the day, there's actually a good reason not to insist too much on flaws - identification. You want your readers, in a lot of cases, to identify with the main characters. The readers don't like to identify with flaws (at all). They'd much prefer identify with someone whom they can think of as an idealized version of themselves. So the "give 'em flaws" advice, while it fits perfectly well in some genres of writing, just isn't always good advice.
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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    It's a very childish accusation anyway, so I wouldn't worry about it. Just write the kinds of characters you invision. If someone is going to find a floor in them, it might as well be the old 'mary-sue' brush, because if it isn't, it will only be something else. Just write what you feel happy with, and if it's good, it's good.

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    truth be told... when I started writing my story, I had conflicts initially planned at a certain point, but at the same time had a bit of a clueless streak going on in regards to writing. it wasn't until someone mentioned that my protagonist was like a Marty Stu (she told me to look it up on TVTropes when it didn't click), it felt a like a wake-up call when i looked back and, sure enough, my character did have some sore traits. granted, I modified the overall story to perhaps rectify most of the problem, but it did help me develop in making conflicts and that sort of thing...

    the unfortunate side effect of the source of the information... I found myself stuck on TVTropes...

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenix502 View Post
    the unfortunate side effect of the source of the information... I found myself stuck on TVTropes...
    Trust me, I know how you feel.

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Yeah--you can spend hours there if you're not careful
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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    I think a lot of people overreact about the whole 'Mary Sue' issue. I had a friend that showed me a quiz once that listed about 100 things, and basically anything a character could possibly have could lead to them being considered a 'Mary Sue' by this quiz. When I only got a low score looking at one character, my friend tried to say that a character having supernatural abilities made them a Mary Sue, which I thought was a bit ridiculous.

    I must agree with what has been said: a character should have things that makes them relatable for the reader, and not a glossy, perfect character that has everything go wrong. However, I wouldn't say make them have a million struggles or they fail at everything and then magically get better. I always get annoyed on some TV shows when the villain always manages to win, as it kind of defeats the hero if they just lose all the time, and it makes their inevitable win seem rather unrealistic. So maybe having her lose to all three of those people may be a bit of an overkill: maybe her Oshawott could still be anxious, but maybe in one battle it wins accidentally? That way you could give another character a chance to develop as well. That is just my personal suggestion, but if what you had planned works for the overall story, than ignore my little rant :P

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    Default Re: The line between a Mary Sue and a great character and the risks

    Quote Originally Posted by AceTrainer14 View Post
    So maybe having her lose to all three of those people may be a bit of an overkill: maybe her Oshawott could still be anxious, but maybe in one battle it wins accidentally? That way you could give another character a chance to develop as well. That is just my personal suggestion, but if what you had planned works for the overall story, than ignore my little rant :P
    Well, after the third battle at the laboratory in a sort of check up overlooked by Juniper, Oshawott gets sad that he may've ruined Hilda's chances at becoming a Trainer but Hilda reassures the little guy that she doesn't hate him and she won't abandon him. Oshawott had a fear, thanks to a cynical Snivy telling him, that Trainers were very picky and Hilda would return him after he proved to be dead weight who couldn't win a single battle after a while. Hilda proves him wrong.

    Then Team Plasma comes and throughout Episodes 1 through 3 (a big three parter), Oshawott certainly proves his worth.

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