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  1. #166
    Wordsmith unrepentantAuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    An interesting one, this. Eternally relevant to fanfiction, too.

    Okay; to me, a "classic" Sue is a character who is unrealistically good. One who has everything go well with little or no difficulty, who has ridiculous advantages, whose social interactions lack psychology in favour of fantasy fulfillment and so on. There are almost always wishful author avatars. Common traits include extraordinary beauty, being worshipped by those around them, and being absurdly skilled. Often, classic sues will have a single, syuperficial flaw that is capitalised on as 'proof' the character is imperfect.

    More insidious sues include those who are self indulgently angsty, who are hated for no real reason by everyone, and yet 'special', or perhaps sues that do fail and do have flaws but the story still revolves around with no concern for the lives or personalities of others, or even the 'justified' sue whose amazing nature is explicable but no less unrealistic or unnecessary.

    The mary sue remains one of the most enduring debates in fiction writing because of its nebulous nature and because of the vast spectrum of character design philosophies. The only kind of sue everyone will agree on is the parodic sue that would be considered stupidly and unattractively 'overpowered' even by the most tolerant of readers.

    I hold that it is entirely possible to create a character who excels at many things without making them a sue, however! For example: an arrogant prodigy in many disciplines who has no social competence whatsoever and suffers autism, or perhaps schizophrenia. Just off the top of my head, that one.

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    CEO of the Monsters Lugion's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    I actually just finished a book written and published by a guy I go to school with, and every character was a Sue. Good God, that book was terrible.

    The main character is part human, part god, part Soul Eater (some sort of vampire thing that steals souls), is naturally incredible with a sword, beat master assassins at the age of three, kills his evil brother, kills his evil father (the god of, of all things, carnage), killed the Soul Eater king, AND a new evil king, and, finally, was offered and refused the crown, all in the space of 108 pages. Prime Sue example, right there.

    Why the hell did I read that?

  3. #168
    Wordsmith unrepentantAuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Khal, what on Earth was the title of the aforementioned abomination purporting to be literature?

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    CEO of the Monsters Lugion's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by unrepentantAuthor View Post
    Khal, what on Earth was the title of the aforementioned abomination purporting to be literature?
    It's called Reqiuem of Light.

    The author doesn't even know what the word "requiem" means.

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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Well, for me it's simple. I don't really have a definition for "Mary Sue"s but I can easily distinguish them.

    If I personally loath the character, and not just because he's a villain, then that's a Mary Sue to me.

    COMING SOON!

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    is obsessed with Noivern! Zekurom's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    "Mary Sue" is one the labels that I consider harmful. Similar to the discussions that we had about "dark" and "crack" fics, I believe that literary criticism would be better off without such a polarizing, derogatory term.

    One of the things wrong with such a label is a compound thing: one, it's almost completely arbitrary what such a label actually stands for, and two, it is granted so much weight in criticism, that the mere presence of a "Mary Sue" is, in some critics' eyes, enough to denounce the entire fic (or even an original story) as uninteresting, overly idealistic tripe. One or the other alone would not be so bad, but when both are combined, there is a recipe for disaster. How can somebody stomach the advice "Don't EVER write a Mary Sue" if they have no idea what a Mary Sue even is, simply because everyone and their mother has a different view of what such a character is like?

    The most common definition of a Mary Sue is an "overly idealized" character. Such characters are said to be "boring" because they have no "flaws". But what does that really mean? Do the flaws make the character? Must every character have significant flaws? Is a "flawless" character somehow inherently flawed in its ability to drive a story forward? Is such a character really incapable of interacting with anybody in realistic, natural ways? Or is it just because we are jealous of such characters, and want to berate the author for her egotism in creating such a monstrosity of "goodness"?

    Then there is the other extreme. What about a character who is flawed in every way? Surely such a character must be "overly realistic", and the source of much mixed, grudging praise. But instead, we hate them even more. We denounce those characters as being "anti-Sues", characters which were meant to completely avert the Sue stereotype but instead end up ruining the story in a completely different way. These characters are hated, yet people are hesitant to denounce them as Sues simply because they do have "serious character flaws". So they create another label for them, the "anti-Sue", so that no matter which way the author writes, she will always have some fault.

    Then there are definitions of a Sue in which the Sue is "overly special". Such characters are also said to be "boring" since everything special happens to them. The character could even be "realistically flawed", but if an asteroid falls on their head and knocks them out cold when such a thing wouldn't normally happen to anybody, then they get dinged as a Mary Sue. But, the world in a fictional setting often revolves around the idea of a character getting into a special event. I've seen this phenomenon in criticism many times - some event (such as a shiny encounter / capture) is about to be set up in the middle of a story, and then somebody butts in during the thread and says "If this event goes through, this character is automatically a Mary Sue. I forbid you from letting this event go through, because the character is let off too easy or is given too special an event." When in reality, there is no such idealism encoded into the event. Any trainer who's lucky enough will eventually encounter a shiny Pokémon. There's no sense in the "Shiny = Sue" stereotype. Sure, a lot of characters who encounter five or six shinies may be Sues, but that is only one of the signs. To use it as conclusive proof is unacceptable.

    Then we have definitions of the Mary Sue that revolve around "the world revolving around that character". This is a variation of the "overly special" Sue, in which other characters' attentions gravitate toward that character. But again - is God a Mary Sue? Suppose these people are under mind control to constantly pay attention to that character. Is the character a Sue then?

    I think, rather than Mary Sue being a character, Mary Sue is a mindset. These correlated traits all have a root cause, which is that the character wants to write a character who has some trait for the sake of having that trait. What these characters normally have in common is that the author has taken it upon themself to give those characters, and those stories, certain "awesome" traits, for better or for worse. The mark of the Sue is not idealism, it is unnatural idealism. And such a thing needs no label.

    I claim that it is not impossible to write an overly idealized character who is not a "Mary Sue" (although some inexperienced brandishers of the term may claim that it is), and does not ruin the story simply by being present. But it is definitely a difficult task. The idealizations must come from somewhere. I found that more than anything, whenever my characters were branded as Sues, it was not because certain traits existed per se, it was because those traits existed without any explanation, or flow.

    [Whew, over 800 words in that post alone. But I do feel quite strongly about this topic, although not in one of the usual polar directions.]

    Quote Originally Posted by Khal Lugion View Post
    I actually just finished a book written and published by a guy I go to school with, and every character was a Sue. Good God, that book was terrible.

    The main character is part human, part god, part Soul Eater (some sort of vampire thing that steals souls), is naturally incredible with a sword, beat master assassins at the age of three, kills his evil brother, kills his evil father (the god of, of all things, carnage), killed the Soul Eater king, AND a new evil king, and, finally, was offered and refused the crown, all in the space of 108 pages. Prime Sue example, right there.

    Why the hell did I read that?
    I doubt the character is as "Sue-ish" as you imagine, given just that description. There must have been something else that made him repulsive as a character and that made you call him a "Sue". All I see there is a character who achieved "this, this, this" thing, without any context as to how the thing was achieved. Perhaps he suffered through many hardships to achieve this goal! Defeating the god of carnage, while definitely a Herculean task, would not be impossible for a Herculean hero.
    Last edited by Zekurom; 1st May 2012 at 09:32 PM.
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    The word "quadragonal" is the only word with "dragon" in it where "dragon" is not a root word. That makes it awesome.

  7. #172
    CEO of the Monsters Lugion's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Smuglord View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Khal Lugion View Post
    I actually just finished a book written and published by a guy I go to school with, and every character was a Sue. Good God, that book was terrible.

    The main character is part human, part god, part Soul Eater (some sort of vampire thing that steals souls), is naturally incredible with a sword, beat master assassins at the age of three, kills his evil brother, kills his evil father (the god of, of all things, carnage), killed the Soul Eater king, AND a new evil king, and, finally, was offered and refused the crown, all in the space of 108 pages. Prime Sue example, right there.

    Why the hell did I read that?
    I doubt the character is as "Sue-ish" as you imagine, given just that description. There must have been something else that made him repulsive as a character and that made you call him a "Sue". All I see there is a character who achieved "this, this, this" thing, without any context as to how the thing was achieved. Perhaps he suffered through many hardships to achieve this goal! Defeating the god of carnage, while definitely a Herculean task, would not be impossible for a Herculean hero.
    There was nothing of the sort. He was just good with a sword, so good that he was better than the god of carnage. Like, good to the point where he literally does swordplay in his sleep. That's literally it. There's no context. Defeating the god of carnage was just some subplot of the story. And his Soul Eater ancestry wasn't revealed until 2/3 of the way through the book, and he suddenly knows how to, well, eat souls. Nothing about the character has any sort of buildup or explanation, other than his ancestry making him the most uber of all warriors by default.

    Oh, and his evil brother wasn't evil until a quarter of the way through the story. And when the main character killed him, his girlfriend (the default female companion) immediately fell in love with the main character, and ended up pregnant with his child.
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    is obsessed with Noivern! Zekurom's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Khal Lugion View Post
    There was nothing of the sort. He was just good with a sword, so good that he was better than the god of carnage. Like, good to the point where he literally does swordplay in his sleep. That's literally it. There's no context. Defeating the god of carnage was just some subplot of the story. And his Soul Eater ancestry wasn't revealed until 2/3 of the way through the book, and he suddenly knows how to, well, eat souls. Nothing about the character has any sort of buildup or explanation, other than his ancestry making him the most uber of all warriors by default.

    Oh, and his evil brother wasn't evil until a quarter of the way through the story. And when the main character killed him, his girlfriend (the default female companion) immediately fell in love with the main character, and ended up pregnant with his child.
    You seem to be picking the specific "Sue-like" parts in an attempt to make me think that this character is such. May I see the original story? (Not that I'm really interested in the subject matter, but just to evaluate this for myself.)
    The word "quadragonal" is the only word with "dragon" in it where "dragon" is not a root word. That makes it awesome.

  9. #174
    CEO of the Monsters Lugion's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Smuglord View Post
    You seem to be picking the specific "Sue-like" parts in an attempt to make me think that this character is such. May I see the original story? (Not that I'm really interested in the subject matter, but just to evaluate this for myself.)
    It's copyrighted, believe it or not.

  10. #175
    Wordsmith unrepentantAuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    I cannot believe someone can adequately justify swordplay at the age of three or in the character's sleep. The soul eating and a delayed reveal of epic ancestry are blatant deus ex machinas. Even if the information from Khal is selective and biased, this character still reeks of sue, and I don't see any reason for Khal to deceive us about said character. Scepticism is perhaps misplaced in this context.

  11. #176
    Reality is a dream TheLlama's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    The character very much sounds sue to me, and whether or not it is, for us, Khal perceives it as such. Labels are very subjective, really.

    And even if he did pick out only the most sueish parts, they may still be enough to make the character a sue. You don't need every single bit of the character to be sueish for the character to be a sue.

    Anyway! Back on topic:

    I find that a Sue character is one that's unnecessarily special. They have special powers for no really good reason, are skilled at pretty much everything they do, have no emotional issues no matter what gets thrown at them, and they get unjust attention from everyone. In the world of pokemon, they often tend to catch the rarest of pokemon, get rare items in inexplicable ways, and so on.

    However! Special powers for a justified reason are not sueish. Neither is having several things they are really skilled at (say, a three-four hobbies they really enjoy), however, in the context of pokemon they should preferably not be very talented at battling if they go on a trainer journey. Not unless they're already an experienced trainer. A character with no emotional issues is still a perfectly good character, if they're made out to be an interesting character. Some people also manage to live quite carefree and nonchalant lives despite having emotional issues, and some people have a personality that makes them the focus of attention very often (i.e. if it's because of a justified personality, and not "just because", it's not sueish). Catching rare pokemon is not automatically sueish, depending on context, neither is getting a rare item. It just needs a good explanation.

    So, basically, what is a Sue to me depends not necessarily on the particular traits, but how well they are written and explained.
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  12. #177
    How puzzling! Protopost's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    My opinion is, Mary Sues are not made, they are played.

    What is it normally that makes us think they are sueish? Normally for me, its not the traits, but instead how they develop(or in most cases, the lack of it). Depending on how much development and depth the author gives the character, it changes just how sueish they are. If they are good at swordplay, I want to know why. Did they just pick up the sword and automatically understand, or did they spend years trying to live up to their family’s expectations? If they kill somebody, do they feel guilt for it? If so how long does it take for it to go away, if not why? Every event the character goes through should show us a bit more about how they think, what they went through, and what they plan to become. If the character remains the same the entire time, then it’s a sue in my eyes, unless there is a reasonable reason as to why they didn’t change. At this point I’m rambling so I’ll stop now.

  13. #178
    is obsessed with Noivern! Zekurom's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by unrepentantAuthor View Post
    I cannot believe someone can adequately justify swordplay at the age of three or in the character's sleep. The soul eating and a delayed reveal of epic ancestry are blatant deus ex machinas.
    Such contrived devices are plausible in an equally contrived setting. Perhaps somebody did start learning swordplay at the age of three? Or maybe the character is not a regular human being?

    Such things as soul eaters are simply devices in fantasy. They are not necessarily "dei ex machina" by any means. Only in a place where they did not fit (and given what little of the setting I've heard so far, anything is possible) would they truly be such dei.

    And a delayed reveal of epic ancestry? That's old hat. An accusation of "sue" would be completely out of place without any further context.

    Even if the information from Khal is selective and biased, this character still reeks of sue, and I don't see any reason for Khal to deceive us about said character. Scepticism is perhaps misplaced in this context.
    I'm a skeptic about everything. Excuse that.

    And instead of deception, perhaps it is simply selection bias, which would not be Lugion's fault.

    In short, I'm not doubting Lugion's good faith, I'm doubting the conclusion he reached. It is possible to be honest, but wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaosj2 View Post
    My opinion is, Mary Sues are not made, they are played.

    What is it normally that makes us think they are sueish? Normally for me, its not the traits, but instead how they develop(or in most cases, the lack of it). Depending on how much development and depth the author gives the character, it changes just how sueish they are. If they are good at swordplay, I want to know why. Did they just pick up the sword and automatically understand, or did they spend years trying to live up to their family’s expectations? If they kill somebody, do they feel guilt for it? If so how long does it take for it to go away, if not why? Every event the character goes through should show us a bit more about how they think, what they went through, and what they plan to become. If the character remains the same the entire time, then it’s a sue in my eyes, unless there is a reasonable reason as to why they didn’t change. At this point I’m rambling so I’ll stop now.
    This is pretty much a more succinct version of what I was saying. It's not the presence or absence of a trait that makes a character a Sue, it's how that trait plays out in the story.
    Last edited by Zekurom; 2nd May 2012 at 08:47 AM.
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    The word "quadragonal" is the only word with "dragon" in it where "dragon" is not a root word. That makes it awesome.

  14. #179
    Reality is a dream TheLlama's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    A deus ex machina is any device that serves to solve an insurmountable problem, without any very logical explanation. If he for some reason needed the soul eating to overcome something, and it was then brought out with no previous mention or explicit hinting at the possibility of such a power (maybe even then), it can easily be considered a deus ex machina. Without the source material, it's hard to determine either way.

    And even if it is not a deus ex machina, suddenly and abruptly introducing something like that is nearly always a horribly contrived plot device. How the writer play out such plot devices is the very essence of what segregates good plots from bad plots, in my opinion.

    It is possible to be honest, but wrong.
    It is also possible to have differing views on what is right and wrong, as far as these kinds of definitions go. So technically he can be "right" even if you disagree and have a different view.



    Back to the topic of sues: I personally agree with @Chaosj2; and @Smuglord; - it's the way traits are played out, not the traits themselves, that define whether or not you it is a Sue. If looking at the traits themselves, a character such as Harry Potter would be very much a Sue from the beginning; the "boy who survived", a boy who has no knowledge of the magic world until he's ten (or eleven? don't remember) but is already (in)famous there. But he's not a sue, far from - because, frankly, his character is played out really well (as is mostly all other characters in HP), it creates the impression that he's a real person, a human, not some super-powered, angsty "everyone adores him"-type of Sue.

    The main character in my upcoming story is really skilled at martial arts (one martial art, that is), but that's only because she's been practicing for over a decade. To draw a parallel with the guy from Lugion's story: If he'd been practicing for years to become good, only that he started at age three, then that's not sueish. But, since he turned out to be naturally skilled and could defeat master assassins at age three, the trait is rather sueish. The exception would of couse be if he lived in a world where everyone else was as good as him, where him being so good at such a young age did not make him an overpowered bastard - where he got a challenge despite being naturally good.

    Take for example Kenshin, the main character of the anime series Rurouni Kenshin (an excellent series, by the way). He's strong, talented with the sword, has always been as such, and sweeps the floor with your typical samurai/ronin warrior - all the while carrying a sword that does not kill, because of his dramatic past. Now, that sounds a bit sue. BUT! Even if he learnt the "strongest" sword style there is unusually fast, even if he has an angsty past, it's palyed out well. There's a ton of equally skilled warriors serving as villains. He has to continuously train to be capable of defeating his opponents. The reasons for his not wanting to kill despite being the most badass warrior when he's in the mood, are completely justified, realistic, and you see a deep and intriguing character behind it all, not an angsty sue.

    I could mention a thousand other examples, but my point is the same. A single trait, or a lot of traits, does not automatically make a Sue. But they can. Even just one or two traits, really. It's all about how it's played out. How the character is. How the character develops. And so on.
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    is obsessed with Noivern! Zekurom's Avatar
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    Default Re: What makes a Sue to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Llama_Guy View Post
    A deus ex machina is any device that serves to solve an insurmountable problem, without any very logical explanation. If he for some reason needed the soul eating to overcome something, and it was then brought out with no previous mention or explicit hinting at the possibility of such a power (maybe even then), it can easily be considered a deus ex machina. Without the source material, it's hard to determine either way.

    And even if it is not a deus ex machina, suddenly and abruptly introducing something like that is nearly always a horribly contrived plot device. How the writer play out such plot devices is the very essence of what segregates good plots from bad plots, in my opinion.

    It is possible to be honest, but wrong.
    It is also possible to have differing views on what is right and wrong, as far as these kinds of definitions go. So technically he can be "right" even if you disagree and have a different view.
    Which is why I simply presented my doubts, and didn't assert that Lugion was wrong. If I actually read the book, it could be entirely possible that he is completely right - that the character really is as contrived as he mentions. But I can't simply take his word for it.

    I could mention a thousand other examples, but my point is the same. A single trait, or a lot of traits, does not automatically make a Sue. But they can. Even just one or two traits, really. It's all about how it's played out. How the character is. How the character develops. And so on.
    I wouldn't word it so ominously. Your wording there makes it seem like you're trying to explicitly avoid giving credit to people who use traits in Sue-ish manners, to show that you are not "sympathetic to Sues".

    "A single trait, or a lot of traits, does not automatically make a Sue. Only when the traits are developed in contrived, unbelievable ways does the character become a Sue." It means the same thing, and is not as foreboding.
    The word "quadragonal" is the only word with "dragon" in it where "dragon" is not a root word. That makes it awesome.

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