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  1. #16
    Paragon of Fear GastlyGibus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    In my opinion? Yes, perfect characters are a bad thing, simply because "perfection" is completely impossible to attain in real life. Perfect characters to me are completely unrealistic and are boring to read because they have no flaws or issues to deal with, and you know exactly what's going to happen because, well, they're perfect.

    However there's a difference between "perfect" characters and "morally good" characters. Characters can be morally good and still have imperfections. The video, for example, lists Luke Skywalker as a morally good character, which he is. However, Luke isn't perfect. In the beginning of the movie, he's shown as a whiny, self-entitled, typical teenager who just wants to go off and do his own thing. Throughout the trilogy, he grows more mature and learns from his mistakes, but even at the end he's not perfect. When he confronts Vader in the Emperor's throne room, Vader successfully provokes him to anger and causes Luke to go into a frenzy, nearly turning him to the dark side. Even though he's matured a lot, the fact that he was still able to give in to provocation and taunting shows he's not a perfect character.

    He also lists Gandalf as a "perfect" character, but again, that's not true. Gandalf loses his temper too. "Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time, and rid us of your stupidity!"

    The main reason I dislike perfect characters is basically that such characters do not exist in real life. Even Mr. Rogers, being a genuinely good person in every sense of the word, has done something wrong in his life. Everybody has. There isn't a single person on earth that hasn't done something wrong or that they were ashamed of. When a character is completely devoid of any flaws, he/she is incredibly boring to read and lacks any sort of creativity in my opinion. Why read anything about them when you know they're always going to do the right thing and succeed?

    Like I said though, there's a difference between morally good characters and perfect characters. Perfect characters are a rarity in most forms of literature or media, simply because they aren't exciting. Think of the strangely popular 50 Shades of Grey (a book that'll I'll never understand how it became so popular) and the character Christian Grey. One of the main reasons critics panned this book (you know, besides having terrible writing and being extremely repetitive) is because the characters were "unrealistic." Christian Grey is, by definition, a perfect character. He's a Billionaire, speaks fluent French, is a concert-level pianist, a jet pilot, fully athletic, remarkably handsome, and is the best lover on earth with a huge, er... package. Oh, and all of this at the age of 26. The end result is a character that is flat, boring, unbelievable, and just not fun to read about.

    In short, perfect characters are unrealistic, and by extension, not fun or exciting.

  2. #17
    Captain of Miracles Midorikawa's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    Yeah never reading 50 Shades of Grey now.

    Anyways, for perfect characters it depends on what you mean. The video made Vash as one, however if you've ever read Trigun then he was not perfect and made mistakes or one...my memory is fuzzy. Morally good characters are okay. I for example in my stories and story ideas have characters who know whats right and wrong, however they are far from perfect, having flaws to deal with such as fears, mental issues, physical issues, etc. Thus they are not perfect. Perfect is a character who does not have room to develop in any aspect at all.

    Of course perfect characters are not bad, as long as they are that after a lot of development or if they aren't main characters. When the main character is perfect from the beginning, it makes things boring. Take Yusei from Yu-gi-oh 5Ds for example. I never watched more than nine episodes of that one, but I have heard from quite a few that Yusei was too perfect, and thus it made 5Ds more boring as opposed to the other Yu-gi-oh series. Again taking from Yu-gi-oh is Yami who could also be called perfect, however he was there and made like that for the purpose of helping Yugi grow and become strong.

    And on the fact of what Kelleo said about good at things and having friends: Again its really only okay if they can still develop. When I'm reading book series I like characters who I can watch change and grow, like my favorite Black Dagger Brotherhood, the characters are constantly developing, some even after their own books, and they remain far from perfect afterwards too. One of the characters fits Kelleo's popular and good at things, yet the character wasn't perfect because he still had room to develop.

    So in conclusion to my long post-perfect characters are not good to have as main characters, but as side characters. And one aspect such as morally good does not make them perfect.

  3. #18

    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    In my humble opinion, I'd say flaws and quirks are what makes a character interesting. A character needs clear flaws, otherwise, as others have said, they're boring.

    That's not to say they can't be strong, of course. The balance is important. In some cases, a character could not show any weaknesses directly until a fair distance into the story, in which case, they're not perfect, but they're just good at covering their flaws. Although if they're a POV character, it is important to show some flaws sooner.

    The main problem with perfect characters is that no-one is like that in real life, and therefore, no-one can empathise with them. If they're truly perfect, they won't even seem human at all, which causes definite problems for the story.

  4. #19

    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Midorikawa View Post
    Again taking from Yu-gi-oh is Yami who could also be called perfect, however he was there and made like that for the purpose of helping Yugi grow and become strong.
    Yami wasn't even close to being a perfect character until the final few episodes of the series. He grew about as much as Yugi did, made plenty of mistakes, and had plenty of character flaws. The earliest example I can think of for a flaw was the duel against Kaiba atop Pegasus's castle during Duelist Kingdom, where he would have caused Kaiba to fall off the castle just to win a duel, and it took Tea AND Yugi to stop him. And of course, there's the duels during the Orichalcos saga against Rafael (the first one, where Yami actually activated the Seal himself) and Weevil (just viciously having his monster attack Weevil even after the duel was done, only stopping thanks to, once again, Tea). Yami got as much growth as Yugi did, since the four main characters of the first series were Yugi, Yami, Joey, and Kaiba (Bakura, too, but that's a different story, since until the Millennium World arc, he was still just a side character in each arc he appeared in to slowly build up to the final showdown).
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  5. #20
    CEO of the Monsters Lugion's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    There's also the fact that, in the manga, the Pharaoh was a violent asshole who delighted in killing/torturing/maiming people he judged to be dicks.

    To start out with, that is.

  6. #21
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    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    I basically skimmed most of the posts here reading a lot of the points (which I agree with), but if this thread is still alive, I'd like to throw in some of my own point of views. Also, I may anger some people so I apologize in advance should anything of that sort happen. Oh, and I might not be able to portray certain ideas clearly, but I'll do what I can.

    To start with, I think the term perfection and imperfection is defined differently by different people, hence the use of different context by those words. In general, I don't think anything in human history is truly perfect or imperfect, everything is what it is. Therefore, when people say Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues are perfect, I feel like they're under the assumption they know and understand the definition of perfection. However, what is perfection? What is imperfection? If we can't all unanimously agree on the definitions of those words, how can we use that word to define Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu? How can we use those words to define something when we don't agree on the definition itself? Even if we have various definitions for perfection and imperfection, the context people use them in gets smothered by different perceptions of how we all view perfection and imperfection. For that reason, I don't use perfection/imperfection in my terms to even define Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu. If I may be so brave, I would, in fact, not use the terms Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu and instead use this term: privileged characters.

    *Also note how in literary academia/Ivory Tower schools, Gary-Stu and Mary-Sue are basically non-existent terms. Throwing that in there just because. IMHO, I don't think literary professors don't even consider adding it to any standard core of any literary course. :/

    So what about the term privileged character? The fact is, they're so privileged that the writers themselves (who are also most likely privileged) favors their beloved "Mary-Sues/Gary-Stus" so much that they'll idealize these characters and make every other character in the story unfavored/display them in such a negative way that readers should only idealize the main character. They (both writer/privileged character) are so blind, so narrow-sighted in their views to even acknowledge the others' existence that they are human too, and that they have feelings and that they have a life. They don't even need to work hard to earn something; they have a luxury like aristocrats to get everything they want without having any suitable, burdensome strings attached while getting away with it. It doesn't even need to be an extreme case of "said character has all boyfriends/girlfriends/males/females attracted to them and has the best, overused Pokemon ever like an Eeveelution/Lucario/Gardevoir/Darkrai/etc"; it can even be extremely subtle (from what I've read). In one example, I read a journey fic that basically portrayed the female lead (hero) as the ideal girl, and while her initial privilege to the author was lost eventually (the story got better from there), in the beginning, you could see very small hints that she was portrayed as better and smarter than the rest of her companions while getting away with certain aspects like unlimited money without really exploring where the money came from, meaning that the author (whether intentional or subconsciously) had a preference towards the female lead over the other characters. (I guess technically in the end, the female lead went from privileged character to unprivileged character so thus she really isn't a Mary-Sue since she grew from her experience, as did the author.)

    Example: Think of the privileged aristocrats in late-18th century Europe; they had everything they wanted and all the luxury they needed without really working hard for it. What did the rich back then do anyway? They did nothing, and yet they had all of the rich, fancy architecture and big, fancy dresses with towering castles and halls and palaces to suit them. They achieved nothing monumental in their life, because they didn't save the world, they didn't save the masses. The peasants/villagers worked for them, feeding them food, giving them their money and building their palaces, but eventually, they all got fed up with them so there started to be revolutions and uprisings, a famous example being the French Revolution. Literally, they all overthrew the kings/queens/rich/aristocrats. In today's world, we still have that kind of class struggle, and while politics are a very sensitive topic, I would wager that many people arguing that they work harder than the rich still have a valid point which is why you had the Wall Street occupation happen a couple of years ago. If you compare that to Gary-Stus/Mary-Sues, in essence, they are getting everything they want without having anything bite them back in the butt. Perhaps it's not the best example/analogy, but it was the one I found that could work the most. Thus, the people who rebel are the ones suddenly declaring, "This character is a Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu! Your character is getting literally everything they want without having any serious consequences biting their butts in return!"

    So that brings me to this point: I think what makes a good character is if it is an effective character, one who's so humane and so deeply felt that it moves people to tears and forever alters their life because their character development is what makes them so beautiful. Yeah, I sound like a romantic/lyric/poet, but that's my take on good characters. If you have any character who touches the lives and moves the mass readers to tears, that can also be interpreted as perfection. That is a perfect character in itself; that character is what it is, moving people deeply and changing them. More often than not, it's the characters that work their butt off, and not the privileged characters who move people. Privileged characters don't understand the meaning of hard work ever, especially since throughout the entire story, they're not really learning or growing or changing, but good, effective characters (consciously or not) do understand what it means to work hard, and understand the willingness to learn/grow. Thus, the authors/writers of said good characters understand what it means to work hard and to move people emotionally/intellectually while the ones who created Mary-Sues/Gary-Stus/privileged characters do not.

    In addition, think all of the Pokemon Champions, such as Cynthia and Steven and Lance. Are they considered "perfect"? I mean, their main purpose is like a kind of leader/sage, a guidance to the main characters. They have already finished their epic, travel-around-the-region-to-become-a-pokemon-master journey, thus there is no need to further develop their character in the games. In that sense, they have already gained their own kind of wisdom that Pokemon trainers like Red and Dawn and Brendan are aspiring for. They have no noticeable "flaws." If these guys were the main characters, they'd have to go through their own kind of internal/external struggle to really make the story move and to really move people. The thing is, they don't, so that's why they're a minor role and not a major role to the story. Thus, their kind of perfection can exist within the story, but if there isn't anything they're struggling for as a main character, it's a boring story. If it's a minor role, and their struggle doesn't need to be elaborated into their own epic, it's fine IMO.

    Also, I'd like to add that characters are the story plot. However you build the character in terms of personality and function is how the story will go. If the character is privileged ("Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu"), the story plot will be privileged, riddled with what you might expect like having all boyfriends/girlfriends/best-pokemon/the like. But if there is life in the character, then there is life in the story. Your characters and story plot, while they may seem separate, are actually the same together. If you don't have one thing, the other will fall apart. Therefore, if you have a privileged character like the Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu (that equates to boring characterization IMO), you have a boring story. On the other hand, if you have a character who moves you to tears, who moves readers to tears, then the story itself will also move people to tears. A beautiful and popular example is Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist.

    On a possibly unrelated note: Don't judge people immediately from just one or two chapters if their characters are Mary-Sues/Gary-Stus. I've had someone do this to me once, and while I didn't really defend myself and let that person think whatever the person wanted, I regret not telling that person that s/he judged my own fanfics too early. I didn't even have the chance to fully flesh out my characters/story, and yet here was this person telling me that it was a Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu fic. It's like judging the artistic value of a symphony or a sonata by listening to only one movement when in fact you have to listen to all of the movements in a symphony or a sonata for it to be judged sufficiently.
    Last edited by Resona; 10th June 2014 at 04:16 PM. Reason: fixed a grammar error whoops

  7. #22
    I'm just Saiyan... PiccoloX's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    I don't care how elaborate you think the lie is you CANNOT be who you are not. Your "perfect character" will never be "perfect" because "you" aren't perfect. Every time you make a new character your only writing about yourself behind a mask of your own design.

    The exception being if you don't care at all about the character and write their bland story in as filler, in which case that character shouldn't even exist. If you write in a character because you need someone to "wave a flag" then only have that useless character wave the flag when it's time then drop the subject completely. Unless they have a truly significant impact on the story they don't need to be known.

    "[blah] is the only [blah] who can [blah] the [blah] with [blah], [blah] and Berry White, of course."

    If a characters role can be summed up in a sentence their not worth knowing IMO.
    Last edited by PiccoloX; 11th June 2014 at 03:15 AM.
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  8. #23

    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    To me, the Problems with Mary Sues is that they seem to make everything not a Challenge to the point the plot is not interesting, like if all the problems in the story is sloved in just a few seconds you don't have much of a story. You can still put in Characters that seem perfect to you, but still allow for major challenges to overcome.

    Or use the Perfectness as a Dilema. An example of this is Superman, he have so much Power, infact he could Easily pound someone like Lex Luthor into a Pile of Man-Jelly, and seeing that Luthor have other types of powers so that he won't stay long in Prison and go back to Villiany, some may argue that Killing him may be a good idea. However Superman have moral boundries preventing him from Killing anyone, not only that, but we seen example of him throwing away theses bourdries and it didn't end so well.

  9. #24

    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    Personally, I don't think the idea of "Perfect Characters" is the problem. The issue instead lies with change. Ash from the Anime for example, has gone through several year(s) of events and yet he acts exactly the way he did when he first left Pallet town. The My Little Pony example video said that this particular character was receiving backlash because she was now morally perfect instead of being an emotional wreck, but I figure it's more because that character is no longer going through any change. After several trials testing their morality, it seems that characters become a certain way and then never change afterwards. And that's the problem.

    People don't change once, they do it all the time because we're always discovering new things. Of course when it comes to character development in a single story, there's only enough time for a singular overall change instead of continuous growth throughout their life.

    As for morally perfect characters, it depends on their role in the story. Minor characters generally don't change, their personality remains static as the story isn't concerned with how they feel (i.e. Gandalf, while still having a prominent role in LotR he doesn't experiance any character change since the story is more focused on people like Frodo or Aragorn). If Mr. or Ms. perfect is the main character, I would at the very least attempt to explain how they became that way or show their journey towards moral superiority.

  10. #25
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    Default Re: Are "Perfect Characters" a bad thing?

    Your main character shouldn't have moral superiority beginning to end, flat out. Unless you're writing a story about Superman, that's pretty much the only exception. The best way for a character to grow is to make a bad decision, especially doing something immoral (not necessarily a huge thing, though). For example, let's say your main character is Betty, a Pokemon trainer starting from New Bark Town. The typical terrible writer Goofus has Betty be a friend to all the animals, beat the evil team, and get the girl, without doing anything anyone could remotely interpret as bad. But let's see the other writer, the wise Gallant. They make Betty poor, and her entire journey predicated on her theft of a Pokemon. Or maybe they have Betty consistently push her Pokemon too hard because she wants the approval of her father. See, the mistake can be a character flaw or one really bad decision, and either adds drama where none existed before.

    oooh, other thing related to "perfect" characters that bothers me. "Informed" abilities. So, this fic you're reading introduces a character named Goku Handsomeman, through having his number one fangirl talk about how honest and brave he is. And then Mr. Handsomepants appears, and his behavior puts lie to that. BUT, every character and the author's narration continue saying he is honest and brave, as Goku Handsomepants verbally abuses his girlfriend and cheats on her. Or, Handsomepants is said to be a master battle planner, but his plan makes no actual sense to any readers who know anything about military history. If you as the author describe a character directly as having a certain ability or quality, or being good at a particular skill, and then fail to demonstrate this in the story, you screwed up badly.

    Tied into that, a basic writing rule I learned in a Creative Writing class in college: when writing in 3rd person limited or omniscient, as the writer recounting the story to the reader, with the narration not controlled by a character in the story, be as neutral as Switzerland when it comes to making value judgments about your characters. If you've done your job right, the reader won't need you telling them a character is "cruel" or "lazy" to get that they have that trait. This ties in with the problem of the perfect character because often writers will make their main character (or occasionally, villain) perfect entirely through the way they describe them.

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