Saturday, 25 July 2009

I think I might be a Mary Sue

ConCrit, anyone?

I like the world of fanfiction. It makes a great base for a beginning writer and it's a fun way to explore a novel (or other fictional setting). Sometimes, though, it gets on my nerves. A case in point is Ms. Mary Sue.

Mary Sue is an original character made up and put into somebody else's world. (Except that these days you can also find her in original fiction.) She's pretty, she can sing, she absent-mindedly saves the world whilst simultaneously wooing Mr Darcy and Harry Potter - we're not sure what they were doing aboard the Enterprise. Wouldn't you love to be her? (Actually, I wouldn't, but play along, okay?) The problem is that the author would too.

I understand why fanficcers discourage other fanficcers from writing about characters like that. My problem is that the term's become far too general. People don't seem to care about whether or not their character's interesting an believable, so long as it's not a Mary Sue. The identifying characteristics of Mary Sue become broader by the millisecond. Somebody has probably decided that Elizabeth Bennett is a Mary Sue, because she got to marry Mr Darcy. In fact, I think I have many of the characteristics of a Mary Sue.

I have long hair. If you look closely at my eyes, they're not exactly brown, but they're not hazel either. That's technically an unusual eye colour, right? And everybody says that 'technically yes' counts as 'yes'. I have a name that I like; my parents like it; I've occasionally been told that it's a pretty name. I'm even distantly related to a minorly famous person and was not always aware of it.

I think the Mary Sue tests would be advising that I rethink my character by now. Some of them would immediately add demerit points because I've read Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings several times. I might make it to the stage where it is strongly recommended that I rebuild the character. I think that might hurt, though.

Mary Sue was a good term once, but it isn't any more. It's become increasingly generalised and wishy-washy. People all over are terrified of writing about her - even published authors - but they're not sure exactly what she is. So, rather than rebuilding my character (maybe I could get those coloured contacts so my eyes are properly brown), I'm giving up on Mary Sue. Characters may be believable or unbelievable. Description may be excessive or not so. These are possible and I'll say them, but I no longer believe in Mary Sue.

Thank you.

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