Forum: Being a Beta Reader

Discussing: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Hi all,

I have just had a look at the beta readers' list.

I checked what our beta readers are willing to read and what they are not willing to read. And I noticed something very weird.

A significant number of beta readers have posted:

"Prefer not to read: Mary Sue or Marty Stue"

Am I the only one who thinks it makes absolutely no sense if a potential beta reader says that s/he refuses to read a "Mary Sue/Marty Stue"?

(And I am not talking parodies here - because it does make sense when someone says that s/he cannot beta parodies or comedies!)

Think about it!

Yours

JunoMagic

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

I agree. A lot of times an author isn't sure if their OC is a Mary Sue or Marty Stue. They need a beta reader to tell them that! Many times, that's one of the things an author wants a beta reader to check. And if no beta readers are willing to go on the MS hunt, then less stories will get betaed. A beta reader's job is to help an author improve a story (and its characters), not just sit down for a pleasurable read, maybe marking a few wayward commas here and there (though a beta should do that too.)

(end rant)

Now I should probably go check to see what embarrassing things I put in my beta reading profile...

~Nienna

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Am I the only one who thinks it makes absolutely no sense if a potential beta reader says that s/he refuses to read a "Mary Sue/Marty Stue"?

Maybe. 

If you are not sure if your character is a Mary Sue/Marty Stu and you don't want them to be, then looking for a beta reader who is not fond of the genre will proably get you better feedback on how to make the character more convincingly real. I would hope that the people saying "no MSs" are not closing out ALL original characters under that description.

If you *know* you are writing a 'Mary Sue/Marty Stu', you like that genre and intend unashamedly to keep your main character the violet eyed, half-valar-half-maia-half-hobbit, Valarania Queen of Angst (Frodo's time travelling daughter from a wild night between Yavanna, Gandalf and Frodo), but want plot or description help, or keeping the rest of the characters closer to canon or something, then a beta reader who is not fond of the MS genre would be a very bad fit.

I like good original characters. I'm not really fond of MSs.  There is a difference.

Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

But... I have a question.

"the genre": is there a genre of serious Mary Sues and Marty Stues (i.e. stories that are not parodies and not unintentionally Mary Sue/Marty Stue-like original characters)? This question may sound stupid, but so far I have really only read three kinds of stories that fit in this discussion (or maybe rather *don't* fit...):

  • unintentional Mary Sues or Marty Stues (and I have seen none at HASA so far)
  • parodies
  • original characters of varying quality, but definitely *not* what is generally considered a "Mary Sue" or "Marty Stue"

I am confused, because if "Mary Sue/Marty Stue" is only another term for a badly executed original character... then saying that you don't want to read them means more or less that you don't really want to be a beta-reader at all, doesn't it?

I mean, as Nienna said above, if I am willing to beta, I have to be willing to read something *bad*. After all, as I understand it, beta-reading is about trying to help improving what is less than perfect in a story.

I was just thinking that for new and young writers who are generally more afraid that their original characters might end up as Mary Sues or Marty Stues, it has to be very discouraging to find those statements on our beta readers' list.

Yours

Juno

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

I don't want to read MS's, but when I have time to beta, am willing to help someone avoid the pitfalls as much as I can. There are people who write Mary-Sue/Marty Stue type stories, and are happy to do that; those are the ones I don't want to read. I also want people to think twice about whether their characters fall into that category, and be willing to hear that sort of critique - not everyone will. When I can beta (sadly, not now) I would work with someone who wanted to avoid that type of character in their story.

I know no other way to describe what I don't want to read. I think it would be worse (and far harder and space-consuming) to spell it out. How would someone react to "Prefer not to read stories with characters who too closely mirror the fantasies of their authors, or are too beautiful, or have impossible origins, or cause the canon characters to go OOC..."

For me, an original character is not the same thing as an MS.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

How about:

"I do not want to read characters which are intended to be a Mary Sure or a self-insertion."

That's not so very long. And *much* clearer.

"There are people who write Mary-Sue/Marty Stue type stories, and are happy to do that; those are the ones I don't want to read."

In my experience those authors do not ask for beta-readers. They ask for reviews and mean "praise". I have seen lots of such stories at FanFictionNet; so far I have seen none of them around here. And even at FFNet I have had the experience that if someone approaches me and asks me for beta-comments, they don't want to write MS. In fact, I have commented on two stories with MS potential with the result that one heroine has by now developed into an almost rounded character and that the other story was not written and published.

Maybe it would be even better to say not something negative along the lines of MS, but something positive! Like:

"I am willing to help you with characterization, especially with preventing an OC turning into a Mary Sue."

How about that?

I have heard people say (or rather read comments) about how difficult it is to find a beta-reader here because of the many "I prefer not to read". I have also heard potential beta-readers being disappointed that no one has ever approached them via our beta readers' list.

That's why I wandered over to the beta readers' list during my break the other day...

All in all, I think every author should be able to find a fitting beta-reader there.

It was only the MS that really got me wondering - see my questions in the other post.

Yours
JunoMagic

P.S.: If anyone out there needs a beta-reader, have a look at my beta-reader profile and don't be afraid to write to me. I have no time for betaing this week, but generally I am willing to take on new projects. 

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

I mean, as Nienna said above, if I am willing to beta, I have to be willing to read something *bad*. After all, as I understand it, beta-reading is about trying to help improving what is less than perfect in a story.

That's what I want to do, too, but I would hope the stories I tried to give advice for would be 'unpolished' or 'plot-floundering' or 'characterizations needs work' or at least is something that I see a spark of a good idea in or some writing talent in the author rather than a 'bad' story? 

I am confused, because if "Mary Sue/Marty Stue" is only another term for a badly executed original character... then saying that you don't want to read them means more or less that you don't really want to be a beta-reader at all, doesn't it?

I don't think so.  I'm not sure I could give kind enough advice to someone who thought "Valarania, Queen of Angst" or "Legolas's sister Laura"  - Legolas got up and went into Laura's room and said"good moring"and then Laura said "good moring too".Then Legolas said"whats a matter"and then Laura said"Legolas I want to know how to ride a horse".Then Legolas said"Ok"and then Legolas said"first you get dresses and have something to eat and then we will go for a horse ride lesson".Mean while Strider and Gandalf was rideing towards where Legolas lived and then Strider said"Gandalf I did not know Legolas had a sister"and then Gandalf said"I did not know aswell". (text cribbed from GodAwful.net) -  was a legitimate character, or who had no understanding of how stories are told.  If you have that kind of patience, more power to you and I am very glad that they can get good advice. But I can't do it.

 
I was just thinking that for new and young writers who are generally more afraid that their original characters might end up as Mary Sues or Marty Stues, it has to be very discouraging to find those statements on our beta readers' list.

In general, it always better to say what you will do than what you won't.

  • unintentional Mary Sues or Marty Stues (and I have seen none at HASA so far)
  • parodies
  • original characters of varying quality, but definitely *not* what is generally considered a "Mary Sue" or "Marty Stue"

Oh, no. Some people really prefer to write and read MS stories. But you are also right, they do not tend to hang out at HASA.

 Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Thankfully I have never been asked to beta something like that!

I also think that chances are no one will ever be asked to beta something like that here at HASA, to be honest.

But if that happens, I am also thinking that the problem in texts like that is *not* a Mary Sue, but writing in general. It's the so-called "basics", grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure that are already an issue here. There's obviously a lot to learn until you even get to the point where bad characterization has to be discussed.

I can perfectly understand that most people here don't want to beta such raw beginners. I also think there's nothing wrong with indicating that in the beta-reader profile. Something like: "I prefer working with fanfiction authors who already have a few years experience in creative writing."

Your example: Sure - that's bad.

But do I know who the writer is? Is she 12 and has learning disabilities, and this is the first text she has ever written on her own? Or is she 30 and having a good laugh at everyone screaming at her text?

I don't know. So I am going to go with what's more likely - here we have a kid who was for the first time in her life moved to write something outside of a classroom environment. Normally she probably does not read. But something in the movies obviously moved her enough to try and write *something*. And if she wants a beta-reader, she is smart enough to know that *something* is wrong with her writing.

I am generally willing take on beginners as a beta-reader and have done so a few times at FFNet. I should probably update my beta-reader profile...

In general, it always better to say what you will do than what you won't.

Oh yes!

From this discussion, I get the notion that the "prefer not to read: Mary Sue" does not really say what it ought to say. And that what it ought to say may be different from beta reader to beta reader, varying between "I prefer not to beta-read original characters intended to be Mary Sues" - "I prefer not to beta-read 'Tenth Walker/Girl Falls Into Middle-earth' stories" - "I prefer not to beta-read original characters" or "I prefer not to beta-read stories by authors with no writing experience".

Maybe a question to everyone who is on that beta readers' list:

If you read your beta-reader profile and you imagine the kind of author you really want to beta-read for - will she feel comfortable about writing an e-mail to you after reading your beta-reader profile?

In effect - are we sending the messages we want to send with our beta-reader profiles?

Yours

Juno *wondering*

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

In effect - are we sending the messages we want to send with our beta-reader profiles?

I am very fortunate in that I helped write the Beta Reading Samples articles. If anyone asks me to be a beta reader, I can point them at the samples and say "if you want that kind of an analysis and those kinds of comments, I'd be happy to help." And, yes, I will beta, but I am choosy as my time is limited.

I'd love to have more examples of different kinds of beta reading in the article or the Beta Reading Workshop

Anyone else brave enough to put their work - either a draft with comments, or copies of the beta comments they sent to an author (with permission from all parties, of course) - into the 'samples'? Extra brownie points for all concerned if the story ended up 'approved' for the HASA archive, but not necessary for inclusion of the samples. It would be *great* to have whole range of styles and stories by many different beta-readers and authors available for perusing.

Gwynnyd Workshop Admin

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Hello. So, speaking hypothetically, what would you say to a beginning writer who unintentionally created a MS with every standard characteristic and probably doesn't know it? Or maybe the question is, how would you say it?  I would not like to discourage any young writer who maybe, as noted above, has been inspired for the first time to write outside the classroom. Regards - Chathol-linn

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Another reason why we should not be prejudiced against bad female characters created by Tolkien fans - Tolkien himself wasn't too great at creating original female characters. (Arwen and Eowyn are definitely Mary-Sues! )

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Am I the only one who thinks it makes absolutely no sense if a potential beta reader says that s/he refuses to read a "Mary Sue/Marty Stue"?

No. How can you tell until you've read it? Neither an OC nor a self-insert is necessarily a Mary-Sue.

However...there are tests for Mary-Sues aren't there?How about posting one somewhere on the site for writers who worry that their character is a MS? That would solve the concepual problem nicely for both writers and betas.  

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

However...there are tests for Mary-Sues aren't there?How about posting one somewhere on the site for writers who worry that their character is a MS? That would solve the concepual problem nicely for both writers and betas.  

Those tests are not always helpful because they are so stringent.  I ran a female OC through one of those Mary-Sue tests and she failed by several points -- distantly related to a canon character, good with animals (her father was a veterinarian, dammit!) and she marries an elf at the end of the story.  However, I would protest that this character was not a Mary-Sue.  She was not even particularly a self-insert, although I could relate to her life story on several counts.

I think Mary-Sues are like pornography.  Hard to define, but you know them when you see them.

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

When I first joined HASA, I had already read so many very bad stories - MS - and decided to never read one again. It hurt to read them. I know there are others out there with more patience. I did not put it in my profile though.

Once in awhile, someone will fool me - a very good tale is written that some might consider a MS but that I consider just plain good.

I will not change my own profile though - if I had on there that I prefer not to read MS - then it is my perogative to write that. I don't see where we have the right to tell people what they can and cannot beta - the same as we don't have the right to tell people what they can and cannot read. Or the right to judge them. Also, we cannot tell people not to write MS if that's what they like to write. More power to them!

Freedom - even at HASA - is extremely precious.

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

Those tests are not always helpful

 All tests have to be applied with good sense. I once had a story rejected by ff.net because of such a test. (I'm sure not many people here can boast having a story rejected by ff.net, hehe!) I wrote that story after coming across a lot of Mary Sue tests & I set out to create a character that would really & truly fail all those tests. (Just as an experiment!) I maintain to this day that it is a good story!

 The thing is, creative work is very difficult to judge, and there is no "right way" or "wrong way" to go about it!

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

All tests have to be applied with good sense. I once had a story rejected by ff.net because of such a test. (I'm sure not many people here can boast having a story rejected by ff.net, hehe!)

I daresay.  *She says dryly*  ff.net rejecting a story on the basis of its being a Mary-Sue?  I think I can die happy now, because I've seen everything. Laugh out loud

My feeling has always been that rules are made to be broken, envelopes pushed.  There is nothing that a good writer cannot bring off successfully.  One example would be the oft-abused 'girl falls into Middle-earth' story.  There is at least one good one out there.

To say 'I will never read/write a (fill in the blank --slash, MPREG, bamf, Mary-Sue, songfic, etc.)' is unnecessarily limiting.

That said, I can see why some beta readers draw the line at certain subject matter. When it comes to writing Mary-Sue, it's a little like being crazy.  If you are, you're the last one to know it.  Wink

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

To say 'I will never read/write a (fill in the blank --slash, MPREG, bamf, Mary-Sue, songfic, etc.)' is unnecessarily limiting.

bamf???  Urk! I feel clueless.  What's a bamf? (never mind - google is my friend.  Bamf:'Bamf" means a character (almost always an SI - Self Insert) suddenly appearing within a canon world. The term comes from the X-Men comics - specifically the sound-effect used when Nightcrawler teleports.)

Never, even for us poor mortals, is still a very long time.  Going back up the thread... I still think it's highly unlikely that I'd write or beta something like the story of Valarania, Queen of Angst (Angst must be a forest northeast of the Lonely Mountain.) that I described above unless it was designed as a parody and short.  I do differentiate between a true MS and an original character.  (I have not done a Mary Sue rant in some time. I get really annoyed when original characters get automatically tarred with the MS brush just because they are original.)   But I don't have forever, and I'd really rather do other things.

 Gwynnyd

 

 

Re: Mary Sue & Marty Stue?!?

I still think it's highly unlikely that I'd write or beta something like the story of Valarania, Queen of Angst (Angst must be a forest northeast of the Lonely Mountain.)

I  always thought Angst was a suburb of Angmar.  That said, I rather like this name for a character.  Valarania Queen of Angst ought to be a challenge or something.  LOL  

I get really annoyed when original characters get automatically tarred with the MS brush just because they are original.

The very first time I wrote a story with OCs, I left that term out of the character list for fear the people would automatically hit the back button upon seeing it.  I'll also point out that there's a world of difference between an OC who happens to be female and and OFC who is sent into the story specifically to become a romantic object for one's elf of choice.  Even an OFC need not be a Sue, but writing one is far more difficult to bring off successfully.

Bamf:'Bamf" means a character (almost always an SI - Self Insert) suddenly appearing within a canon world.

Yes, you can see I hung around the late lamented GAFF far too much.  LOL  As far as self inserts, that gets tricky.  One writes what one knows, and when writing a female character, there are likely to be some similarities.  However, that can be said about any character -- each and every one contains a little bit of the author's personality.  There is probably more of 'me' in my Thanduil than in any of my female OCs.

But I don't have forever, and I'd really rather do other things.

Me, I wouldn't want the heartbreak of having to tell an eager young writer that her beloved character is, indeed, a Sue.  Such a tsouris, I do not need! Laugh out loud

 

 

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