Forum: Writing Mary Sue: the Mother of Challenges

Discussing: Some Theoretical Perspectives

Some Theoretical Perspectives

Mary-Sue: A compilation of quotations and some half-baked annotations from an apologist!

The following quotations are taken from Camille Bacon-Smith's book Enterprising Women, an ethnographic study of media fandom (particularly Trek fandom) which was conducted in the late 80s. The book is one of the 'classics' of the study of fandom (Henry Jenkins' Textual Poachers is the other) although both have gone into the revisionist stage now. They're offered as food for thought about the Mary-Sue genre, and I also add some of my idealistic ramblings, which you are free to skip. Avoid paragraphs that don't begin with quotation marks!

"New fans almost invariably stumble upon the genre as their first writing effort, often before they know that a community exists at all, and this is true for the writers of commercially published Mary Sue novels as it is for their amateur counterparts..."

"Clearly a form so universally arrived at among science fiction and action adventure fans meets emotional needs that are not satisfied with the more intellectualized approaches of satire or didacticism. At the same time, Mary Sue produces deep feelings of discomfort in her readers in the fan community. Mary Sue stories are central to the painful experience of a female fan's adolescence. Fans often recount the scorn they experience for their "masculine" interest in science fiction and action-adventure."

Bacon-Smith then goes on to describe the experience of the age cohort of women who were the group she studied (ethnographic study), who were growing up throughout, say, the 50s and 60s, and had difficulty aligning cultural expectations with their own interests. She continues:

"For intelligent women struggling with their culturally anomalous identities, Mary Sue combines the characteristics of active agent with the culturally approved traits of beauty, self-sacrifice, and self-effacement, which magic recipe wins her the love of the hero."

And then goes on:

"For the fan woman of any age, her Mary Sue story is her attempt, if only in print, to experience that rite of passage from the active child to the passive woman who sacrifices her selfhood to win the prince. Mary Sue must be an adolescent, behaviorally if not absolutely chronologically, because she represents a transition in roles and identity specific to that period in a woman's life. The fan versions of Mary Sue often expressed a cultural truth of their time, however: to make the transition from woman to child, the active agent within her had to die. Mary Sue writers traditionally kill the active self with their alter-ego character at the end of their stories."

"Some writers produce version after version of the Mary Sue story as they struggle to bind their personalities and identities to the cultural model of the ideal woman represented by Mary Sue. Others grow to resent her as they did her real-life counterparts in their own adolescence. The writer, become reader, recognizes Mary Sue's childish behavior as a coping mechanism she has used herself or observed in her friends to mask the threat their own intelligence and competence poses to men."

A lot of this is the kind of feminist account common to the period when the book was written (1992 - the studies were done throughout the late eighties), but I think there are still some interesting points to pull out of it. One thing which I find particularly interesting about the new generation of Mary Sues is that on the whole, I think, MS doesn't necessarily end up dead any more. This is really fascinating - are these young writers more empowered in some way than their 'fandom-aunts' were? Does this have any effect on how these fandom-aunts respond to the new generation of Mary Sue writers?

Anyway, a lot of this is why I tend to defend Mary Sues to the hilt. I think that it's rather splendid that there's a genre in which adolescent girls can wrestle with questions of their individual identity along cultural expectations. I also think it's even more splendid that these new writers get to do this together online rather than alone in their bedrooms (my adolescence would have been transformed by the Internet!). I suppose this is why I tend to defend the Mary-Sue, and why I sometimes make a big deal about there being multiple purposes for fan-writing, and that community and companionship can be of equal importance to literary merit. More power to these young women as they explore and learn to express themselves! May their fandom-aunts long be at hand to encourage and support them as they write and as they learn!

I am very excited that members of HASA are taking the Mary-Sue genre seriously, and I am looking forward to seeing what our talented and thoughtful set of writers will do with this genre.


References

Bacon-Smith, C. (1992) Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. London: Routledge.

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

First let me clarify my personal definition of a Mary Sue, one of many possible, as I am fully aware: A Mary Sue is never a well done character. She is a self insertion, over the top, designed to fullfill some wishful thinking of her author. If she is a well written character and serves the plot, she is not a Mary Sue , but an OFC, even if she lives happily ever after with the prince.
I agree wholeheartedly that it is okay to write a Mary Sue. She serves a lot of purposes for her author. And not only for the young writers, I have seen some very good adult authors who apparently had to write their Mary Sue before they felt free and self confident enough to work on more orginal topics.
The question for me is: must Mary Sues be published? Do they deserve readers?
In pre-internet times, young writers had the chance to fill some booklets with their first efforts, maybe show it around to family and friends, before they ever thought of publishing something.
Now they publish everything they write at the internet. And they do not always get praise for their effort , but very often bashings.
If the girl next door gets her first guitar or piano and learns to play, she does not think immediately of playing publicly. But if she writes stories, she sees no reason to hesitate to publish them via Internet to a worldwide audience. I am not so sure if this is entirely good.


 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

The question for me is: must Mary Sues be published? Do they deserve readers?

And why not? Why does such a universally written genre deserve to be more maligned than any other? Obviously it fulfills deeply held needs (I am not sure I agree that all of them are 'coming of age' stories for the writers) for acceptance and intimacy - something women seem to need more than men and often find lacking in the media produced by a male dominated society.

I realize that many Mary Sues are bad - but first time writers' stories are often bad. Should people be discouraged from presenting any first attempt to the public? They have as much right to publish as you have to read, or not. I can not see forbidding or discouraging the creative process just because the first attempts are poor. My children aren't great artists yet, but do I throw away their crayon drawings because they aren't works of art? Do I hide them away because they aren't good enough to compare to Cezzane? No. I proudly display them as the work of a young person. You don't HAVE to look at them... but once in a while, if you do look, you will see a gifted child in among the rest. To me, finding and encouraging that one, is worth having to sift through garbage.

I too love reading good Mary Sues. My definition does not require that they be poorly written, merely that they be an OFC that interacts with the main characters in a significant way - and generally includes some sort of liaison. They can be fun! And I do think they answer some basic need in female writers. I think we should recognize their importance and try and redeem the genre from being an anathema to readers. So many people act as if a pronounced distain of Mary Sues is a sign of sophistication. I have never been impressed with people who use degradation to try and appear ‘cool’. Sorry. It just makes me think that the person hasn’t any confidence in his or her own taste.

Ariel



 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

Ariel notes:
They can be fun! And I do think they answer some basic need in female writers.

I don't think there's any doubt that they can be fun to write. You have no idea what a studious little producer of Mary Sues (of both genders and several species!) I was between the ages of, say, 12 and 18 (college killed that promising closet career for awhile, but it also transformed my writing).

I agree also with the point that Mary Sue answers a basic need in the female writer. I'd go further and say that there the male writer also has a stereotyped character (probably Johnny Got His Gun) that fulfills a need in the writer. The point to me is that the writer is not necessarily the same thing as the reader.

And while we all have examples of youthful artwork, that artwork was not public. Parents and relations are not a public audience, nor is the circle of friends who are of the same age a public audience in the same sense that the internet community is a fully public audience. To me, there is a sense of self-discipline that comes of writing alone, of learning to be self-critical and to handle characters and plot with justified confidence. This could just be me, of course.

As for the disdain factor, I would say that this again goes back to your definition of Mary Sue. If it's Dagmar's (and in Rings fandom, I'd hazard a guess that that generally is the definition of Mary Sue--a character who by definition is poorly done), then there's no reason to feel anything particularly positive towards the character. If your Mary Sue definition is simply "an OFC who interacts with the canonical characters," then I don't think I've seen anyone who denies that they have the potential to be very good indeed.

Clearly, for the purposes of this challenge, Mary Sue is going to be understood in the way you have described. Otherwise, what would be the point of the challenge? Now, if only I could get friggin' Legolas to behave....

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

Ah, many thanks for the references, Una.

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

Hmm, this is all cattywampus.

At base, both the defence and the revilement of the MS are wrong. There is a fundamental misapprehension of what is being done.

Do those who write MS (and other contested genres) tales have a right to make them public? Well, DUH. That is simply a question of free speech and the right to present things of questionable worth to the eyes of others. There is a desire in most people to appear in public, to have some notice taken of them - the condition of humanity is plurality, the presence of unique yet equal others. To say that thus-and-such category of writing has no right to be present in the general whirl of words is foolish at best, fascistic at worst.

At question, really, is the appropriate request/response of author and reader. My own take, honed over the last few months and sharpened by doses of Tolkien and Kant and Henry James (such a lovely combination) is that the critics are mostly at fault in the war of words. The average fanfic piece is simply not capable of bearing up under the weight of disintrested, aesthetic judgement. It cannot be expected to do so. At most, it should be regarded as entertainment, in the same way that TV commercials or billboards can amuse.

The average writer is in the process of exploring the world (and thus the self) through language. Face it - most of us suck pretty badly at this craft. A few rise to the level of competency, and I have yet to see a single person in this group produce a truly spectacular work of literature. Most of what appears on this site is, at best, entertainment.

The MS writer makes no mistake in writing such a story. There is no error in distributing it - freedom of speech is also freedom of foolishness. Where the error comes is in expecting all others to love the created world as dearly as the author does. This is not a great sin. It hardly ranks as a fault - who here does not do a little dance of glee at seeing a complimentary review on ff.net? So, before ANYONE here casts scornful comments at another writer's desire to be publicly praised, examine your own desires.

So, where does the critic come in? In the case of mere entertainment, not at all. The only legitimate response to such work is "I like it/I do not like it". End of commentary. But, we cannot resist the urge to pass judgement on what, properly speaking, cannot possibly bear up under aesthetic evaluation. The criticism is rarely disinterested - it is treated as an offence against the critic, and its very existence somehow justifies attacks upon it and upon its author. The MST is, to my mind, the most scurrilous example of this type of reply.

We care too much about poor Mary Sue, as it turns out, to have proper critical distance upon her stories. The ire is aimed at the character herself and at the author for presuming to speak such things aloud. I rarely find a critic who can actually calmly go over a story and point out why, as a piece of writing, it does not work. That is because the tale is so lacking, there is no point in criticizing. Yet, we do so.

The only legitimate response to encountering a story like an MS, something so clearly written as part of an internal dialogue of the author with him/herself, is silence. This is not to say that a phenomenon cannot be criticized in general, but, rather, that a particular does not deserve a response - harsh or otherwise. This may distress the author (who wishes praise just as sincerely and deeply as the author of "serious" works), but that is not the critic's concern.

A small, rambling slice of my ponderings on criticism,

Ang

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

The only legitimate response to encountering a story like an MS, something so clearly written as part of an internal dialogue of the author with him/herself, is silence. This is not to say that a phenomenon cannot be criticized in general, but, rather, that a particular does not deserve a response - harsh or otherwise.

I'm not sure on the point that it does not deserve a response. Right now, judging from the stupid flame wars that start over these stories, I'm 99% inclined to agree with you.

However, then I remember my own writing experience. I've never written a Mary-Sue, but I've churned out some *really* bad stuff before. If it weren't for a critic who took the time to tell me what was wrong with my stories, I might have just continued writing tripe without putting in effort, or worse, simply given up writing as another passing phase.

At any rate, I'd say that leaving constructive criticism for an author isn't necessarily a bad thing. But if the author states that he/she will not listen to it, then continued reviewing/posting is unnecessary.

Back to the whole Mary-Sue terminology debate - heck, if we can't agree on a definition, why don't we just... not use the term? I personally don't see what's wrong with just using the term OFC or OC.

Or is that just me wanting to take the easy way out?

~Aralanthiriel

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

The criticism is rarely disinterested - it is treated as an offence against the critic, and its very existence somehow justifies attacks upon it and upon its author. The MST is, to my mind, the most scurrilous example of this type of reply.

I was just coming back to say something very like this... thank you, Ang! It seems almost as if the critic is exacting payback from the author. For wasting her time? No one forced the critic to read the stuff. For daring to write garbage? Well, there is a lot more garbage out there than good stuff, you have to face that. And not all the garbage is MS... some of it is bad angst... 8-|. For writing something similar to what the critic herself wrote and was blasted for years before? Hmmm... Of course, there can be many reasons for the vehemence... but you are so right... it does seem almost personal.

Ariel

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

However, then I remember my own writing experience. I've never written a Mary-Sue, but I've churned out some *really* bad stuff before. If it weren't for a critic who took the time to tell me what was wrong with my stories, I might have just continued writing tripe without putting in effort, or worse, simply given up writing as another passing phase.

Then, to be the Doyen of Definitions, we need to distinguish between the role of an editor/reader and that of a critic.

An editor or reader is going to talk to you not so much about the story itself as about the craft of writing and how you can do better at it. This is a private relationship (though the statements may appear in public), where the editor has a stake in the quality of what you write.

A critic has no wish (or should have no wish) to change you as a writer. This one is simply taking the piece as it exists in the world and making a public statement about it. In the Kantian sense, what a critic does is make a representation of the work - prepares a setting for it in its public appearance. A critic relates the work to the viewing public (and, in that way, also represents the viewing public's taste(s) back to itself), performs as it were an interpretation, perhaps a translation, of the aesthetic worth of the work.

The editor cares that you succeed in the public eye, while the critic has no such concern. The critic is beholden to the public, not the creator, and must needs conduct him/herself with an eye towards that audience. The taste of the critic is often at odds with that of both author and public - rejecting the solipcism of the author and the banality of the public with equal verve. The point is not to confirm taste, but to sharpen it.

Think of the best movie critics - do they rave about movies? Do they sneer? No, they usually do not bother to comment on the majority of the releases in the year, but speak with intelligence and insight on the odd and rare.

So, what about all the "reviews" on ff.net? What do we make of them? They are rarely criticisms, as they are intended to reinforce opinion, not hone taste. This is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it particularly praiseworthy. It is most properly seen as an affirmation of the performative rather than of the creation. It is recognition of performing a public act. The substance of the post is secondary to the publicity of the person. As I noted in first post, we crave appearance and recognition. There is something prfoundly human about wanting this, and also in affirming this want - You go girl!

As far as terminology, I think Mary Sue has ceased to be substantively descriptive and simply means "I hate this OFC". I have yet to see anyone on this list give a stable definiton that they use consistently. It is meant as a flag to tell you the commentator dislikes (or believes themself to dislike) a particular story because it offends them in some way, or they expect it to offend them in some way.

None of which is to say that the story in question isn't a poor story, nor is it to say that there is something wrong with the commentator's taste. I myself have little taste for almost any romance - they do not appeal to me. I am, therefore, unable to be a good critic of most romances as I am not disinterested.

To my mind, the term "Mary Sue" is so poisened in this fandom that it is impossible to try to discuss it rationally - the proponents get on their high horses, the opponents start lobbing smear bombs, and it becomes very difficult to act as an editor, let alone as a critic. I myself have decided that I shall call my characters OCs, and let the chips fall where they may.

Ang

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

To each their own, but you certainly write a lot of words on a subject you have no interest in.

Perhaps I am a trouble maker, or just a romantic at heart, but I do like these stories. I also don't have any illusions that people read my stuff so why NOT call my OCs Mary Sues? It is the people who look beyond the labels I am interested in appealing to anyway.

Ariel

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

To the contrary, I have a keen interest in reviewing and commenting, and am much concerned at uses of broad, poorly defined categories to dismiss entire genres of writing, or writers who specialize in a particular type or style.

What concerns me most are what I think are the very personal, very hostile attacks on categories of writing - A Mary Sue cannot be anything but a crappy story, that's a Mary Sue, that author writes Mary Sues, therefore that's a crappy story and a crappy author. More unnerving are those who advocate public humiliation of anyone who writes a story genere they don't like - It's OK to MST people who write Mary Sues because they "inflict" such stories on "us". Whoa - that is a very weird things to say, from my perspective.

If you don't like something, don't read it. This is not required, after all. It is entertainment. If you like it, read it and ignore the grumps.

I think we're having two different discussions, in truth. I'm talking about what are appropriate criticisms of fanfiction (part of a bigger argument, and not completely thought out) and I'm using the Mary Sue as an example. I could just as easily have used slash. Whether I like Mary Sues, romances, or what have you (though goodness knows I make up OFCs at the drop of a hat) isn't very important - it's only my opinion.

Toodles - Ang

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

I have become bothered by the tone of much MS bashing. I worry that it will drive away young writers, rather than encourage them to improve their craft. I have seen sites that are downright cruel, and I view the MST as cruel as usually applied. I was unhappy with the set of strings that devolved into Mary Sue bashing on HA this summer. A lot of the members are lurking 17 year old girls. Likely most with a Mary Sue in progress when they join.

I suspect there is a mechanism at work where people denounce others work in order to make themselves appear more sophisticated. I ask myself why bother? If I dislike a story, I quit reading it and go on to the next one.

It is hard to insert women into Tolkien that are not susceptable to the MS label. Tolkien's own women rate high on the various Mary Sue tests. The only two women with parts in LoTR are Galadriel and Éowyn. Both are extrodinary women. People want to create their own extrodinary women and do it less skillfully. G & É are complex characters, but that isn't apparent at first read. I am still thinking and rethinking my appraisal of Éowyn 35 years after first meeting her.

Young writers are often exposed to TV, which is filled with Mary Sue shows these days. An endless parade of female super heroes. They take those templates, make their own character and then get ridiculed for doing what they see as successful on TV.

Anyway, I like the idea of a Good Mary Sue contest. I have to get back to work on mine, I waste all my time on line talking about Tolkien and writing.

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

If you don't like something, don't read it. This is not required, after all. It is entertainment. If you like it, read it and ignore the grumps.

Yes, exactly! And I also agree the attacks against the MS do seem particularly vehement. I think several reasons for this have been mentioned in this thread already, but you brought up a VERY important point...

More unnerving are those who advocate public humiliation of anyone who writes a story genere they don't like - It's OK to MST people who write Mary Sues because they "inflict" such stories on "us". Whoa - that is a very weird things to say, from my perspective.


Absolutely! The wierdness of that way of thinking just astounds me. I have never understood why people seem so personally offended that other people write stories that they themselves wouldn't like. There are genre's I won't read - but I don't get on my high horse and say they shouldn't exist. If a story is labeled adequately so that I don't waste my time starting it, why should I care what someone else writes? Someone out there will probably like it (if it is any good). If you don't like MSs then don't read them... period. Someone who writes one is not insulting you.

Ariel

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

I personnally do write MS (or rather self-insertions) to explore the world I want to write in. I do show them to my friends, but not to people I don't know well enough to be sure that they will get my intentions right. Once I have done this, I try to think along the lines of "Well, you react to that in this way. How would a person with other characteristics (e.g. gender, education, upbringing, manners) react to it?" and then I start with the development of my OCs.
What I find annoying and sad about the Mary Sue writer and readers is often their approach to the fandom respectively the story. Most of the LOTR MS I have read do not think along the simple logic: reason/cause ->action/reaction->consequence. They just pop into Middle-earth, fall in love with some male character and live happily ever after. There is no character development at all and they do not seem to think about their environment, they seem to live in some sort of vacuum. Some writers, whom I have contacted and informed about this observation, argued that they didn't read the books and that the movie did not provide them with the necessary information. But I think this is not true, for the making-ofs show that the producers paid a lot of attention to (quote) cultural history (end quote).
Now, the witers are not the only ones who cause the bad reputation of MS, for most readers once they see that a major OC is in the story, think that the OC is a MS and either do not read the story or worse flame the author. This is particularly the case with OFCs.
I have to admit that I was sceptical about it, but now I think I will try my hands on it, although I probably will not publish it.
~Maka

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

Aralanthiriel wrote:

Back to the whole Mary-Sue terminology debate - heck, if we can't agree on a definition, why don't we just... not use the term? I personally don't see what's wrong with just using the term OFC or OC.

I’d just like to try and clarify a bit what is meant by “Mary Sue” in terms of this specific Challenge. This will have some bearing on whether I would dare bring myself to even contemplate writing such a thing!

Does it simply mean a well-written OFC, as has been defined in the discussion, who has a romantic involvement with a canon character? (Secondary considerations: How far does the “romantic involvement” have to go and how explicitly? How major a canon character does the love object have to be?). Then, are extra marks awarded for including, in a believable way, other “Suish” qualities – beauty, saving the day etc?

Aside from these practical aspects, there is the question, to my mind, of whether those answering the Challenge are required to take on board the more emotional aspects. It seems to me that one of the main defining qualities of a Mary Sue, believably well written or not, is the obvious self-insertion. I actually happen to think that this is a pretty inevitable part of any sort of writing that is going to speak to someone else, just look at JRRT himself – bits of himself inserted into various different characters and situations - but that it is possible to hide it a bit more effectively by any number of distancing devices. It seems, too, that the “typical” Mary Sue is caught in the moment of adolescence – whatever the actual chronological age of the author might be.

Now all this is a little self-revealing for my liking – and I don’t mean just in terms of any potential readers. I strongly suspect that I missed out on my adolescence at the time usually set aside for it. One indication of this is that my fannishness seems to be stuck in the earlier phase – I have never identified particularly with any of the women, strong or otherwise. I don't think I wanted to be the woman, however extraordinary, who enabled Aragorn to become King – I wanted to be Aragorn himself – much like I wanted to be a boy and wear boy’s pyjamas and have my hair cut like a boy. Now, it might well be a healthy thing to do for me to plunge myself into an absurdly long-overdue, adolescent state of mind – but I expect that might lead to a certain amount of emotional messiness. And whereas I might have been prepared to expose my ramblings, dressed up as a story, to all and sundry as a teenager, I’m afraid at my age that would be out of the question. Perhaps it is true that, utter newbie writer that I am, I need to go through this faze in order to be comfortable with writing emotions generally, but if a fic of this type should crawl its way to the surface, I’m certain I will look on it as “therapy” and stuff it firmly away in the back of my drawer!

Yep, I think Mary Sues are something to be taken seriously, treated with respect and allowed their dignity. Their power is revealed by the strength of the emotional response they elicit in others whether through identification or denial. As a matter of interest, are there any terms for non-adolescent self-inserts – ones that might deal with later stages in a person’s life – avatars perhaps? Or are they all Mary Sues?

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives


Yep, I think Mary Sues are something to be taken seriously, treated with respect and allowed their dignity. Their power is revealed by the strength of the emotional response they elicit in others whether through identification or denial. As a matter of interest, are there any terms for non-adolescent self-inserts ? ones that might deal with later stages in a person?s life ? avatars perhaps? Or are they all Mary Sues?

And therein lies the rub. A large proportion of what I would label Mary Sues are stories where I feel the author does not treat his or her (there are the Marty Stues, after all) own story with respect, nor take the writing seriously. I don't mean deathly seriously either, just seriously enough to consider the difference between a private fantasy diary and a public forum. I have read excellent OFC/canon character romances, but not that many.

I agree that the best writers do put something of themselves in, that's what makes the emotions of many situations ring true. For me, it is the idealized or flat nature of the character, and the lack of emotional logic underpinning the story that is an irritant. Which is not to say that other genres don't suffer from similar stories, but it seems more prevalent in romances with canon characters.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Some Theoretical Perspectives

> I agree also with the point that Mary Sue answers a basic need in >the female writer. I'd go further and say that there the male writer >also has a stereotyped character (probably Johnny Got His Gun) >that fulfills a need in the writer. The point to me is that the writer is >not necessarily the same thing as the reader

I definitely know that guys as well as girls write Mary Sues. That is, after all, the stuff that comic books are made of. And EVERYONE, I think at some points writes a Mary Sue. Thay are our ticket to feeling our way thru a story in a very personal fashion.

But then, I consider Mary Sues to be people who are sterotypically very attractive OR very charismatic, They are the underdog often, and manage miracles at literally imposible odds. They look different often, but more importantly they often have great powers no one understands, and they seem to have a penchant for always solving the toughy problems in clear view of many people. They are the most likely to suffer the horrible fate of Martyr, and survive to be pitied and honored. OR, they die and then even the people who hated them (These being very few and of course, created just for effect.) come around with the *sniffle* "they weren't so bad. We didn't know how valuable they were. We couldn't see past our own petty inadequacies...." We insert them to give ourselves ultimate relevancy in the outcome of plot.

This being established.....I think Mary Sues are an irreplaceable neccesity in human art and myth. I mean, what drives our nobler natures more than knowing that odds can be beat, mountains traversed, seas crossed, storms survived, titans defeated, loves saved from durance vile, and that people who dislike us can be changed by ultimate, shining success and superiority, by that cute little guy/girl next door. Even Jesus Christ was a Mary Sue. He had charisma, powers no one else had and that whole "I will do what I must for humanities eternal soul.(sigh)" He waltz in and saved humanity from it's own darkness in one unforgettably melodramatic ending.

Other notable Mary Sues...Joan of Arc, Hercules, Queen Gwenivere, Hethlin, Alanna (from the Hand of the Goddess series), Eowyn(come on now, you gotta give me that one)....My point is, Mary Sues may seem implausable and only for self fulfilment, but if you look around, no one who has ever stood out in the croud as a mythic hero/heroine is NOT a Mary Sue. They are the living embodiment of of that wich we dream to be, therefore they are sometimes impossibly surreal. The only non Mary Sue characters of courage and deed, are the quiet unsung heroes....Mass infantry soldier number 45,261....The unsung barkeep's son who was conscripted to fight in the army and died 10 feet from the king, trying to keep the hoards from his lord. They are the only non Mary Sue heros.

The rest have some or even all the characteristics of your garden variety Mary Sue. The difference between a good Mary Sue and A bad one isn't whether they were silver-haired with purple eyes, perfect breasts, an ass to die for and enough psychokenesis to drop the white house like 4 tons of C-4 plastique. It lays in the writing of the Mary Sue in a way that touches our hearts and inspires us, like any good myth. Which is a sign of skill, as we all know. But skills must be honed and it is poor writing we should be focusing on helping change, not the Mary Sue quality.

Hethlin is nearly a textbook Mary Sue, but we undeniably love her. And why, because she is endeared to us during her struggles. Isabeau made Hethlin a Mary Sue that was forged in the fire of neccesity. A person who was an average girl who rose to be so very more than the sum of what she was. Mary Sues that last, that we love, are the ones that grow, so we can grow with them. And before you say that personal transformation is not a MarySue trait, I want you to track down your favorite heroine or hero in ANY given story and compare their genesis with their eventuality. And I also challenge you to objectively apply several definitions of Mary Sueisnm to them and realize just how Mary Sueish most good stories are.

And now onto the point of all this. Teenagers of the world, write your Mary Sues, insert yourselves into them, and for god's sake, PLEASE, PLEASE keep inflicting them on us! For behind every teenage girl or boy who is writing a Mary Sue where their character goes out and wields unearthly gifts to angstily solve all of Middle Earth's problems, is a burgeoning adult in our own real world who believes in their heart that one person can make a difference.

E.W.

 

 

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