The Right Way to Mary Sue

Mary Sue:  a negative term used in literary criticism to describe an original character that is often overly idealized or assumed to be a projection of the author.

As writers, especially female writers, we are often antagonized and prosecuted for writing the stereotypical “Mary Sue” character. She is said to be highly frowned upon, and if you dare to use her in your prose, you will be burned across an iron stake or excommunicated from the writing community. Although Mary-Sueing is highly frowned upon, we can honestly say she is who we all desire—for both ourselves and our original character (O.C)— to truly be in some way shape or form.

We want people to be drawn to us no matter how shy or socially awkward we are supposed to be. We want everyone to find our opinions are better than their own. We want to love everyone and forgive them all for their imperfections. And most of all, we all would want our worst character traits to be know as stubbornness and a bad temper.

The use of a Mary Sue is often unbeknownst to the writer, or just a go-to for amateur writers, and often once they break out of their shell, they began to develop more nurtured characters.  Although there is no right way to Mary-Sue, there are ways to make her a bit more acceptable, or at least tolerable, for the writing community.

The do’s and don’ts of Mary-Suing

DO try to differentiate between your OC and yourself. It’s okay if they share some things like height, religious affiliation, or sexuality with you, but treat your OC like a teenager and allow her or him to have their own independence. Your OC should not share the same name with you, facial features, etc. Model them after people or drawings around you.

DON’T make your character the fairest maiden in the land; every character has a tragic flaw. You should always explore that flaw and develop it, and not every character will find your OC attractive. They shouldn’t in fact. It’s okay to have your OC be the ugly girl.

DO stay away from making your characters have weird traits that are uncommon to humans or a mixture of species(this depends on what universe your story is set in). Heterochromia is very rare, and no one has sea foam green colored hair naturally. It’s okay to say your OC wears contacts or dyes their hair.

DON’T describe your OC’s every feature in their introduction, spread it out like you would jam on toast. Don’t reveal everything at once, take care to develop your characters, looks and personalities through the story.

By Adara London, author of Ballad of an Alchemist