tamchronin: coctail umbrella captioned "pretty but pretty useless" (Default)
Watching CCS again. Just started second season. It's a nice reminder about why I love this show, and why the majority of my fanfic is for this show. ♥


Six! Where are you? My Eriol muse is lonely. ~sniffle~

"Mary Sue"

Jan. 21st, 2008 05:51 pm
tamchronin: coctail umbrella captioned "pretty but pretty useless" (Shavra)
Actually, I'd like to open this up for discussion here.

"Honestly, as a writer and an avid reader all my life, I'm getting a bit bugged by the "Mary Sue/Gary Stu" in original fic bashing. It has become a witch hunt, I swear, where any character that fits the hero archetype is called that. Call them cliche, or cookie-cutter, or boring and predictable! That's what you're complaining about. "Mary Sue" is a fanfic faux pas, where the fanfic author has hijacked the story with their own idealized character, usually a self-insert with flaws glossed over. It really bugs me that any character that an author has sympathy with or a liking for has fallen under that umbrella."

reposted from: http://community.livejournal.com/deegan_fan/315749.html?view=4097893&style=mine#t4097893

And, to expand on the theme, I'll give an example about why I have grown to hate the label. There is a VERY good writer on my friends list who started writing a novel for NaNoWriMo the same year I wrote Twilight Dreaming. When I stopped my own writing frenzy and read what she had written, I was in love with the main character and with the world she had created. She confided that it was only about a quarter of the story, and I pouted and begged for more. We talked back and forth about writing over the next few months, and one of the things she said floored me. She had asked if her main character was a Mary Sue. She was so afraid that it was, that she'd eventually grown paralyzed by the idea and couldn't bring herself to write more of it.

The idea nearly paralyzed me too, to be honest. When she told me how the concept had grown to include original characters, I started jumping at shadows. Ahrianna from TD really had started out as an exploration of self. She shared my hair color and my unique view of my eyes. (It was an exercise in description on my part, to break apart the "brown hair, blue eyes" blah that could describe just about anyone.) I drew on my past experiences for her reactions at first, though soon enough she developed a personality of her own. So, was I doing the "good" thing of writing what I knew? Or was I doing the "bad" thing and creating another worthless Mary Sue?

It didn't make me a better writer, to start worrying about it. In fact, it was a huge contributing factor in my writer's block, the more I gave the idea credence. As far as I know, my friend abandoned her world entirely over the lurking shadow of "Mary Sue". In order to write these days, I have to remind myself that it's okay to associate with my character, to see things from their point of view, and not worry about being "too perfect". Especially in first person writing, you have to allow a bit of an idealized version of events be filtered by your character's point of view. Most people don't view themselves as the bad guy, and I believe readers will sympathize more with someone who share that view, even if they otherwise would not react to events in the same way. If your main character is being stupid, show the consequences after the fact, but feel free to present their idealized view in the present. It's okay even to be a little cliche, because a cliche becomes cliche when it is something that works. It's comfort food for the soul, like ice cream or chocolate. Your diet can't consist entirely of those things, but don't be afraid to add some for the enjoyment of it.

Well, that's my tl;dr view of the subject. I'd like to hear other views now. Is "Mary Sue" the literary equivalent of "your mother wears combat boots" or is it a valid critique? My mind is open, especially if it is something that may help me be a better writer.

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Tam Chronin

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