March 28, 2011 | By: Tracy

How'dya Do, Mary Sue?

We've all heard about staying away from the dreaded "Mary Sue" type characters.  Those MC's we inadvertently make so perfect and/or gifted they are ultimately unbelievable -- and often unlikeable.

A while back, I came across this link. A Mary Sue litmus test, if you will. Not a bad little tool to play around with.


(Be forewarned, it can be a bit of a time suck when you start playing around & checking out all your characters with a test like this -- and if you're like me, you WILL run all your players through the gamut)

It's a fun little check point, but keep in mind that these tests aren't fail proof. It's more about the way you build your character, and why their talents are what they are, that ultimately determines whether a character is Mary Sue or not.

For instance . . .  Bella Swan, from the Twilight series.



Bella is often -- believe it or not -- one of the fans' least favorite characters. Granted, she's a human (at least, most of the time) competing with paranormal beings, but she's often out-shined by the characters around her. She's too, "oh gee, my flaws aren't even really all that bad" girl-next-door. Honestly, even the most boring Cullen is ten times more interesting than Bella, in most situations.

Yet in the Mary Sue litmus test, she scored a 15 which would signify she isn't a boring, goody-goody Sue.


On the flip side, you have Jace Wayland from The Mortal Instruments series.

Okay, so that isn't technically Jace, but in my mind Alexander Nifong should be!


Jace scores a 58 on the test which would qualify him as a Uber Sue (and that was with me being generous on some of the questions). Yet to anyone who's read the series, he's one of the most vibrant characters in the crew. His abundant gifts are well-balanced by his shortcomings in a way that makes him feel like a real, flawed human being (or Shadowhunter, whatever)

So in the end, you have the freedom to do whatever you want with your characters. . . just make sure that for every positive they have in their corner there is a potential negative aspect as well. Otherwise, you might end up with the prodigal son/daughter with a dazzling Colgate smile that all your readers end up hating.

What about you guys: Any characters come to mind that you can't believe the author got away with creating so Mary Sue? Or have you read a story with a character who was sickeningly Mary Sue, yet you still liked them anyway?

23 witty remarks:

Trisha said...

Heh, I did a test on my character and she got a score of 54. She's a Mary Sue, apparently. And yet I don't think she is :P

Sophia Richardson said...

Bella is the first Mary Sue that comes to mind but movie Bella is so much worse than book Bella. Oh, the lip biting horror. You hit the nail on the head, without some genuine flaws you end up with a very vanilla character, especially if they also have everyone fall in love with them.
- Sophia.

Melissa said...

I think having a mary sue or not depends entirely on how the character is presented - as you said. I will have fun playing with this test! Thanks for the time suck potential!!

Summer Frey said...

Interesting. I can see how Jace was a Mary Sue, but I still like him! :) And great choice for actor--I'm not familiar with him, but I likey!

Roza M said...

I love Jace though. Although after reading Clockwork Angels I am so a Will fan. He's so freaking snarky its awesome.

As for Bella... Well let's just say I liked Edward, Alice, Emmett, and Jasper in the twilight saga. Even in the movies. Bella is way to what's the world Hello Nun? She almost reminds me of the Girl on Easy A that Amanda Bynes plays.

Rogue Mutt said...

Yeah, characters who are too nice can be annoying. People like bad boys more, which probably says something about our society.

Susanne Drazic said...

Hey, I took a workshop about Mary Sue characters, last year. Found it interesting.

Diana Paz said...

Hi Tracy! I just wanted to stop by and say thanks for following my blog! :) Yours looks great, and this is a fantastic post. I've always seen Bella as a Mary Sue, but Jace is so freaking awesome I never thought of him as one, AT ALL! But now I see it... he is pretty perfect! ;D

Thanks again!
xo
Di

Matthew MacNish said...

I had no idea a protagonist could be a Mary Sue, very interesting!

Jeigh said...

Interesting test! Thanks for the link. So far, my main character is borderline Mary Sue, so I'll do some tweaking. Some of those questions made me laugh, especially the ones about poetry.

David Powers King said...

That test is huge! I'll have to fill it out later for a couple of mine.

Come check out my giveaway. :)

N. R. Williams said...

I hadn't even thought of this before. I have a character book that list many traits and for my protagonist and antagonist as well as major players I consult that book to weave in multiple flaws and good points too.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

Colene Murphy said...

Neat test! Very cool. (I had a long theory that really made Steph Meyer come off as a literary genius about Bella that went something along the lines of she created her generic enough to allow every female reader to plug in their personalities and "live" through her in the story.) But, truthfully, I think I was just trying to help her out a little on that one...;)

Chris Phillips said...

I like the test. I sometimes struggle with this.

Melissa Bradley said...

Love this test. It's too cool and quite addicting.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I started taking that test once before and got plum tuckered out. Of course, I can’t think of any Mary Sue’s right now, but I’m sure I’ve come across them.

I bet perfect can be good if it is done right.

Meredith said...

Jace is a Mary Sue? I still love him. :)

Hart Johnson said...

How interesting. I totally would have pegged Bella as too boring to live (certainly too boring to read about). I will have to see what the criteria are, because I think if Bella had ONE thing, it might have saved her. That is a sense of humor. I only read the one book, but her lack of humor and every freaking male in five counties falling in love with someone so boring are my primary gripes with it (erm... and the bad writing, but never mind)

LTM said...

argh! Why have you done this to me??? Now I've got to go run all my characters through the test... LOL~

Thanks, Trace! :o) <3

Carolyn Abiad said...

Never heard of this before, so I took the quiz. My MC is a Borderline-Mary Sue. Guess I need to work on her some more. :)

Alyssa Fox said...

Never heard of this before I'll have to check out the quiz.

David Powers King said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Tracy!

(This is your reminder ;)

Kari Marie said...

Ooooo! A quiz I can take that isn't about me. Awesome.

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