I admit I didn’t know what a Mary Sue was up until a couple of months ago. How many of you do? I won’t be surprised if you all raise your hands but if you’re still in the dark, especially fellow amateur novelists and authors, it’s crucial you know what it is before you set out to sketch a plot around the protagonist you’ve given birth to.
Okay, let’s start off with the basics. So you’ve created this girl (you can read that as ‘boy’ too) whom you’re very excited to write about. You can’t deny you fall in love with the character and you want the audience to love her too. You want the readers to feel for the character and wish that whatever she does ends in welfare and that she shouldn’t be sad ever again in her life.
That’s the prime need that grows in you and it’s natural.
But it’s the first symptom of the Mary Sue Disease, I’m afraid 😦 The love you develop for your character actually has a harmful tendency of misleading you in a direction that’s quite malignant. Without knowing it, you envision a myriad of perfection that paints her attributes. But they’re extremely annoying, guys, and will make readers snap the book shut and consider burning it. Here’s why:
– She has beautiful, long tresses that glimmer in the golden rays of the sun.
– Her eyes are the most exquisite pair to exist in the entire world and have unusually long lashes that are sultry even to hypnotise the badass villain.
– Eats like a pig but retains flawless curves in the right places that set off jealousy vibes in the other female characters (Just saying that some of us wage World War III with the fat living in our bellies and outer hips by being cruel to our muscles and forcing them to workout at least an hour on the elliptical or treadmill every single day … and still may not get the toned body we desire because of time to time junk food ingestion).
– She doesn’t have a single pimple or black mark or any physical deformity to her appearance. She walks with a grace unknown to mankind and dazzles everyone with her thoughts and views. She can even change the attitude of the villain by drilling some common sense into him, because she’s that awesome a female.
– Every single guy covets her. She rids a corridor of male existence just by walking through.
– Her lover is very rich and is the hottest guy to walk the planet, with no mention of physical activity whatsoever to rationalise those abs and rippling physique. (Can’t male readers have some justice here?).
– She is the subject of a great prophecy and without her, the land cannot be saved. She has hidden talents that can give her a quick getaway during critical situations. She is the only one to have some special ability.
– Everyone who meets her loves her instantly. Even if her character and personality is intolerable and she treats the people around her like shit, the rest of the clan will do absolutely anything to save her. They love her too much and she is far too important, for reasons only the great man upstairs knows.
– The rules of the plot’s world will be bent to accommodate the traits of the heroine.
These are some of the aspects of a typical Mary Sue. It’s a character people abhor, not love. A Sue will also resemble the author in many ways, may it be physical traits or attitude. It will be like the author is living the life they want through the protagonist they create. For example, they may wish for a dream job and they’ll incorporate it into the character, making her very successful. Or there’s this guy they’d always fantasised about and they’ll throw him into the story so your protagonist (um, you?) can have him at least in the story.
A very good example of a Mary Sue is Bella Swan from Twilight.
Disclaimer: This isn’t targeted to trash Twilight, Twi-Hards. Because I actually like the entire theme of immortal-vampire-falls-in-in-love-with-mortal-human. It’s definitely something to get you on the edge of your seat. The only aspect to ruin the entire saga was the protagonist’s attitude, and that’s because of the monotonous and Mary Sue trait of Bella Swan. I only wish Stephanie Meyer sketched her differently and not make her swoon over Edward Cullen’s face and body every single page and completely surrender to him because of it.
Not cool, Bells, not cool at all.
That said, continuing …
I’m sure you can relate so much of the points listed above to Bella. And let’s face it, she has no personality whatsoever, and yet she gets so much of pampering. I’m going to be straightforward in saying it’s infuriating to see this worldwide famous series has the most irritating and insipid Mary Sue to ever have been created. I mean, there is no justice here. How can a series featuring a wishy-washy, stupid heroine break all records when other authors creating awesome protagonists don’t get so much of the limelight?
In the very first book, you see Bella attracting every single male in the school. They’ll all be competing in line to get her on a date. Let’s just say this scene was tolerable in Twilight. In Midnight Sun, it was nauseating, because the mind-reader picks up on every single whipped thought of the guys. Edward Cullen (I think for readers’ sake) is the only one to not pay her any attention but twenty pages later, you see him stalking her incessantly. Just because her blood is the most delicious scent he has encountered and since she is an introvert, she is the only one to be immune to his powerful telepathic ability.
I’m just asking if she is the only girl this hundred year old vampire ever came across. Him and his family are loaded. He speaks nearly half of the world’s languages fluently. And it’s obvious they have travelled length and breadth of this globe. So there is no introverted vegetarian girl with O-ve type blood other than Bella Swan? How come the explanation that she is an introvert be any logical reason as to how her thoughts are a mystery to Edward?
Mary Sue alert.
Rosalie Hale loathes her immortal body because she cannot have children. The reason – vampire venom freezes all organs within, arresting her in her youthful self. All vampires’ physiology shuts down at the age they are bitten. But, oh joy, Edward’s reproductive system has been active all along and bashes all rules by impregnating Bella. Just so that she won’t have to go through the angst Rosalie has. And the baby isn’t even a monster. Nope. It’s a phenomenal warm-blooded half vampire who will turn immortal as soon as she gains a modellistic body in her late teens. So Bella mothers the most beautiful girl to exist in the universe.
If you think the Mary Sueness has been pushed there, think again.
Right from the first book, constant alarm is exhibited towards newborn vampires. They are wild. They are vicious. They are sadists. They won’t think twice about massacring an entire city to quench their thirsts. Even every single Cullen has a record of biting humans. Newborns only think about blood, blood and more blood.
But Bella Swan is immune to the homicidal tendencies. The only thing she’ll be afraid of is losing the physical drive for Edward but hallelujah, the moment she becomes a vampire, that drive only magnifies. All of the bloodlust for humans would have vanished along with the rest of her pulse and she exists as a far matured vampire than everyone put together by being able to have supernatural self-control.
The umpteenth Mary Sue trait is that she is the coven’s saviour. “In the end, it all comes down to Bella.” Just because she has a mind shield that can protect everyone from danger. So all the build up for wiping out the good vampires blows up into smithereens as the posh, opulent villain settles the matter with his swanky vocabulary. He isn’t even a threat, I should say. All he does is exhibit greed for wanting highly gifted vampires on his side. There isn’t a scene where he desperately wants to take over the entire world by going on a killing spree. I seriously don’t have a clue what made me think things were going to shape into action, which was the only push to keep me reading this much abused series.
The protagonist does nothing, yet she is the redeemer in the end. There are no deaths. No fights. Well, there was one in Eclipse but the description was conveniently evaded because Bella hid in the woods for safety.
No one likes Mary Sues or Gary Stues, guys (Gary Stu is the male equivalent).
Love your character, but don’t immerse yourselves in it. Look upon your protagonist like your own child. You certainly won’t spoil your baby by providing her/him with luxuries. You want your child to learn lessons by facing difficulties, don’t you? Pampering, idealisation and dramatisation isn’t the way to bring up your protagonist. Let her stand on her own two feet. Why do you want to instil your personal fantasies into her? She needs to have her fair share of difficulties and problems that she needs to find the solution for all by herself. Of course, being a rape victim or being a slave in her own household doesn’t qualify.
Let the readers join your girl with open hearts. Let them relate with her. Let them see she is a heroine by being one amongst the crowd. That’s how a true leader behaves. She is one amongst everyone with no overstated exceptions to the rules of the world.
One or two aspects of Mary Sueness are acceptable to be applied. Heroines have a right to do something extraordinary to spice up the pace and flavour of the story. But making it a constant practice is what lands you into trouble. If there is a need to make her exceptional to one of the rules, make sure you have a solid and strong reason for making it so. A flimsy and weak logic is going to ignite irritation.
My debut novel Dance Dream has a Mary Sue character 😦 I don’t feel inhibited to admit it. Because it’s a common mistake every new author is inclined to make. Of course, I was seventeen when I wrote it and it was like filling into my personal diary, but I’m not going to justify the mistake by highlighting age. It was a lesson to never do it again and I’m hell bent on not making my second baby into a victim for the Mary Sue Disease. I came to know what a Mary Sue was only a couple of months ago and thanked Krishna for alerting me to this poisonous character trait that can ruin the entire novel. It helped me to edit so many scenes where the disease was prevalent.
So, my fellow writers, hope you found this post useful if you’re writing a novel or thinking about it.
Throw your protagonist into the well. They’ll somehow learn swimming and try to get out of there. Don’t keep throwing them a lifesaver 🙂
It’ll blow up in your face.
Have a great and blessed day ahead.
Jai Shree Krishna ❤