INTRODUCTION - Definition #1
of a Mary Sue:
you're scratching your head and wondering who the heck Mary Sue
IS, hm? Well, "Mary Sue" is an unkind term used to describe a
certain kind of character, a style of writing. She (or he) is
created to serve one purpose: wish fulfillment. When a writer
invents someone through whom he/she can have fantastic
adventures and meet famous people (fictional or real), this
character is a Mary Sue.
the Male version is now usually called a "Marty Stu" or a "Gary Stu"]
storytellers have been rehashing Mary Sue since the dawn of
time, she did not receive her current name until the early
1970s. The original was Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest
Lieutenant in the fleet -- only fifteen and a half years old")
as immortalized in Paula Smith's "A Trekkie's Tale," which she
wrote and published in her 1974 fanzine Menagerie #2. (According
to Katherine Langley: "Paula is still active in fandom and, to
be sure, suitably bemused that Mary Sue lives on.")
Mary Sue, as this archetype became known, was at first any
brilliant, beautiful young Starfleet officer who joined the
Enterprise crew to be the center of attention, set everything
right, make off with the main male canon character's heart (or
several of them!), and/or die dramatically in someone's arms.
I'm sure you can make a similar analogy within your own fannish
experiences. Mary Sues exist in every fanficdom:
pretty new Immortal who stumbles into MacLeod's (or Methos')
- the uber-powered
kid who joins Generation X
female bronze-rider with her fire-lizard flock
kitchen-drudge-cum-HeraldMage out on her first circuit
notorious Marrissa Amber Flores Picard Gordon...
- I'm sure
you can think of more. And of course there are non-fanfic
Mary Sues, characters who only exist in their creators'
minds, on well-worn RPG character sheets or in secret
- There are
even actual canon Mary Sues, though that gets hard to judge
because they are canon. Good examples include Jean M. Auel's
Ayla, Michael Moorcock's Elric, Anne McCaffery's Menolly,
and Anne Rice's, well, anyone...
To set the
Mary Sue is any original or deeply altered character who
represents a slice of his/her creator's own ego; s/he is
treasured by his/her creator but only rarely by anyone else.
More negatively, a Mary Sue is a prima donna (usually but not
always badly-written) who saps life and realism out of every
other character around, taking over the plot and bending canon
to serve his/her selfish purposes.
-- from The
Official Mary Sue Society Avatar Appreciation Site
#2 - From Bandari Tradeport's "BandariWiki":
"Mary Sues" are characters -- usually, although not always, in
fan fiction -- who are terribly idealized versions of their authors
shoehorned into a favorite setting and given sufficient powers and
abilities to solve all situations. Named after Star Trek
fan fiction featuring the 15-year-old Lieutenant Mary Sue who saves
the Enterprise and marries Captain Kirk
Mary Sues tend to come in two rough varieties. There isn't
anything intrinsically wrong with either; the dilemma is that
they're almost always much more fun to role-play, than they are
to role-play with.
- Superhero Mary Sue: Because Mary Sue
can handle any situation, it's effectively impossible to
have any tension in role-playing with her. Injured? Doesn't
matter whether it's a stubbed toe or a lost limb, she can
fix it! Someone threatening you? Doesn't matter whether it's
the schoolyard bully or the Fifth Fleet, she can take care
of 'em somehow.
- Fixated Mary Sue: Mary Sue's powers,
character background, and indeed all of her visible
personality is focused with laser intensity on the one
thing that gives her purpose, whatever that may be. All
of her conversations and actions circle around to the object
of her desire. People Mary Sue interacts with tend to
describe her with phrases like "nice but a little creepy."
Definition #3 - From "Hogwart's Boss" on Greatest Journal:
Mary Sues change the universe by walking in the door. They make
Snape fall in love with a student, Lupin and Black fight over her,
or Harry become Cary Grant. A good original character is either not
the center of the story they are in, or if they are, tell the
story of how Person X adapts to life at Hogwarts (or the MoM),
do NOT tell the story of how Hogwarts adapts to them. If the
character changes the world for more than one or two people, she is
a Mary Sue.
A good original character should have a balance of strengths and
weaknesses. In a story, they have a separate storyline. In a
role-play, while the character will be the center of their personal
universe, they do not expect the other players and characters to
treat them like the center of their universe.
The writer must focus on being realistic, not on making their
character "cool". Realism has a wide range. In fantasy it is even
But the focus should be on the meat of a story-- plot and
characterization (this is psychological realism, not surface
stuff)-- not on how many people Mary Sue has sex with, falls in love
with, or out-bitches. I mention the last because I've noticed a lot
of Dark Sues (my term), where the point is not to be the most
lovable, but to be the most unlovable. The character hates
*everyone* in a self-destructive passion and seems to be a form of fanfic/role-play troll, almost. There may be times for this-- a
Canon Draco or Millicent may have that many issues, but most writers
CANNOT make this believable, and it usually comes across to me as
immature, like a 13 year old boy who collect Nazi paraphernalia not
because he understands their ideology but because it's evil and
-- Written by Helen (Mod 1)
Definition #4 - From "Doujin High School RP: What To Avoid In
Part 1: Mary Sue, Marty Stu, and Why They're Not Welcome
The first type of character that neither I nor the rest of the
administration wants to see is the wish-fulfillment character. More
commonly known as Mary Sue (for females) and Marty/Gary Stu (for
males), they can do no wrong, excel at everything they put their
hand to, and think they can charm/boss around/beat up on any NPC or
other character they set their eye on, regardless of personality,
ranking, or amount of training, just by virtue of their existence.
Often, these characters' powers are justified by otherworldly powers
that may or may not exist in the canon. They may often have a large
number of other assorted skills as well--being able to play an
instrument or sing beautifully, speak six languages, cook like a
master chef without the training, fix or operate anything without
having laid eyes on it before, etc. In cases where the player wishes
to up the drama factor or make the character seem less perfect, they
dredge up a Dark, Secret Past for the character to angst endlessly
over--and the happenings in it are usually not the character's
fault, allowing the character to be dark and brooding without losing
a whit of their perfection.
If, at some point, you are tempted to create such a character,
repeat after me:
Flaws are our friends.
Give your character flaws; perfection gets boring quickly. And by
flaws, I don't mean something irrelevant to the plot, like not being
able to play the flute or draw to save your life. Driving
perfectionism, unless in conjunction with a related flaw, is not
necessarily a flaw--indeed, it's a trait common in fanfiction Mary
Sues. Personality flaws (e.g. short temper, bigotry, greed), phobias
(of something commonly encountered), physical defects (not ones that
enhance the character's appearance, as a well-placed scar might),
and the like will work to help tone down a potential Mary Sue.
However, even with flaws, too many abilities or too much skill
without excellent justification are big no-no's. No one can do
everything--or even close to it.
Example - A classic Mary Sue
character concept (from a Harry Potter RP). Typos were left in as is:
Name: Rhianna Apathy
Family: Her mom was a witch and her dad was a witch but if you go
back about ten generations their families came from muggles. Her
parents died when she was at age five when cornered in a dark alley
way in Hogsmeade (she was with them but has no clue why as to how
she survived). She has no siblings and the rest of her relatives
mysteriously vanished and her current guardian, Dave is extremely
abusive. Dave is a vampire he is also the murderer of her parents.
So she doesn’t have what she would call a family.
Apearance: She is 5’3” she had raven-colored waist length straight
hair. She has unreal mismatched eyes one blue the other green. She
has five ear piercing, three on her left two on the right. She has
several white thin scars from the beatings on her stomach, back,
arms, she has a one scars on the bottom of her jaw she received from
Dave. She has a feminine build though is hidden underneath her
Wand: 11 ½ inches, yew, dragon heartstring
Magical Sepciality: Potions and Transfiguration. It is mainly
Magical Artifact: A Pensive
Non-Magical Articfact: her rock music collection, helps her think
and let her anger evaporate.
Pet: none as of yet
Broom: A Golden Arrow
Personality: She is apathetic hence her last name it is just a
protection thing to keep her from getting hurt by others like her
guardian does with her. Though once you get past that protected area
she is stubborn at times, ambitious, troublesome, sly, and a little
mischievous. She never follows the rules her theory on rule is they
are meant to be broken. She doesn’t like big crowds, if you get on
her bad side she’ll be cruel without mercy.
[Our notes: If the above
example does not
frighten you & make you reach for the Brillo pad for your eyes, you won't be happy playing here.]
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR CHARACTER IS A "MARY SUE"/"MARTY STU"
[A] Do any of the above examples
make you cringe in embarrassment, thinking about a PC you currently
have? If so, you might have a Mary Sue on your hands.
[B] If you take one of the quizzes
below, the results will let you know if you should be worried.
QUIZ YOURSELF: IS YOUR CHARACTER A MARY SUE?
- Take this test and find out:
The above test was modified to include
Role-Playing Game characters. Based on the original "Mary Sue Litmus Test"
which was geared more to FanFic characters, which can be found here:
- Another (and in my opinion,
more accurate) Test:
Credits to the Following Web Sites
compiling the commonly accepted definitions for Mary-Sue'ism:
(I would have quoted examples from this page, but it's rather hard
to take your cues from someone who is lecturing their players on grammar and
spelling, when they spell it "punctiation". However, that
faux pas aside, the rest of the
page contains some good advice on how to not "Mary Sue," so I
included it anyway.
HOW TO GET THE MARY SUE OUT OF
YOUR PC (what to avoid):
These are not hard and fast rules,
which is one of the reasons Mary Sueism is hard to catch sometimes. They
are guidelines. Doing one of them is not a capital offense; they're
legal things to do in the game. It's just when it becomes predominant,
that you have a serious problem going on. Don't get defensive if you do
one or two of these. Worry if you do, say, three or more of them all
with the same PC.
- Don't name your PC after
- Don't name your PC some
pretentious, ominous-sounding alternate spelling of a normal
word (such as Fyre, Vampyre, Starre, Wynd, etc.)
- Don't name your PC after
gems, animals, celestial bodies, weapons, or acts of weather
(Sapphire, Raven, Star, Blade, Storm, etc.)
- Don't name your PC after
media figures (Movie, TV, Book or Video Game characters). Avoid
naming them after mythological or historically famous figures as
well (Napoleon, Venus, Hitler, etc.)
- Don't make the spelling all
weird and pretentious through abuse of excessive or peculiar
punctuation that does not normally occur. (e.g. M'chelle,
- Don't name your PC something
in a foreign language you do not know, if you are not sure the
name works (this is most often abused by American players naming
their PC's supposedly Japanese stuff that just ends up sounding
stupid). When in doubt, Google it or ask someone who knows the
- Don't give your PC
pretentious nicknames like Soul Stealer, Death Dealer, Blood
Bath, Reaper of Vengeance, etc. (Werewolf PCs have something of
an exception to this, but using the names outside of their own
kind will still sound pretentious to non-Shifters)
- It's fine to have some,
occasional young and beautiful PC's. But if every single PC you
have is App 4 or higher, physically fit, and just so happens to
be nubile and college-aged up to mid-20's, you're Mary-Sueing.
- Also, lay off the screwy eye
colors (unusual coloration that doesn't actually exist in
nature, two different colors, etc.)
- Likewise with the hair; too
much of it is perfect waving shiny rivers of hair down to your
butt (and that's just the men).
- Lay off dressing like a Heavy
Metal video or a member of Prince & The Revolution, to go into
normal everyday IC venues (unless you bought a flaw that means
the PC is IC that stupid).
 FAMILY OR
- Don't use the tired, worn-out
"My parents were abusive" or "I was an orphan" excuses. Lay off
the rape, incest, child abuse, drunk & drugged parents, street
gang, kidnap victim, ex-slave, ex-prostitute, youth pregnancy,
sole survivor of the Great Tragedy, Last of My Clan/Race/Tribe
- Don't make your PC the
long-long son of someone, the long lost savior of anyone, or the
mysterious key to some great life-altering puzzle in the story.
Lay off the bizarre stories of his or her birth, too.
- Don't make the PC a twin, or
a member of a huge group of brothers and sisters who all
mysteriously have some uber-cool traits or powers in common.
- Don't make the PC Nobility or
related to someone else who has the equivalent of Fame 5
- Don't make the PC the sole
heir of some massive fortune they did not earn, so they never
had to actually struggle to survive.
- Don't give the PC Amnesia and
make it go through a dramatic quest to regain its memory.
TRAITS & ABILITIES:
- Don't always resort to Wings,
Telepathy, Healing, Genius Intellect, speaking 5+ languages
before the age of 30, High Seduction powers, or being the
Ultimate Ass-kicker, as your powers of choice. Those are often
the hallmark of a Sue in progress.
- Don't make your character
Doogie Howser (M.D. at 12 years old), or any other disturbingly
excessive overachiever kinds of situations.
- Don't make your PC brilliant
and well-informed if you give them a background where they
likely dropped out of school, ran away a lot, or suffered other
various major disruptions that would drive your average student
bat-shit. Imagine your own personal OOC High School or College
career; now imagine having to accomplish all that while living
on the run or in hiding or constantly berated by an adversary.
Annoying, isn't it.
- Don't give non-Asian PCs
katanas or similar weapons, just because you OOC think it sounds
cooler than "sword."
- Don't give your PC powers,
toys or skills that would have required them to have spent the
last decade or two traveling extensively throughout the world
and performing acts of great sequestered study in-between
(multiple martial arts, extensive magical powers, unusual skills
only taught in certain parts of the world, dead or near-extinct
- Don't make your character a
Green Beret, a CIA/NSA/Covert Ops Agent, a Mercenary, an
Assassin, or some kind of James Bond knockoff.
ISSUES, ROMANCE, RELATIONSHIPS:
- Don't design a character
whose main or sole purpose is to romance or bed another specific
character. And if you are guilty of this, do not shelve the
character when the target PC rejects them. Move on, IC.
- Don't design a character
whose purpose is to be the ultimate sex partner for lots of
other characters (making a sexual character is fine, but don't
try to be the perfect, impossible-to-refuse sex machine with it.
That's just Mary-Sueing with your pants off.)
- Don't constantly position
your character as The Exception - the one who makes all the bad
guys reform for her, the one who is the Only Friend of the Evil
Unsocial Character, etc. (If other players treat them that way,
though, that's not your fault; we're speaking of when the Player
demands that this happen because their PC is supposed to be just
that damned cool.)
- Don't position your character
as someone who gets away with being taken seriously in ways they
should not be. Don't be the sage & wise nobody pauper, or the
tragically beautiful and sexually desirable homeless street waif
that sleeps in the newspapers. Don't have the PC be constantly
irreverent, rude, speaking out of place, or disrespectful but
show no evidence of consequences for it.
PLAYER NOTES AND COMMENTS: