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Is your Special Character
TOO SPECIAL?

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Are you indulging in a few too many "special traits"? Is your story really an excuse to show off your Super Special Character? Are you committing a MARY-SUE/GARY STUE?

--> Dead give-away: Your favorite character is YOU only BETTER!


Who is Mary Sue/Gary Stue?

According to SubReality.com:
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"Mary Sue / Gary Stue is any original or deeply altered character who represents a slice of their creator's own ego; they are treasured by their creator but only rarely by anyone else. A Mary Sue/Gary Stue is a primadonna (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 their selfish purposes."
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-- For more details:
www.subreality.com/marysue.htm
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The Mary Sue/Gary Stue "Self-Insertion" in Manga Fan-fiction:

According to Aestheticism.com:
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"The Mary Sue <Gary Stue>, as someone said, is the highest form of fannish devotion to a series. You like it so much you want to come play in it yourself. Most fan writers are content to do this by sneaking in under cover of one of the canon characters.

Slipping on my Hakkai mask, I jump in the jeep and set out for the west with Sanzou and the guyz, pretending all along that it's Hakkai telling the story I'm writing and not me at all.

Havers. *Of course* it's me and not Hakkai…"
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-- For more details:
www.aestheticism.com/visitors/…
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Too many Special traits spoil the Character.
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While not every "super-special!!!" character is actually a Mary-Sue/Gary Stue, they fall under the same rules because when one makes a "larger than life" character, they tend to be unbalanced and quite frankly, no fun to read. Think Superman without Kryptonite. When you have a character that never loses, you might as well write:

• Hero meets bad-guy.
• They fight.  
• Hero wins. The end.

Where's the fun in that? Where's the challenge? Where's the surprise? Where's the suffering?

This is also known as Godmoding.

According to Burning Dumpster:
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-- Godmoding: "Take the Mary Poppins slogan "Practically Perfect in Every Way" and remove the 'practically'. They're perfect little characters with no real flaws that can do whatever the hell they like. No one can contradict them or oppose them because they're always right. In fan-fiction, they're boring. In PBEM, they are a royal pain in the ass. Also known as an 'avatar'."
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-- For more details:
www.kalime.com/burn/index.html
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Think: How many 'special' traits does your pet character have? Let's find out!

Take this test:
www.katfeete.net/writing/marys…

Or this one! (Thank you, Tansyuduri!)
www.springhole.net/writing/mar…


Despite all this, God-mode Mary Sue/Gary Stue characters AREN'T necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Mary Sue/Gary Stue is an excellent way for a beginning writer to experiment with story-telling. In fact, it's the most common way a writer begins writing anything at all.

Key word: Begin -- not End.

God-mode, Mary Sue/Gary Stue (especially under the thin veneer of a favorite Manga character) only becomes a problem when one posts them on the Fan-Fiction sites where Readers can see them and Flame them for being too unbelievably perfect to identify with and/or too Out of Character (OOC).


So what do you do to keep your characters from falling into the black hole of Mary Sue/Gary Stue-ism?

Exercise your experience - but don't fall in!
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A Story is nothing without good strong characters, but if you can't use yourself, how do you write about the feelings of someone else? You Empathize -- you recall how you felt under similar circumstances -- but you don't BECOME that character.

Examples…


The Lost Boys:
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Michael is watching the girl of his dreams climb onto another guy's motorcycle. She doesn't look happy about it, but she does it anyway.

The other guy, David turns to Michael and invites him to come along.

Michel's motorcycle is only a dirt bike. There's no way in hell his bike can surpass David's.

David smiles. "You don't have to beat me. You just have to keep up."
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What is Michael feeling through all this?


The Matrix:
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Neo has just received a Fed Ex package with a cell phone in it. He's looking at it when it starts to ring in his hand. He answers it.

"Neo, this is Morpheus. You have to get out of there. Now."
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What is Neo feeling through all this?


Underworld:
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Michael has had one hell of a day. There was a shooting at the train station, and crap at his hospital job, and then when he goes home, he finds a really beautiful and incredibly strong girl who immediately tries to strangle him in his apartment.

Moments later, he's running for his life from things galloping after him on the walls and ceiling. He escapes into an elevator and the door closes. Then it opens.

A guy he's never seen before in his life smiles and says: "Hello Michael." Suddenly, bullets rip into the guy right in front of him. The guy falls forward onto Michel and bites him.

Out of nowhere, the strong girl comes back and drags the weird guy off of him.

The weird guy bursts into laughter.
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What is Michael feeling through all this?


Making the Characters work WITH the Plot.
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There are roughly three essential characters in every story:

A Protagonist with character traits designed to work AGAINST the plot.
• A sidekick to add complications and make matters worse.
• A Villain that the hero absolutely Cannot beat when the hero first enters the fray.


The hero and the villain should change and develop as the story progresses to allow the hero a toe-hold chance, and no more, to win. The rest of the cast may or may not have personal growth, but the hero and the villain must. This is where dramatic tension is generated.

Changing takes suffering. Both the hero and the villain should suffer emotionally and physically to allow for their personal changes. Think about how hard it is for YOU to change your mind about something important to you. That's the level of suffering you need.

If this seems a little formulaic, remember, it's not what you HAVE it's what you DO with it.

Let's look at two different movies:


The Matrix -- Urban Fantasy
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A Protagonist with character traits designed to work AGAINST the plot.
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Neo is a quiet computer hacker. He deals in facts, not fantasy. He's not an action kind of guy, but everyone thinks he's supposed to save the world. He thinks they're wrong.

A sidekick to add complications and make matters worse.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Both Morpheus and Trinity believe in him, to the point that they keep risking their lives so he has to keep saving them.

A Villain that the hero absolutely Cannot beat when the hero first enters the fray.
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The Matrix is a sentient mega-verse. Mr. Smith is a replicating Virus. Both are bound and determined to keep all of humanity deaf, dumb, and blind to what's being done to them.


The Lost Boys – Vampire
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A Protagonist with character traits designed to work AGAINST the plot.
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Michael desperately wants to fit in with a motorcycle gang that rules the entire town because he likes the girl that hangs with them. Michael does not believe in Vampires.

• A sidekick to add complications and make matters worse.
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Michael has a nosy younger brother who is terrified of vampires.

• A Villain that the hero absolutely Cannot beat when the hero first enters the fray.
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Michael absolutely positively cannot defeat an entire gang of Vampires.


In Conclusion…
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Make your Characters part of your story, not the Excuse for your story. Give them pain, give them heartache, and make them face their fears. Anything less cheats the reader out of some good healthy angst!

Enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Ookami Kasumi
[link]
Add a Comment:
 
:iconcpttori:
CptTori Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
"An adult whose ancestry is linked to the noble class of the aristocrats. He mastered the use of a broadsword, but hasn't mastered anything else."

Is that a Gary Stu?
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2014  Professional Writer
It's only a Gary Stu if the character is YOU in disguise and / or they have no character flaws; they're Perfect.
Reply
:iconpingipenguin:
pingipenguin Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2014
It's a little hard to categorise this character as being a Gary Stu based off so little information. He definitely has potential to be interesting if, say, he ended up in a fight where he had to use a weapon other than a broadsword to defend his family's honour, but if he were able to easily win that fight then I'd say it was heading into Gary Stu territory. The character can't be invincible; they have to have flaws, but there's a lot of grey area surrounding the generation of Mary Sues/Gary Stus. Don't be terrified of accidentally writing one. Instead, write your character, look at the list of features common to a Gary Stu and then, if necessary, revise. The important thing is to keep developing them :)
Reply
:icon1st-hashirama-senju:
1st-Hashirama-Senju Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014

This is very good advice for beginner writers. And even for writers who are still doing writing, it can give a story idea.

 

Too many times on Fanfiction.net, I see people bashing new writers for creating Mary-Sue, Gary-Stu characters. And they give up.


In fact, I admit to making Mary-Sues, Gary-Stu characters in stories I never published, when I was younger. It was often my favorite characters of Naruto at that time, when we did not know as much about characters like Hashirama, Minato, or Tobirama. One of the traits they would fit would be “overpowered” and “usually win fights in one hit or in a few minutes without much fuss” among some other traits.


And I am guessing you really like angst stories?


I like action stories more though, but I will use your story setup plan if I ever want to do such a story, it could be interesting.

Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2014  Professional Writer
And I am guessing you really like angst stories?
 -- Actually, No, but most of the readers of my tutorials Do.
Reply
:icon1auroraangel1:
1AuroraAngel1 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2013  Student General Artist
This is really good advice for beginning writers. Too many of them give up after being told that their characters are "mary-sues"  
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013  Professional Writer
Thank you!
 -- I prefer to Encourage, rather than Discourage.
Reply
:iconfirestarawesome:
Firestarawesome Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for this tutorial and for linking the test~! My OC (who has red eyes... ^^; but also tons of scars. :>) got a -5. xD I'm currently working on a fanfiction story along with a new Original Story about a new world I'm making. How long have you been writing?
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2013  Professional Writer
I was first published when I was a Junior in high school; way back in 1980. :)This was years before the PC was something you could by for personal use and the Internet was invented. I wrote my first story on a Typewriter -- and Hated it.
Reply
:iconfirestarawesome:
Firestarawesome Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ooo, what did you write about?
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013  Professional Writer
My first published story was a horror story about a ghost dog. :)
Reply
:iconfirestarawesome:
Firestarawesome Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
That sounds interesting! What was the name of it?
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013  Professional Writer
Darlin' I was first published in 1980. You won't find it anywhere.
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:iconfirestarawesome:
Firestarawesome Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, I can try. :P
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013  Professional Writer
It was published in a small magazine that only saw release in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. I don't think it even exist anymore.

And since it was my very first piece of writing ever, I'd rather Not show off just how awful I was at the time.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconsailor-phoenix93:
sailor-phoenix93 Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2013  Student General Artist
Took that test, and it was so helpful! I was worried I may have a Mary Sue on my hands (same gender, similar hobbies, and she does have some very special skills), but I realized she was more balanced out than that. :)
Reply
:iconendlessvoidofdispair:
thank you for this, took the quiz and I am happy to say no mary sue
Reply
:iconpetloverspy:
PetLoverSpy Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
It's rather funny... Panthress, the main character of my story, is basically a copy of me—except that I did not make myself better or anything. I did make tragic events happen to her, but they left scars that make her so much worse than me. The only thing she does better is fight battles, both physical and verbal.
I love anti-Mary Suing characters x3 This is really fun to read and get some ideas!
Reply
:iconladyelzira:
LadyElzira Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I remember when I first made a character, she was so awful. I know use her as a what-not-to-do diagram when creating future characters. This tutorial also helped a little bit too, by showing different methods and ways to make a character part of a story.
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2012  Professional Writer
I'm glad I could provide a bit of useful insight.
Reply
:iconladyelzira:
LadyElzira Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah, it has been very useful.
Reply
:iconsweetgothiclullaby:
SweetGothicLullaby Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I loved reading this, this will help me avoid making a gary/mary-sue.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Mary Sues aren't that bad IF you take the time to make them into a Real person with strong character flaws.
Reply
:iconsweetgothiclullaby:
SweetGothicLullaby Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah, I'm glad that I know that none of my characters are mary-sues or gray-sues.
Reply
:iconseraphinekh:
SeraphineKH Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012
Lol I thought it was mary-sue/marty-sue :P
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2012  Professional Writer
This is about Mary Sue/Marty Stu.
Reply
:iconsupachibi:
SupaChibi Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
I'll probably offend a lot of fans of said book, but when I read your article, it really proves my gut feeling about this book called "Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter". I once tried to read it, but I've always had this funny feeling that the main character is nothing more than an empty shell used to represent what the author wants to be. She's the author who just happened to have a different name and lives in a cool word the author wants to exist.

Well, writing what you like isn't a bad thing, but if it goes to the extent of even making the readers know that the main character is the author herself; that's not very good. Is it? I'm not sure.

What are your thoughts on books like these? I've seen so many published works with this kind of pattern. The main character feels as if she or he is a persona the author always wanted to be.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner May 17, 2012  Professional Writer
Sadly, the number one most common reason a writer puts a story on paper is because they want to have an adventure. That's not a bad thing, in my opinion, but it can make it hard on the reader if they can't get into the character too.
Reply
:icontansyuduri:
tansyuduri Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2012  Student Writer
I've found this test works better [link]
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2012  Professional Writer
Hmm... That looks like a more recent version of the original test. Good Call though! I'll add it to the essay!
Reply
:icontansyuduri:
tansyuduri Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2012  Student Writer
yay
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:icons-dlsea:
S-DLSea Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2011  Student General Artist
Faving so I can read it later.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2011  Professional Writer
I hope it proves helpful!
Reply
:icontydusis:
Tydusis Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I will be using that test *quite* a lot. VERY helpful!!
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:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2011  Professional Writer
I'm glad you like it!
-- I use that test myself.
Reply
:iconmerliniachic:
Merliniachic Featured By Owner May 31, 2011  Student Artist
VERY helpful!
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner May 31, 2011  Professional Writer
Excellent!
-- I love being helpful.
Reply
:icondarnimax:
Darnimax Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2011
My big worry when I birth characters is not that whether or not they resemble me, because I totally passed that Mary Sue test, but whether or not they too closely resemble each other. Or, conversely, they resemble each other in small ways but differ in key ways that make them just fit together rather than challenge each other. Know what I mean?

(I'm going through this folder, which is why you're getting several message updates about some mook with a retarded horse icon favoriting and commenting on all your business.)
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2011  Professional Writer
The only time you need to worry about your characters is when someone COMPLAINS - via hate-mail. If no one complains, you're doing it Right.

(I'm going through this folder, which is why you're getting several message updates about some mook with a retarded horse icon favoriting and commenting on all your business.)

LOL!
Reply
:iconelandria:
Elandria Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2011  Professional General Artist
That Marysue test is much much better than other tests I've done! Fortunately my main female character turns out to be absolutely nothing like me LOL I do love all these writing tips you do!!
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2011  Professional Writer
I agree, that's definitely one of the better -- and more thorough -- tests. I'm glad you like my tips!
Reply
:iconzuewaldo:
Zuewaldo Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011
Thank you for the reality cheack. This kid at my school kept flamming me of an OC because she was too speacail but according to the quize she's fine.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2011  Professional Writer
Sounds like that 'friend' might have actually been Jealous of you. I wouldn't let that person read any of your stuff any more.
Reply
:iconzuewaldo:
Zuewaldo Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2011
I now keep all my note books under lock and key (not really stoped bring it to school)
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2011  Professional Writer
Good idea. It'll be easier on you and less likely to destroy your friendship.
Reply
:iconmei-chan01:
Mei-Chan01 Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011
I only a self-instert for something that is fun. But like if it's going to be a serious story I really think about my characters. Like Bee and Mei are self-inserts I know this. But they are not used in anything serious, but for fun and just enjoyment. But my oc character Nimeesha is carefully well-balance character that I created. I put years into developing my story.
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011  Professional Writer
Good work.
Reply
:iconmanah-angel-eyes:
Manah-Angel-Eyes Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Good tutorial!

Hmm dang...I do have a self-insert, sort of, but only because I lacked the ideas for a new character design...
I don't treat her as me though, she's not me, she does things I wouldn't do, she can't beat a mob of monsters, plus she stays in the background as often as possible
The only reason I still keep "her" is because my friends don't mind, or support anything I do

Is that still bad? There's still time to fix (name, hairstyle I guess), but I need to make sure
Reply
:iconookamikasumi:
OokamiKasumi Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011  Professional Writer
I'm glad you liked my tutorial!
-- Darlin' A self insert is only bad if it's Obviously You. In other words, if it looks like you, talks like you, acts like you, and makes the same decisions that You would make, everyone who knows you will KNOW it's you. That's Bad.

If you're going to use yourself as a character, take the time to Disguise the character so no one can tell -- not even your best friend.

By the way, a better way to find characters is by pulling them off of movies you like and then Disguising them by changing their names and physical descriptions. That definitely won't be a self-insert and you'll already know the character well enough to know what they'll do at any given moment in your story.
Reply
:iconmanah-angel-eyes:
Manah-Angel-Eyes Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Alright :3
I've changed alot over the years and I haven't put a photo of myself on DA in a long while, so the only link would be the OC name and my account name...so I'm good then ^^
Thanks for the advice!
Reply
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