Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Wish Fulfillment Mary Sue Characters

I'll be blunt about this. I hate Mary Sue characters.

I;ve had to deal with a great many of them in the past month. And I KNOW I've gotten on quite a few folks' nerves because I snapped at them about their main characters. Whether it's a black writer with a character who suffers racism quietly although he is secretly a powerful alien. Whether it's a black writer who creates a character whose wonderful skill is discovered. Whether it's a white writer who creates a character who saves the day. Whether it's a female writer whose queen character does EVERYTHING in the palace because she is THAT GOOD, we are in Mary Sue territory where the character is screaming, "Look at me. Look at meeeee. See my humble greatness, hidden underneath all this apparent normalcy. I am here to save the day or to destroy it." And honestly, it is all too much.

Quite simply, Mary Sues do not work in a good story. As a writer, a reader, and a Christian, I find myself getting impatient with them.

As a reader, I dislike them because they sap away all sense of drama. They beg to be loved by the reader and they want the reader to see how great, humble, wonderful they are. This makes them flawless or they have flaws in a likable way. They sap the story of drama because obstacles fade away before them. They hog all the glory...in their humble way. No one else is allowed to do great things because the Mary Sue character is the be-all and end-all. In fact, in stories with Mary Sues, most other characters are shown to be stupid, incompetent, helpless, lazy. Mary Sues simply do not share hard work with everyone and their supposed hard work and obstacle is usually so easily conquered by them that the reader always knows what will happen.

As a writer, I dislike them because they betray the fact that the writer is too close to his story. A writer is supposed to step outside of his story and his own mind and see his story with a clear eye. A writer is supposed to be telling a story, and is supposed to be in love with all his characters. The characters aren't supposed to be there to show how great the Author's stand-in is. Oh, sure, we writers are always in our characters but we have to have enough slickness and craft to hide our desire to be loved, or our desire to be shown as great and misunderstood.

As a Christian I also dislike wish fulfillment Mary Sue main characters because I think we should be honest with ourselves. No one is flawless. Some flaws are not likable. No one is perfect. No one survives alone. No one is the savior. Other people are not there to be useless and weak so we can show off our skill. Mary Sues make come off as humble. But it's a kind of twisted pride that gets annoying after a while. I understand heroes and heroines are there to save the day but in a world of psychology, theology, and democracy... we can't ignore other people.

When writing about a character who is all-knowing, we need to step aside and ask ourselves how we are treating the other characters.

We must be honest with ourselves so we can write honest characters. This means that a character must be human, with weaknesses. I don't mean they must be victims because that's another way of making them saints. I mean they must have it in them to do evil. They should not be saints or lovable scamps or victims. They should be human.

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