Once upon a time (ignore the cliché) many characters were unique, interesting and most importantly they had depth. You may not know this, but many of those amazing characters were in fact Mary Sue or in the male case, Gary Stu.
While everyone has a different opinion on them, I’m determined that the Mary Sue can affect my mood for a story. In my eyes, they are very repetitive and they are more common than you think. They are consistently expressed as beautiful, with a sad ‘poor me’ tale, have no flaws, has everyone’s immediate attention that even bad guys are interested and the most common theme is that they are incredibly overpowered!
Known examples of these characters are:
- Bella Swan from The Twilight Saga (I mean the name pretty much starts with warning bells)
- Regina Mills/The Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time (Literally a person who is always the victim, then blames other people for her problems – but the best part is that everyone lets her do things without consequence)
- Richard Rhal from The Legend of the Seeker (While I’ve only seen the first season and never read the books, he does have obvious elements of a Gary Stu)
- Superman/Clark Kent from Superman (Alien orphan with incredible power – it’s safe to say I never liked him… No offence to Superman fans)
As you can see, there are several well-known characters that are Sues/Stus and I’m here to hand out advice to stop them from taking over our writing community.
I won’t say that my characters are non-perfect little angels – because they’re not always in that case. But I do work hard to make sure that they are dimensional with real struggles and pain. The only advice I can offer when creating a character is giving them a balance. If you feel like your character is a Mary Sue, take an online test and find out for yourself before giving yourself some time to give a certain character flaws.
With that, I must advise you to not give them so many flaws. If you hand them too many flaws, then they become the anti-Sue which is the opposite of what we want.
For example, make a character intelligent and insightful – but perhaps making them not street smart or a little awkward due to the lack of experience.
However, despite that Mary Sues exist, you can make them better by making them realise their flaws and that they’re actually human (or… inhuman in some cases). Even now, I learn more about my characters – about their fears and hopes. Perhaps in the distant future you will be able to see it as well.