Meet Mary Sue. Her real name is Matsuko Toshi Yasu, and she has flowing purple hair that comes down to her ankles and has magical powers. Her florescent pink orbs blaze and through them, she reads minds. She can defeat anyone in a fight and often carries a katana with her to school in New York, where she delivers to justice everyone who says mean things about her or other people. Everyone loves her. All the guys fawn over her and desperately want to be the one she chooses to go out with.
Wait, what? Matsuko? New York? Purple hair? And what the heck are orbs, and why are hers pink?
If you’re like me and find the idea of such a character hideously repulsive, carry on. I’m committed to stamping out all the Mary Sues and Gary Stues of this world. Join me?
Mary Sue: a perfect, gorgeous character with no flaws, instant popularity, angst, amazing magical or other talents and skills, and an instant guy attractor.
Gary Stue: a male version of the Mary Sue.
A Mary Sue in any story is no fun to read. She’s bland, boring, or overly… characterized, shall I say? She’s too cliche and unrealistic. The reader won’t like her. And even if she’s uncliched, the reader still might not like her!
This Mary Sue litmus test is a helpful tool to use. However, like the website says, the characteristics listed do NOT mean that your character is a Mary Sue if she has them. The problem comes when a character has too many of these characteristics. For instance, I discovered today why people don’t always like Fallor–he scored a 36 on the test, which is fairly high. Kahil, on the other hand, scored a -1… And everyone loves him. See a correlation here?
In general, if your character demonstrates the following characteristics, he or she is probably a Sue.
1. Character has physical traits that are not the norm in his society for no other reason than to just be “cool.”
2. Character ALWAYS wins every fight/argument/debate.
3. Character has a sad, depressing past in which all his/her family died and it’s all his/her fault. S/he is then consumed with grief and revenge and yet still manages to function normally for the rest of life.
Now, I’m not saying any of these things are bad (actually, the above three are–avoid those like the plague!), but they are indications that your character could be a Gary Stue. I definitely suggest taking a Mary Sue Litmus Test. There are many others aside from the one I linked here, but this is the best I’ve found so far. If you score over 25-30, consider taking a good look at your character. Do people generally seem to like her? Do your readers beg for more of an appearance from him?
Keep in mind that readers swooning over a character does not clear said character of the Gary Stue blues. All we have to do is look at Mr. Edward Cullen to determine that.
Now that I’ve given you the low-down on Mr. And Mrs. Stue, you’ll have to go out and discover their cameos in your story. Everyone’s made a Sue at some point in time–it’s when you learn from the experience that you move ahead.