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OC vs. Mary Sue Meme, part One by SilverBellsAbove OC vs. Mary Sue Meme, part One by SilverBellsAbove
There is a point that I have been trying to make for a long time. About Mary Sues.

These two characters are identical. Their traits are also identical. But what a difference! Why is one nice, and the other obnoxious? It's the voice of the author at work: for good... or bad.

'Mary Sue traits' mean nothing. Those litmus tests you see around are not useful. A Mary Sue can have all the same traits as an otherwise normal person, much less any fictional character. It's how the author uses those traits that matters: in a confident, reasonable way, or a self-serving or even insecure way.

Mary Sues are inherently insecure of themselves. Why would they try and convince us that they're so cool if they were confident in their coolness?

And while it is the author's fault, the author's not the one to be scolded. It's the product they make that must be questioned and examined rather than blindly fav'd or 'cool story bro'd'.

The fact that many Sue/Stu authors lash out when their work is questioned is proof of the insecurity. And only with criticism and sometimes even parody and satire can anybody get over it?

I did. I think.

(Part one of two)
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:iconsophism232:
Sophism232 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014
You know, when you think about it, their roles could be switched. Sometimes the one whose full of herself is the good character, because it's one of her flaws and the more quiet one could be a sue because the author is going out of their way to make her very modest and likable. I'm not specifically referring to you (I really love this!) but it's just a thought.
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:iconderriwynn:
Derriwynn Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2011
...Thank you for doing this. :) I am actually considering doing this now, with my OC.
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2011
Go ahead! This is a pretty good meme. Though, it is oriented to making fun instead of making a point. It's set up to compare your OC to the stoopid speshul sue.

I wanted to use it to prove a point, so I had to be careful to not make it some kind of curb stomp with a fine character vs. somebody with a rainbow monkey lion penguin friend with sunset hair and size -1 waist.

It just doesn't say anything, you know?
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:iconeditoress:
editoress Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2011
Point made. I've always thought the difference between any given OC and a Sue was purpose. Extra characters can be excellent additional viewpoint or factor for a story, but if the author's intention is an Avatar of Awesome or Romance or My Opinion, then there's a problem. Granted, most litmus test have identified the symptoms of the illness, but they're not one hundred percent accurate.

Still, I've never seen the difference demonstrated so clearly, and definitely not with characters whose traits were identical. Bravo, madam.
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2011
Like I said. Symptoms are not the disease.

This is only part one of two. The second part is going to be with a character that anybody would call a blatant, really terrible Mary Sue: Special elf race, super speshul awesome powers etc etc.

But it CAN be pulled off. Just, most of the time people make those characters with ulterior motives. When those motives aren't there, it's easier to treat them sensibly.
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:iconeditoress:
editoress Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2011
Well, good luck with that. Actually, the more I think of it, the more I realize that those types have been pulled off. Heroes of many novels would technically count as a Sue with any litmus test, but very few (that I read, anyway) are actually Sues.

I salute you for educating the internet.
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2011
Yes, exactly. This is what produces so much debate about what's acceptable in fiction and why some heroes who have these traits are OK but others are not. It's that the ones who are not OK are self-serving and writerwank and the ones that are ok have those traits to prove a point or to truly demonstrate their full effect.
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:iconangel-of-dawn:
Angel-of-Dawn Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2011
I have to agree with you about what makes a character a Mary Sue. It's about how the author tries to portray the character.

I'm kinda iffy about what you said about "Mary Sues are inherently insecure of themselves. Why would they try and convince us that they're so cool if they were confident in their coolness?" I will admit that the Mary Sues are the "shield" for the author's insecure, but not all Mary Sues don't act too confidence just to prove if they're cool. Some of the authors will have the Mary Sues portray as the victims and want us audience to feel sorry for the "victim" Mary Sues.

Not only do we have to tell the difference between an original character and a Mary Sue based by how the author portrays the character, but we also need to tell the difference of how much development did the author put into the character. Months ago, I agreed with Huey (former member of FEF) about how Mary Sue had lack of character development. I feel that the authors who make Mary Sues only know the basic character development (ie: Character A falls in love with Character B because Character B is smart, but never fully explain what makes Character B smart). I think the Mary Sues authors don't want to make fully character development because they think it will make the story boring. However, what they don't know is that having a fully character development (whether it's small or not) is what makes the character more interesting and the story exciting.

For example, if the character is facing a situation that may change their belief, moral, or the relationship with another character, does the character meet the emotional or mentality consequence from the situation? And if so, does the character find the revelation after the turmoil struggle to find his/her inner self and does it effect the character toward that consequence? While character becomes to realize the consequence (whether it's good or bad), they also find something that will make revelation to the consequence whereas Mary Sues will stick to their original belief and morals because "it's the right thing to do" or "I'm always the the righteous part."

It is sad that MS/GS authors will lash on us when we question their character and believe that we don't "understand how awesome they are" when apparently, it is the authors who are blind to their illusion about their characters and never fully seen that the characters are based from their insecurities.
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:iconazeilarose:
AzeilaRose Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I've had people call my OC's Mary-Sues and it drives me crazy. I love the point you made that there are no real Mary-Sue traits so much as it is the author's writing ability.
I have confident OC's, but they aren't cocky like the Mary-Sue above.
"It's how the user uses those traits that matters: in a confident, reasonable way, or a self-serving or even insecure way."
So true!!!
It also annoys me that not one person seems to know exactly what a MS is, they just throw the term around when they don't like an OC.
From now on I'm going to ref to this when someone is accusing my characters of being MS. ;P
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
This is only part one of two. I am going to do this meme again with the most Mary Sue character I can come up with-- like... some sexy hourglass figure elf who is an expert fighter with perfect hair and a magical artifact and has a name that means 'savior of the world' and stuff like that.

The trick is to make a situation in which those would be REASONABLE traits, and to write her well enough that she seems to fit in.

I won't pretend that a character which piles on the crap (Half dragon, half ninja, half unicorn with blue hair with green tips, who is so thin she might be anorexic yet has big boobs and etc etc etc) is probably a Mary Sue. It's just that it's so not plausible to pull that sort of thing off.

But a Mary Sue ALWAYS comes in and warps the story around her. Characters the author likes always WILL accept her eventually, and if she's not acceptable, she will CHANGE to be so (such as the Self Insert that somehow gets prettier once she gets into the plot, or loses weight at an unreasonable speed, or becomes good at something just to impress a character). She ALWAYS is perfectly suited to the role the author wants her to take-- even if that role is 'I am so unique I don't fit in.' It doesn't matter what she looks like-- it's the author's insecurity, selfishness, and want for awesome that makes her run. And the Mary Sue runs the story around her. Not by the established world's rules but by HER OWN rules.

Which is kind of why you can't go after the author/artist of these characters. That will just rile up their own insecurity that they're projecting on their work. Their work is a metaphor for their own problems, so going after the work is safer than going after the author/artist.
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:icondavinsunrider988:
DavinSunrider988 Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
We definitely share a lot of the same thoughts on this subject; it annoys me when I see reviewers cry 'Mary Sue' on a character that from my perspective is not, even on other people's stories. People seem to attack any OC that is in any way exceptional, which is ridiculous, because in Fantasy especially, characters have to be exceptional almost to the point of superhuman ability in some areas to keep up with the epic themes and settings. That's why I like to have my characters become in some way superhuman(usually unwillingly), not start out that way, and then have to deal with the consequences of their new powers.

That's why it would irk me particularly when people would insinuate Arnak from 'Fourth Piece' was a Stu; I tried to make him as human as I could, following what I thought he would do based on the character traits I gave him, given the almost unlimited power of his Triforce piece. Granted, there are parts of his character I would change were I writing that story right now, like the whole bear transformation thing. That's part of a subplot I rather clumsily removed early on in the story; if I hadn't already decided to leave 'Fourth Piece' alone and refrain from further 'George Lucas-ing', I would go back in and take all mentions of that out, because I never really did anything with it.

But your point that I most agree with is that there are few if any inherently 'Mary Sue' traits; it depends entirely on what the author does with their story that makes it bad or good, their character a Sue or well-crafted. The 'They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot' page on TvTropes is full of this kind of thing, where it's almost painful to think about how good some stories (film, TV, book, etc.) could have been if only the writer had known what he/she was doing.

A large part of Sue-ish writing is the inability to accept criticism and apply it to improving oneself; even successful, published writers are guilty of this, especially when they manage to wrangle themselves Protection From Editors. Terry Goodkind comes to mind when I think of this; 'The Sword of Truth' is enjoyable throughout, but in later books especially one can tell he mostly stopped listening to his editors somewhere around Book 4 or 5. His main hero, Richard, while remaining mostly heroic, and never in my opinion shifting into a full-on Marty Stu, does however gradually turn into a Knight Templar-like character as the series goes on, getting progressively more and more preachy and simultaneously more violent and extreme in the ways he deals with his enemies. (There are ominous hints of 'If you're not my friend, then you're my enemy', in a lot of Richard's late-series speeches) In turn, he is given fewer and fewer 'What The Hell, Hero?' moments as the series goes on, when in my opinion, he deserved more of them.

But I digress; I could start an entire new debate just on that. I look forward to the second part of this.
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:iconxenos-of-the-rose:
Xenos-of-the-Rose Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
Hmm, that's a good point there. I suppose it is up to the author to shape his or her characters to not be that way and to accept some constructive advice from others when they do write a Mary-Sue character.

...This is probably why I can't bring myself to write - much less publish - a fanfiction or write my own original story. I'm afraid of making a character like the girl on the right. DX

Nice rant, by the way. ;)
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:iconseldavia:
Seldavia Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
I wonder if people write Mary-Sues because so many characters in pop culture are Mary Sues. They have nothing else to base their characters on. There are so few developed characters in mainstream media.

Mary-Sue character traits are like the kids in that "Recess" cartoon. You could feasibly write a story about one of those kids, but the show only lasts 20 minutes. So you have a school full of kids whose lives are defined by one trait, rather than a person built off of a trait.
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
I wouldn't say that those characters are Mary Sues. I would call them one-dimensional characters-- which are fine in a work of humor or a short short that won't spend enough time for them to run out of material to day. An original character in a long story sure will run out of material like that, though.

But that's not really what I meant by the deviation.

The 'Mary Sue' traits I mean are the baseline traits you see whenever you open up a Mary Sue litmus test. Like, 'are you the best in anything' or 'do you have a special object the story revolves around.' Those aren't indicative of Mary Sue status. A character doesn't have to be especially beautiful or idealized. And those traits can surface in a perfectly acceptable character anyway-- why are they so hated.

I feel that many just don't understand what a real Mary Sue is.

It's the attitude of the writer that makes a character bad or good. The left character is essentially a normal human being -- she's not too bright, but she's honest and emotionally stable, despite sad things in her past. Bad things have sometimes happened to her, but they're part of life and she has learned from them. She has her own style, but she's aware other people may think it's a bit stupid... and has gotten over it. The right character has exactly the same appearance, the same base traits, but the voice and attitudes of the writer makes the character a defensive one: suddenly she's so 'secure' in her coolness that she seems annoying, yet trust the rest of the world to adhere exactly to what she says. Neutral traits like 'wears a locket' and 'has a memento' suddenly become those Generic Mary Sue traits of 'special object' and 'sentimental scars to the point of violence.'

An insecure person who really isn't any of those things will write that as a fantasy... and it's not always a benign one. As much as Mary Sue is idealized, every problem the author has is vilified. Parents grounding Author suddenly manifests in Mary Sue as abusive evil family. Teasing peers turns into shallow 'preps' making fun of the special unique snowflake...

The traits are the symptoms of the disease in other words...

There will be another meme after this one that is a 'repeat' except with the most sue-ish character I can think of in both slots: one reasonable, and one played straight.
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:iconseldavia:
Seldavia Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
No, no, I'm not saying the kids in "Recess" are Mary Sues. I'm saying that people who write Mary Sues don't have any experience with real characters. They only have experience with one or two defining traits, stretched to infinity.

It fuels the extreme nature of the Mary Sue. The parents that ground the writer can't be marginally strict with good and bad days like normal people. Other kids are either bestest friends or sadistic monsters. Because a one-dimensional character can only be one thing at a time. So "expanding" that character is just glopping on more of the same stuff.
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
Oh! Oh, I see. Durr. Dumb me, not interpreting correctly.

I think that you may be right in that so much targeted at kids in the media is giving the message that 'these kids I am showing you are just like you.'

But that's not true, because what they show kids are not anything like real kids, but fine examples of Dawson casting and scriptwriters who have to stick to a template.

The entertainment media's propensity to label certain groups as having a few set character traits can't be good. I mean, when you see a 'perky goth' it's supposed to be a subversion, but in reality I have never met a sad depressed goth-- most of them dress that way because they think it's COOL rather than because of the darkness of their heart and woe is them.

It's kinda sad, but you see it most in bit characters, especially surrounding Mary Sues. You know those 'three kids get sucked to Hyrule/MiddleEarth/Narnia/what-have-you' stories? Usually they're a young writer and her two friends. The one who is writing gets so much more put into her, so she sometimes ends up the Mary Sue the whole plot revolves around-- and her two friends are just nodding extras who say a few stock phrases now and again. One is usually 'the provocative/slutty/dumb one' and the other is the 'naggy/bossy' one.

Those shows are meant to CATER the us vs them mentality though, not the other way around I think. Either bestest friends or monsters because adolescence seems to do that all on its own. People look for ways to consider themselves 'special' and instead have to bring everybody down (in their heads) to bring themselves up. They don't use positive self-affirmation to make themselves feel better, but instead go 'well they're all posers and losers anyway, so I must be better than them.'

Kind of like Mary Sues do, when they make everybody worse than them in order to be seen as better! I WONDER IF THERE IS A CONNECTION.
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:iconseldavia:
Seldavia Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
There is one scenario where I believe a Mary Sue would be somewhat appropriate. That would be in fandoms like Inuyasha where the tension from some romance goes on FOOOOORRRRREEEEEVVVVEEEERRRRR. A Mary Sue fan will usually be the one to put the two together; and really, what normal person wouldn't step in and say "KNOCK IT OFF ALREADY!!!"
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
I wouldn't call that a Mary Sue. I'd call that a frustrated Self Insert. Possibly a Parody Sue.

If then all of the characters nodded their heads and said "I AM SO SORRY" and then Kagome killed herself 'because she was stupid' and Inuyasha hooked up with the Self Insert, that would be a Mary Sue.

If all of the characters treated her like she was the only one to realize it and then she went off to romance Sesshomaru because she was so smart she figured out how to make him nice, then that's a Mary Sue.

If the person is there for a reason other than self-indulgence, then it's not a Mary Sue. If characters don't bow to the author's attitudes but remain In Character, then that's not a Mary Sue.

Really, Inuyasha was disappointing because it could have inspected a modern-day Alice In Wonderland/fairytale situation. Like, her dealing with all of the inconveniences of the time period, or figuring out which myths were true and which were false. But it turned into a Mary Sue romance with the world bending around her.

Seriously they could have put together 100 freaking jewels in all the episodes they had. To enable the stupid love triangles, they needed Kagome, who was only there for the Jewel... Mary Sue made more shards in order to stay there: hence, a Canon Sue. The otherwise sane world was rendered stupid to include her.
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:iconseldavia:
Seldavia Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2011
Yeah, Kagome is a Canon Sue. Though I doubt the creators ever thought to put much of the world in it outside of the romance. It might be interesting for us, but for most of the girls watching it (in Japan) it would just be a history lesson.

In other words, I think it was created for girls who like stupid romances, and the only reason it garnered interest here is because it seemed like a unique idea.
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:iconsilverbellsabove:
SilverBellsAbove Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2011
Well... it could have explored Japanese mythology and made more of the cool youkai instead of just making them all... generic. I mean. :|

But then it would have been made by Miyazaki and been called Spirited Away, SO THERE.
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:iconzomgwingly:
ZOMGwingly Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
A good statement. I think making a proper comment would be better when part 2 comes out. Indeed, it is all the attitude and execution, just like everything in writing and such.
People must differentiate between the symptoms and the disease. I think there is actually a similar statement on the universal Mary Sue litmus test.

One side shall be read in my normal voice.

The other shall be read in the manner of Teen Girl Squad.
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:iconseldavia:
Seldavia Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
Teen Girl Squad!!!

"I can do it! I can do it nine times!" XD
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:iconzomgwingly:
ZOMGwingly Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have a crush on every boy!

In fact, right after Miss Silverbells posted this meme, I got her over here, and pulled up an episode of Teen Girl Squad to help illustrate the point of "Similar characters being written differently," while at the same time having an excuse to watch Homestar Runner.

They all exist for the same purpose, which is to do vaguely teen girl related things before being killed off in over-the-top ways. THey all have vaguely different traits that differentiate them from one another, partially due to the fact that Homestar Runner has been around forever and has had time to grow like that. The only one of the girls I would call a Mary Sue would be Cheerleader, since due to her attitude, the story literally revolves around her, making everyone miserable, which would be the sign of a real Mary Sue if it wasn't being played completely for yucks.
I mean, look at how the tone of the story changes when she dies off first!

I'm just being silly, really. But as a critic of writing, I see the problem being adressed here a lot when people are just learning the ins and outs of critical thinking. Teen Girl Squad just happens to be something that is just absurd enough to be relevant.

That, and I love me some Homestar Runner.
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:iconseldavia:
Seldavia Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
I love Homestar Runner too. Haven't watched it in a while. My favorite Strong Bad Email is the one where his computer gets infected with a virus.

"It looks like the quadratic equation exploded!"
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