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Fictional Planet: Mary Sue Edition

September 6, 2010

We try to be aware of the environment here at Integalactic Writers Inc. We like animals. This ecological awareness includes our literary environment. Today, we’re meeting one of the creatures that roams across our screens, and through the pages of our books. Please enjoy this primer on… the Mary Sue.

Life Cycle

A Mary Sue is born when an author inserts him/herself into a story. The infant Mary Sue will immediately set about charming the other characters and making their fictional world a better place (though any characters disliked by the author will fervently hate the Sue, despite the Sue’s kindness towards them). As the Sue grows up, she will attract the attention of whichever character the author deems “hot” or is otherwise infatuated with. Naturally, this character will be unable to resist the Sue. Sues usually live happily ever after, though they may sacrifice themselves to save their unholy progeny children/spouse/friend/world.

Habitat

Mary Sues (and their male counterpart, Gary Stus) typically make their home in fanfics. They are found in all universes, but are particularly common in Twilight, Harry Potter, Phantom of the Opera, Star Trek, Eragon, etc.  Sues occasionally range into published novels. The violet blooms of purple prose often attract Sues.

Identifying Features

Not sure if it’s a Sue? Or a Stu? Here’s a handy guide to the Sues’ most common characteristics.

Unusual, “exotic” name

May be an animal’s name, a name with altered spelling, a made-up name, a name from another place/time… it usually won’t be one you recognize.

Tragic Past

Sues have lousy childhoods. They may have had cruel families, or they lived in poverty, or they’re orphans, or (in)directly responsible for their family’s demise. Secret relations to royalty/canon characters are also common. Perhaps they were stricken with a rare disease that they bravely overcame, made better, more sensitive people by their fight.

Unique Physicality

“Trembling, she faced him, a single crystalline tear leaking from her sapphire orbs. It stained her smooth cheek. With a creamy hand, Percebe tossed her mauve-and-copper  hair, and tucked it behind one of her fox’s ears. ‘I know I’m a half-vulpine,’ she whispered sibilantly through pointed, ivory teeth. ‘And you’re a vampire-elf. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be together!'”

Did you notice our Sue’s physical characteristics? Generally speaking, Sues have unusual

  • Hair (colour, changes colour, length, glossiness)
  • Orbs* (colour, intensity, soulfulness, one missing, piercing, dreamy, hypnotizing)
  • Body shape (slim, athletic/muscular, a flaw to make them “relatable,” either admirably tall or adorably short)
  • Background (mix of human/other species, mix of national and/or ethnic backgrounds)
  • Skin (glowing, creamy, flawless, rosy cheeks, sparkly)
  • Teeth (pointed, white, sparkling, inhumanly clean, would put dentists out of work)
  • Lips (pouty, full, deep colour, eminently kissable)
  • Markings (cool scars, tattoos, birthmarks)

* Sues do not have eyes. They have orbs.

Special Powers

Sues are smarter than geniuses. They are luckier than a leprechaun wearing horseshoes and a coat made of rabbits’ feet. Their sexual prowess and presence reduces any member of the opposite sex (or same sex) to jelly. If there’s magic in their world, they can use it sooner, better, and faster than everyone else, and are exempt from the rules governing its use. Otherwise, they have a special skill. Whether piloting, painting, shooting, or knitting, they have an “affinity” for their talent, and are the best anyone’s ever seen.

And, oh yes, most Sues have lovely singing voices.

Flaws

We all know that people aren’t really perfect. To make Sues relatable, they may have a flaw. Emphasis on “a flaw,” as in: flaw, singular. This flaw will be endearing. Something like clumsiness, or exaggerated modesty, or shyness. You know, nothing that signals a moral defect, or will stop the Sue getting what she wants. If there’s a physical flaw, it’s probably something like a scar. Or “mousy” hair. Or glasses.

Diet

Sues are rarely seen to be eating, but if they do, it’s healthy. Tofu, yogurt, that sort of thing. Alternatively, a Sue may “splurge” on a burger because she’s a “tomboy,” and also, she has a fast metabolism.

Of more importance to Sues’ wellbeing is the constant stream of attention and admiration. Lack of romantic liaisons will cause the typical Sue to waste away. Similarly, if their specialness is not recognized and affirmed, the Sue will suffer severe shock. An emergency hookup or night of passion may be needed in this case.

Conservation

While the Sue is by no means endangered, it is a favourite target of critics. Hunting down and deriding Sues have reduced their numbers, albeit insignificantly.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a pest, but an  essential figure in the literary landscape. Conservation of the Sue is therefore vital. Mary Sues provide motivation to fledgling authors- learning to write through bad fanfic is better than not writing at all.

And don’t forget: the Mary Sue is an important source of Vitamin A.*

*That’s A for “Amusement”

Thanks for joining this week’s edition of Fictional Planet. Until next time!

-Arvik

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One comment

  1. This made me laugh a bit, good work, and you’re on my blogroll.



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