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Saturday, January 16, 2016

In Which I Take The Mary Sue Test

I found this link  in a post on author Susan Price's 'Nennius' Blog. It's aimed at writers who can check it out to see if their main character is a Mary Sue, or the male equivalent which I call a Mark Sam, though who knows? I followed the link from the post - which you should also read, it's a delightful post, so here's the link:

The test only works if you're honest and if you're not, the results can pick it!  And very funny they are, too. I decided to see if my hero, Etienne, the protagonist of Wolfborn, was a Mark Sam. He wasn't, it seems. And as I'd answered honestly the results showed that, but were still funny.

The questions go through a hilarious bunch of YA fantasy fiction tropes you recognise, even to picking some of the books you've read that have them. In some ways, it's more than about Mary Sue, it's about cliches in fantasy fiction, especially YA.

Even if you're not a writer, you can have fun with analysing the characters in your favourite novels. Go on, follow the links and let me know what happened.


Lan said...

I always thought the opposite of a Mary-Sue was a Gary-Stu. Glad that Etienne passed the test.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Entirely possible. In my day we called him Mark Sam. Just be aware that the author who came up with the term was, the last time I heard from her, alive and well and teaching maths at a university in Canada. Paula Smith, who was a pen pal of mine years ago, before the Internet, would probably chuckle at the argument. ;-) Anyway, Etienne came out as a sensibly created character whom I allowed space. Now you have a novel out there, why don't you follow the link and see how your heroine comes out? It's fun!

Pamela said...

Sue. This is possibly the best thing on the internet. I was laughing so hard--I put myself in and pretended I, as a person, were a character, since I haven't written a book. My very favorite was the name pronunciation one: linguistically gifted or Welsh. Zing!

As I was going through it, I realized that some of my very favorite kick-butt female protagonists had a lot of Mary Sue characteristics, but the author gave them enough challenges to make them human and not just a wish-fulfillment role. Specifically, I was thinking of Alanna. Purple eyes, red hair, graced by the Goddess with a super-awesome magical cat companion to boot ... and yet, she screws up a lot. She owns her mistakes and gets better. She doesn't let the story carry her; she makes her own story.

I didn't realize the term "Mary Sue" came from Trekkie fanfic! And yeah, I definitely use "Gary Stu"--was there a reason Mark Sam was used previously? So cool to see the evolution of this (unfortunate) trend.

Sue Bursztynski said...

So glad you enjoyed it! And yes, you can use your favourite books if you haven't written one yourself, why not?

These days, "Mary Sue" is used contemptuously and dismissively for a tough female character, rather unfair, I think, because whether it's Gary Stu or Mark Sam, they don't often use the term for male characters, however they fit. The thing is, though, that in fan fiction these stories were usually written by young girls who inserted themselves into a story featuring their favourite male character. My laughter at those is indulgent; the authors usually outgrew them.

I think I'd rather call them tropes. All fiction has those. And you and I know, after all the YA books we read as children's librarians, that they have a LOT of these tropes. Girls LIKE to read what we would call Mary Sue, and there's a lot of it in on line fan fiction. My niece Dezzy is a big fan of Maze Runner and of course, has written her own Mary Sue story or two in that universe. Hey, she's a teenager!

Yes, I actually have that Paula Smith story. She was a pen pal of mine for some years before she vanished(to Canada, it turns out, where she teaches mathematics). Who would have thought one little piece of fan fiction would lead to such a generally used term? I bet Paula never did!