That’s “Sue” as in short for Susan, not the verb. For those who don’t know, a Mary Sue is the perfect female. She is beautiful and perfect at everything within that fandom. Her biggest problem is choosing between Alpha Hero #1 and Alpha Hero #2. You should know that I hate Mary Sues–not the characters, the term.
When I first heard this term, I was terrified; I even put my character through multiple tests. Was my OC one of this dreaded roving band of beautiful, intelligent, multi-talented women? I was disconsolate to find that, yes, indeed, my Deirdre was a Mary Sue. I nearly chucked my writing in the bin at that point. But I soldiered on after finding that not everyone believed the band of nay-sayers who claimed that Mary Sues would destroy a story.
Good Lord, what was the world coming to, when authors wanted to write about a heroine who was–get this–good at stuff and attractive and intelligent. Say it isn’t so! Because we all want to read about ugly, stupid, clumsy women. Since I firmly believe that some writing lends itself to a bit of author insertion and wish fulfillment, shall we take a moment to contemplate what kind of sick bitch wants to be ugly, stupid and clumsy instead of beautiful, intelligent and talented? Sorry, the moment is over. Now I understand that their gripe stems from the fact that a Mary Sue is supposedly utterly flawless.
Goodness knows, we never see this in popular culture–never would we see a beautiful, rich, intelligent woman succeed against all odds. We’d never see her get the right guy, win over her enemies and make them friends/advocates, and defeat the bad guy in the end. Never. Anyone ever hear of a little movie called “Legally Blonde”? If you haven’t, Google it. Elle Woods would be considered a Mary Sue by the fan fic writing police.
After I discovered that my Deirdre (who, by the way, looks a bit like Ms. Witherspoon) could not only show as a Mary Sue, but could still collect a band of loyal readers who were interested in her escapades, I continued writing. During my depression over her perfection though, I did add a scar over her eyebrow and an inability to hit the broadside of a barn with bow and arrow. To this day, the judging of those snobs who believed the Mary Sue doctrine pisses me off when I think of how close I came to throwing in the writing towel because of them.
The lesson? If you like to write, write. Not everyone is Nora Roberts or Sherrilyn Kenyon out of the starting gate. It takes training and time and persistence to even approach the finish line with prolific, talented writers. I’ve heard a quote attributed to Nora Roberts, and I may be using words she would not, as I’m paraphrasing: “Crap can be edited, a blank page cannot.” Honestly, that’s the whole idea behind NaNoWriMo–write. Write crap full of misspellings and mistakes, but write. You can edit later. It’s also the whole idea behind my Little Bites Challenge (see my Blogger blog for the word tracker)–just write, even if all you have time for is 250 words a day.
Post your writing if you want to. Use a beta reader and a critique partner to find grammar mistakes, misspellings (spell-check can’t differentiate if a properly spelled word is mis-used), characters not behaving as they should be (in your world), unity (are the hero’s eyes described as blue in one passage and a few pages/chapters later described as brown), voice, and flow. If someone doesn’t like your characters, they don’t have to continue reading. As one of my writing friends says, “that’s what the back button’s for”.