On Fanfiction: the Mary Sue Counteroffensive, part 2

Last entry, I talked about Mary Sues & some general tips for keeping them in control: research, fallibility, consequences.

Now it’s time to talk about the other big things that annoy people the most about Mary Sues:


Last time, I talked about the main Big Red Flag for Mary Sue-ness:  She Takes Over The ‘Verse With Her Awesome McCoolness.

Big Red Flag #2:  Everyone Loves Her.  Those Who Do Not Love Her Are Total Dickbags Scorned By The Rest of the Cast, or Worse.

In other words, you either love the Mary Sue Character or you’re a dirty scumbag, loser!  The entire world revolves around her, and that includes all the other characters; the whole cast is defined by who loves or hates the Sue. Canon characters like her immediately: they want to be like her, they want to be her friend, they want to fuck her, they admire her, they talk about her endlessly.  If a Canon Character doesn’t like the Sue, you can bet that’s a Character the Writer Hates (or is going to be the Big Bad of the story) & said Canon Character will then be shown as a total scumwad.

This makes for boring, annoying reading.  Say it with me, people: Wish Fulfillment Does Not Automatically Make Your Story Good.

In real life, just because someone doesn’t get along with you doesn’t mean they’re a bad person; someone who likes you isn’t necessarily a good person.  People are complex.  Someone who’s a dickwad to your OC should not automatically be a bad person, either.  If everyone you like in a ‘verse automatically loves your OC & thinks everything she does is wonderful, you’ve likely got a Sue on your hands.

Going back to my tales & good ol’ Mary-Sue-Bait Kris Mountainhawk — when she first meets the Hardy brothers, it’s not instant friendship.  She ignores them; she doesn’t trust them; she doesn’t want anything to do with them.  In return, the brothers are curious about the new kid, but don’t instantly like her; they even scare the living daylights out of her (without meaning to), and the Hardys’ actions get mistaken for bullying by the adults.  Even after they’ve become friends, there’s still lots of missteps: Frank gets (rightfully) angry when Kris sneaks out of a party; both brothers get upset with her when her misbehavior ends with them getting punished. There’s misunderstandings, they don’t agree with or like everything Kris does, they get angry, they fight…just like real kids.

Of the brothers’ friends, not everyone likes her, either.  Phil Cohen is distinctly unfriendly (the problem’s on both sides, too), but is a good guy & Frank’s best friend; Iola hangs out with a crowd of cheerleaders who bully Kris — though Iola isn’t a bully herself, she’s not buddy-buddy with Kris, either (and only acts friendly to get information out of her)…but is a kind, generous person, if somewhat self-centered. Callie’s okay with Kris, but not friends — and so on, & so on.  Kris doesn’t have many friends at school; she’s a bottom-scraper & an “out”, despite being friends with the Hardys.

In other words, your OC’s relationships to everyone in the ‘verse need to be real.  The Canon Characters aren’t going to instantly like your OC the moment she shows up.  They aren’t going to agree with everything she says; they’re not going to like everything she does. If she insults them, they’re going to get right back in her face (or at the very least, walk away & ignore her).

The same goes for Family Relationships.  I see this over & over in the Hardy Boys fanfic: someone introduced as “the Hardys’ younger sister” is always the Mary Sue, without fail, and such stories never get real family dynamics right at all.  The younger sister is always lovable, is always protected by the Canon Character Brother/Sister who will do anything to keep Mary Sue Sis safe, is always somehow “special”, is always a close & loving relationship, is….is…GAH.

Don’t you folks have real brothers & sisters??

I’m the oldest kid of four.  My brother (2 years younger) & I *hated* each other (we still don’t get along); he stole from us, bullied us (he once punched me out in front of his little league team, as we were waiting for Dad to bring the car with the gear), and in general was and is a lying SOB.  I got along much better with my sisters (especially now that we’re grown up), but man, as kids?  We seriously got on each others’ nerves.  I didn’t “protect” them out of some mystical “loving family relationship”, believe me — I had to watch them because The Parents would punish me if I let them get in trouble (Oldest Kid gets stuck being babysitter & surrogate parent for the younger kids). We all knew each others’ bad habits & personalities, both good and bad, and you never, ever, told your siblings a secret, because it wouldn’t remain that way — especially if tattling on you got them rewarded/praised by The Parents.  Older Siblings can be very, very resentful of their younger brothers & sisters, especially when Mommy & Daddy favor the younger ones & constantly expect the Older Sibs to somehow magically be Not A Child as an “example”…and yeah, I can go on & on.

Younger siblings are brats.

Now I know that all families & siblings are different, but those dynamics are usually there, in some form, across the board.  The good Hardy Boys fanfic gets that dynamic right: Frank is the mature-for-his-age Older Brother, Joe edges into brat-dom with his impulsiveness…but the brothers are still best friends, since they’re really close in age (just like my two sisters were best friends with each other growing-up, since they were only a year apart). But just like any siblings, they fight, they’re brats, they get in trouble, they tattle — they act like real sisters & brothers would.

This should be your OC, too.  If you’re going to make the OC a sibling of a Canon Character, then make her act just like a real sibling would — and the Canon Character is going to react to her just like a real brother/sister would.  Your OC acts like a brat, it’s going to start a fight; the Canon Character (especially if he/she is the Older Sib) is going to fight back or act to stop the fight — or shut Younger Sib up by any means necessary so The Parents don’t come storming in.

That’s the key to circumventing the Mary Sue Relationship Trap:  make them real.

Next up: the Purple Prose Descriptive Nuke.

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