Thursday, May 1, 2008

Question of the day

What is a Mary Sue?
I see this term thrown around a lot, but I'm never really sure what a Mary Sue really is.

Sometimes I think it means a pretty  heroine everybody is in love with. Is that it? 

I know it's bad for a heroine to be a Mary Sue, and I've seen it applied to Sookie Stackhouse. Is she a Mary Sue?  What is a Mary Sue, and why are Mary Sue's bad?  

Tomorrow: more fawning and gushing over Magic Bites, the book that just gets better and better. 

22 comments:

Lone Chatelaine said...

I always thought a Mary-Sue was a goody-two-shoes kind of girl. Never does anything wrong, never tells a lie, never swears, etc...all to the point of being sort of self righteous and hard to like.

Shannon said...

In fanfic it is when the author basically makes themself the heroine. They love the show so much that they write a story with a heroine that is a replica of themself (with a different name) and the hero of the show falls in love with them. At least, that is what I have been lead to believe. I could be wrong.

In romancelandia it could mean something completely different, though.

Katie(babs) said...

Isn't a Mary Sue when the author inserts certain characteristics of her own into her heroine?
Sometimes sweet Mary Sue Sunshine does get on my nerves.

Carolyn Jean said...

LC: That sort of rings a bell - is there a song about a Mary Sue like that?

Shannon & KB: you guys have a similar definition, but how does anybody know what kind of person the author is? Like, if I'm a gloomy person, would a gloomy heroine be a Mary Sue? Or is it more with looks?

Katie(babs) said...

Well, I know some people a few years ago accused Nora Roberts of making Eve a Mary Sue with Eve since Nora has a picture of herself on the back of her JD Robb books with short hair and a leather jacket, much like Eve wears.
Also Laurel K Hamilton was also accused of this big time when she divorced her husband and from then on the whole tone of her Anita Blake series changed.

Carolyn Jean said...

Oh, right, I remember that.

So you're saying the Mary Sue is more about the author's relationship to the heroine. So if you know nothing about the author, a character can't be a Mary Sue?

This is interesting. Not what I thought!

Katie(babs) said...

CJ: I think you have said it perfectly That's why sometimes it is not always the best thing to know so much about an author.

lisabea said...

I think this term is used both ways. I read "a bit of a Mary Sue.." and I know that it means a perfect do gooder good girl...and other times I read it as you've stated KB.It's contextual.

Sarai said...

I thought it was like Lone said? Guess I might be wrong. That's what my dad would call the too good to be true must have a major flaw or really a slut underneath girls (Dad had a good way of explaining stuff so I could understand)

Holly said...

CJ: From Wikipedia:

Mary Sue, sometimes shortened simply to Sue, is a pejorative term used to describe a fictional character who plays a major role in the plot on such a scale that suspension of disbelief fails due to the character's traits, skills and abilities being tenuously or inadequately justified. Such a character is particularly characterised by overly idealized and clichéd mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors. Perhaps the single underlying feature of all characters described as "Mary Sues" is that they are too ostentatious for the audience's taste, or that the author seems to favor the character too highly. The author may seem to push how exceptional and wonderful the "Mary Sue" character is on his or her audience, sometimes leading the audience to dislike or even resent the character fairly quickly - kind of an "author's pet" effect.

Read more here.

Basically, Mary Sue is a character the author tells us is wonderful and perfect and amazing, because that's how the author sees her, but unfortunately she (the author) was unable to show us readers that. We were told, but not shown. Does that make sense?

Sarah said...

I do love wiki and urban dictionary. The 3rd def down here http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Mary-Sue has a kinda funny fan fic Mary Sue.

Angela James said...

I agree with Holly's definition, it's how I use it myself.

As an example, men would think the character is gorgeous, she might have enemies, but she makes the most unlikely friends, who support her and want to help her in odd or precarious situations. I think writing a Mary Sue is particularly easy to do in fantasy.

Dorothy, from Wizard of Oz, might be considered a Mary Sue.

Thea said...

My interpretation of a Mary Sue is a heroine that is TOO perfect. She can be a goody two shoes, she can be ALL POWERFUL!, she can be someone who never ever makes a wrong decision (and if she does, it's not her fault), she is too selfless, too TOO.

Basically, what Holly said :p

Interesting though, did you know the term actually originated from a Star Trek fanfic? Cool, eh? :)

Carolyn Jean said...

Okay, I think everybody here is a little bit of a word NERD, and me too, I guess, because, this is all really super fascinating, not to mention so helpful.

I love all of these sources, and everybody's slightly personal perspectives. This is totally what I needed! Mary Sue. Who knew.

Tumperkin said...

great post CJ and great answers! I just thought a Mary Sue was a goodytwoshoes - turns out she's so much more than that. I love that term "author's pet".

Tumperkin said...

Oh and for the record, my top Mary Sue of all time has to be Ayla from Jean Auel's books. She's gorgeous but thinks she's ugly, is a top-healer, top-hunter, top-forager, invents medicine, invents practically everything else (prolly the wheel), is the first human being in the world to understand conception, and is the only woman in the world with a vagina big enough to accommodate the immense proportions of the Fabio-like Jondalar.

She really got on my wick.

Carolyn Jean said...

Oh, I really hated that Ayla! Excellent call, T. I once had this lame anthropology class where the professor made us read that book and construct a clay model of the village they made. But it definitely was not the book where Ayla accomodated the hugeness of Jondalar.

lisabea said...

Hey. If it's a m/m novel, what do you call him?

Carolyn Jean said...

Hey LB, look at Sarah's urban dictionary source - it says there. I think it's something like Marty-Stu.

Sarai said...

Hey CJ you won the contest over at my sight come and pick up a book (or just email me at saraijohnson@hotmail.com) and i will send over with it The Duke and I!

Thea said...

tumperkin--Oh Ayla makes me so angry! Didn't she also invent the concept of zero? GAAH.

Another annoying one for me was Janelle from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books. So, she's immensely beautiful, the one Witch who will save everyone, all powerful (she has like 13 of the most powerful dark jewels that no one ever gets, plus gets her very own special color jewel at the end with even more power), etc, etc, etc.

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