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Hey all, I'm billymorph, a semi-professional writer, self-published author and full-time pony fan. If you enjoy my work, please support me on Patreon!

More Blog Posts29

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The Dread Mary Sue · 10:30pm Mar 1st, 2015

This blog was writted in reference to the Humans in Equestria Club Chapter 10: God Slayer

So this week I’m going to talk about Mary Sues. This might have something to do with the fact that Alexis almost did a Rainboom last chapter, but it’s probably a coincidence ;).

Mary Sues are endemic in fan-fic, though the actual definition of a Mary Sue is pretty loose. We can all spot the red and black alicorn from a mile away, and the Human in Equestria genre is pretty much built on a foundation of Sues, but there’s no form to fill out. In general I tend to call out a character when they break the story they’re in. When their power level is just too high for the threats against them. When they are irrationally popular, or just don’t have anything go wrong for them.

It’s an arbitrary line though. People will call out all sorts of character as Mary Sues that I would never consider. I was amazed to find out Nyx from Past Sins had been labeled as a Mary Sue, for example. On the flip side, there are characters like Erin from Project: Sunflower, who I’d definitely slap a Mary Sue label on, but she seems to get a pass most of the time.

Of course, having some Sue traits is hardly a killer for a story. I like the HiE genre enough that I’ll let a lot of things slide, so Heartbreak from Heartbroken is fine for me. She’s a Mary Sue, but not a bad one, and the story is entertaining enough to carry me past that. In the same vein Sunbeam from Denuo Fortuna and Samus from Mystara’s Little Ponies are fine because, though they still have that irrational popularity, the story can carry you through.

Many Sue traits are hard to dodge as well. After all being important to the plot is necessary to be a protagonist, but it’s a balance between promoting your own OC over the existing cast. Second Chance from My Little Apprentice seems to get flack for just that reason, even though I feel most of the Sue traits are justified by the story.

This all brings me back to HiEC. Alex is the centre of the story, (now) blessed with powers beyond the average pony, friends with at least some of the Mane Six, and that ticks a lot of Sue boxes.

So in the end, what makes a Mary Sue? You tell me.

Report billymorph · 654 views · Story: The Humans in Equestria Club ·
Comments ( 13 )

Anyone or anything that is so powerful and perfect, that nothing can hurt them both mentally or physically at any point in their life. While at the same being the picture of the word relaxed while doing whatever they are doing.

My line of Mary Sue-ism is pretty much defined by Not The Hero, in terms of Anon. The classical definition of "warps the fabric of any setting where they are the most important aspect of the story and the characters within". Even though Discord is the narrator, he is obsessed with trying to figure out the extent of Anon's powers and how he can counter them. Probably the only example I can think of where the Mary Sue isn't the actual protagonist.

With pony stories it's a bit harder of course, since all the stories revolve around the protagonist. That's the point of them being the protagonist in non-epics. And while, say, Erin from Project: Sunflower is a Sue of some kind, the entire story goes beyond her. It's just we are limited to her perspective for the most part, and she actually does have an important role that is justified by the story.

Upon entering the M6's lives, is the protagonist the most important aspect of their lives? Does everything in the setting now act in response to the protagonist only? Those are really the main things I focus on when trying to decide if a protagonist reaches true Mary Sue levels. Otherwise, it's like asking if the main character from First Pony View is a Mary Sue. It kind of misses the point.

A lot of stuff happens off-screen in the Humans In Equestria Club, and Alex gets the short end of many sticks. She is incapacitated for at least a quarter of the events that happen in the story. But more than that, she's a symbol. She doesn't want to be, but she is, and thus as a kind of avatar she should be expected to have some kind of impact on the story, especially when the stakes got raised far above her pay grade earlier.

You know, I always like finding those blogs. It's interesting to see what other writers think of some litterary concept. The Mary Sue question is one I've tried examining before too, by making a blog post about it as well. If that interests you.

Still, I think I can give the big lines of the concept for me. It's similar to what you define. I consider a Maru Sue to be an unrealistic character, one that breaks the suspension of disbelief. They are just those characters that make the story look like a story and not an immersive experience. In the same way, I think comedy is the genre where they're more tolerated, because people are already expecting things to break expectations to make them laugh.

Another great way to describe them is Conflict Killer. If the existence of the character makes the story contrived or unbelievably simplistic, then you might have a sue on your hands.

I cannot think of a good example of them on the fly within the fandom, but I think I have one of a god-mode stu that works because the story doesn't take him too seriously. I'm thinking of Jack Rakan from Negima. Here, I think this should give you an idea: fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2011/201/5/a/rakan_laughs_at_you_by_andarion-d412j4d.jpg

"Mary Sue" doesn't mean anything anymore. It's been stretched beyond all recognition thanks to over-use. If it has any faint meaning left, it's basically: "story and/or character that I personally disapprove of."

I recently read an article (by Brandon Sanderson, I think it was) who talked about writing good characters. Turns it works pretty well for discussing what makes a character a Mary Sue.

He said it really helps to look at what a character can't do instead of looking at what a character can do. He used Superman as his example. The guy's got a bunch of OP powers and he's basically invincible. Sure, he has a weakness, but that's not how you make an interesting character out of someone who's so OP. Nah, what makes Superman such an interesting and compelling character is his strict moral code and how that guides his actions. He has to stop all these bad guys, and he can wipe them out so easily because he's OP, but he refuses to kill them. The bad guys can then exploit his moral code and twist it to their own benefit. It creates interesting dynamics between Superman and the villains. It creates an interesting story.

So Mary Sues are characters who aren't necessarily OP, and it's not that they don't have weaknesses, but it's that they don't have to struggle for anything. It gets a bit murkier when there's artificial struggle involved, but that's the core of every Mary Sue.

There is no Mary Sue, just badly written characters. Sure there are some common flaws in protagonists, but Mary Sue is neither a useful definition or a meaningful generalization.

Unless you mean the actual original character named Mary Sue.

A true Mary Sue/Gary Stu is a character in which they extend little/no effort for things yet get maximum returns on everything. Any sense of conflict or flaws feel forced and possibly exist for the sake of having them.

I think I'd tend to agree with your definition of a Sue. If the story holding or containing the character is good enough, you can overlook and forgive an original character for checking some of these arbitrary boxes.
Plus it has been diluted as a meaningful term, as some have mentioned above, due to people using it too much and as a convenient buzzword for 'stories I don't like' once it became commonly known.

One of White Wolf's Exalted books said it best when they said - and I'm paraphrasing - "Your heroes are probably never going to be the most powerful players in the entire world, nor should they be, but they are by far the most important players to the story you're telling." And that's what Alexis is to me. She's influencing a lot of events because she's the main character, and even causing some, but she's not (yet - and I hope she never will) directing all of them. She has to be important but the story also has to have things that others can do instead of her.

Now see, if she'd actually lead the God Slayer (rather than following in its wake), burst the barrier herself, will lead the attack (instead of Celestia), and personally defeat Chrysalis with some sort of macguffin... That's too much personal messing with the metaplot.

Still, I can hear Mary-Ann back in ponyville whispering to someone, "I... I think I just dodged a bullet!"

(Also, I kind of want to see a side story detailing the trials and hijinks of Mary-Ann as Equestria's resident not-alicorn.)

P.S. According to some people any alicorn OC is a Mary-Sue. IE, Nyx. There's a "test" that says so. (Alicorns automatically score 50 points, and 30+ is Mary-Sue territory.) :derpytongue2:

To me the Mary Sue symptom is not much related to the fact that the main character has uber powers, that renders all opposition pointless, but rater the absence of the emotional struggle that come with the conflict. I find that what makes the «Dread» Mary Sue, in terms of adventure stores, is that if you know in advance that the main character is going to make the right moral choice and easily at than, than there is no point . I find that the best characters are, in my opinion, those how have deep flaws within them selves and that they struggle to overcome them and become stronger for it. though adversity they grow from being a weak flawed individuals to strong and mature individuals.

I was first introduces to fim-fiction through F0:E. and what I like about that universe (at least for the better stores) is that the flaws of these charterers guide them as much as there quality and that is reflect in the choices they make. For example: Lil'pip is a drug addict , Silver Storm is droning in her own gilt, Black Jack struggle between being a dispenser of Justice or be an executioner and little Murky Number Seven learns to free him self from his own mind as much as his masters. All do toward the end of the story these characters become near unstoppable in there they have earn there ability trough there own internal turmoil as much as facing challenges.

This line of Character development is as old as Gilgamesh, and it is still how the best character are made.
What kills a character in a story, that they become Mary Sue for me, is when the possess of solving a problem or obstacle is straightforward needing no more than feasts and that there is no fallout resulting from it.

It gives me great pleasure to see that what raises the Mary Sue flag is getting more and more strict. This tells me that not only are we as a fandom getting better at writing characters, we're getting better at reading them. Our standards are raising.

But what do I call a Maru Sue? good question. You can list traits and conditions galore for what constitutes a Mary Sue, and you may never be wrong. But you may never be right either. You called out Nyx and Sunflower. Both have a lot of traits Sue-ish traits. Heck, Nyx is an Alicorn with god-like power and Sunflower starts off as a cybernetically augmented super-pony. But I'd say that neither is a Mary Sue. A good litmus test is if people care about the story. If any story has a strong following, the protagonist is likely not a true Mary Sue.

But that doesn't answer the question. What do I call a Mary Sue. I call a Mary Sue any character that has the story written for them, rather than be a character in the story.

It does not matter how ultra powerful, how beautiful, how well liked, how smart or how clever the character is. If they are a part of the story, then it is ok. But when the story is told for the sake of showing off the character, then you end up with a poorly told tale.

Also, many people are under the impression that only OCs can be Mary Sues. This is not true. Canon characters can be Mary Sues too. You write a story that is told purely to hype your favorite pony? You just Sue-d your protagonist.

Bad story.

No seriously, this is the only thing that makes a 'mary sue' a problem.

You can define a mary sue however you want, but unless it causes you to stop reading it's not a real mary sue. Otherwise it's just a superman/batman/whatever you want to call a character that is typically better than its opponents, but is still entertaining despite that. A mary sue goes beyond that and is no longer entertaining to its reader.

It's all a matter of perception.

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