(Okay, so, below is an expanded and revised version of a blogpost I already made, though not here on my brand-sparkling-new blog :o)–I feel like I didn’t say enough about it, because of course I never do…
I’ve been EXCORIATED by various people for writing a Mary Sue as my heroine in my seven book serial. Okay, maybe “excoriated” is too strong a word. I mean, you have to care, like, really care, to excoriate someone. So maybe the capital letters are a bit over the top.
For those of you who don’t know, the term “Mary Sue” commonly refers to a character who’s too perfect to be real and is obviously a projection of the author’s own desires onto a character. Everyone loves her. She can do anything, and if she can’t do it, it’s not worth doing. She’s morally on the correct side of anything, and is sexually anything but promiscuous. Or else being promiscuous has no negative repercussions for her and those around her, and has its roots in Something Bad that happened to her when she was younger. She is usually lusted after, or least romantically coveted, by all around her. And everyone who doesn’t like her is evil. Or vile, if you want the same letters in a different order.
The above effectively defines and lampoons my girl, I think. Very informative and hilarious read, BTW.
The term has its origins in Star Trek fanfic, of all things; it turns out that fanfic itself has its origins in Star Trek; who knew? Anyway, “Mary Sue” has evolved over the years from a trope very specific to Star Trek to a huge term with myriad meanings. My particular MS is known as “Perfect Sue”, for obvious reasons.
Regarding the above definition of a MS, check, check, and check again. My heroine is all of the above. Great, I devoted every waking moment of my life for the past few years to creating a huge and constantly ridiculed stereotype.
Even people within my family and circle of friends, who obviously have a vested interest in not alienating me (or pissing me off) have huge issues with my heroine: Why do all the boys (in the band she works for) have to love her? Why does she seem to define herself in terms of how the boys see her? Why did she have to be a shy, introverted virgin, for fuck’s sake?? She has, apparently by her very existence, set the women’s movement back, like, DECADES. Or she will, if my books get popular.
But. I’m writing teen romance, aimed at young people, probably girls and women, who have an idealized view of the world, who are looking to escape into the pages of a book. They don’t necessarily want to read a realistic rendering of the world around them, that’s why they found my book in the first place; and besides, there are books which can show them that other, very real world, if that’s what they want. Just not mine. Not the first one, anyway.
What’s the problem?
And also, who’s to say my Mary Sue stays that way? She’s like anyone, the cracks don’t always show right away. She says and does some not so good things on down the line, and some not-so-nice things happen to her, too, as a result of choices she makes, though not until the later books.
Only two of my books have been published, and I thought long and hard about how to change her, to make her less perfect, less MarySue-ish, for the next five, and you know what? Not gonna do it. I like her, “just as she is”, in the words of Mark Darcy, who is a Gary Stu (the male equivalent, don’t you love the name?) BTW, if ever there was one. My heroine is who she is because she worked, damned hard, at the things she’s good at, and she’s a nice, kind-hearted person because she was RAISED THAT WAY. I’m not trying to solve the world’s problems, nor have I written the next Lolita, lovely as that would be. I wanted a character who was smart and talented, and would be loved by “her boys”, the people around her; I wanted them to appreciate her and enjoy being with her, and they do (they are probably “Gary Stu”s, too, especially Matty, who is definitely “practically perfect in every way”).
I got a text from a beta reader about this very thing late one night, when I was fretting over my girl’s “MarySue-ishness”:
“(The book) is about telling young girls it’s OKAY to be good and amazing and big-hearted and it’s also okay to be shy and teary-eyed. It’s about developing relationships with…people who are so close they are practically a part of you.”
Needless to say, I love this beta. Very much.
So is Tink, my character, a Mary Sue? Yeah.