Skip to main content

But they were your friends

Whenever a character serves as an improved or idealized version of his or her author, as a vehicle for the author's fantasies of power, allure, virtue or accomplishment rather than as an integral part of the story, that character is a Mary Sue. He may resemble his creator in most respects, but he drives a hotter car, lives in a posher part of town and has a cooler job. She may be as moody and self-absorbed as the novelist who invented her, but instead of boring the people around her these traits only enhance her crazy-girl magnetism, making her the center of everybody else's world as well as her own.

[. . .]

Because genre fiction tends to trade in wish fulfillment to begin with, you're far more likely to find shameless Mary Sues in mediocre mysteries, science fiction and romance novels.

[. . .]

What irks readers about Mary Sues is that telltale whiff of an ulterior motive. Instead of contributing to the seamless fictional experience readers want from a book, this character, they sense, is really a daydream the author is having about herself. It's an imposition, being unwittingly enlisted in somebody else's narcissistic fantasy life, like getting flashed in the park. And just about as much fun. (Laura Miller, “A reader’s advice to writers: Beware of Mary Sue,” Salon, 21 April 2010)

Come to know your Mary Sues

If someone is prone to create Mary Sues, they've got a psychological problem. If they attend to your advice and keep writing, my guess is not that the psychological problem has gone away, but that they now feed off creating characters that are more pleasing to the high-brow.

If you create Mary Sues, you've got a HUGE problem. Psychological turn-around may in fact come from spending more time attending to the Mary Sues you tend to create, with exactly what you are doing with them, rather than abandoning them quickly for the quick-fix turn to the literary. Also, Mary Sues are likely compensatory: there's a (much) better way to be than that, but until you managed the considerable self-change required so you have no further need of them, their service deserves some respect from you -- they weren't the friends you deserve, but they were your friends.

Link: A reader's advice to writers: Beware of Mary Sue (Salon)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Superimposing another "fourth-wall" Deadpool

I'd like to superimpose the fourth-wall breaking Deadpool that I'd like to have seen in the movie. In my version, he'd break out of the action at some point to discuss with us the following:
1) He'd point out that all the trouble the movie goes to to ensure that the lead actress is never seen completely naked—no nipples shown—in this R-rated movie was done so that later when we suddenly see enough strippers' completely bared breasts that we feel that someone was making up for lost time, we feel that a special, strenuous effort has been made to keep her from a certain fate—one the R-rating would even seemed to have called for, necessitated, even, to properly feed the audience expecting something extra for the movie being more dependent on their ticket purchases. That is, protecting the lead actress was done to legitimize thinking of those left casually unprotected as different kinds of women—not as worthy, not as human.   


2) When Wade/Deadpool and Vanessa are excha…

"The Zookeeper's Wife" as historical romance

A Polish zoologist and his wife maintain a zoo which is utopia, realized. The people who work there are blissfully satisfied and happy. The caged animals aren't distraught but rather, very satisfied. These animals have been very well attended to, and have developed so healthily for it that they almost seem proud to display what is distinctively excellent about them for viewers to enjoy. But there is a shadow coming--Nazis! The Nazis literally blow apart much of this happy configuration. Many of the animals die. But the zookeeper's wife is a prize any Nazi officer would covet, and the Nazi's chief zoologist is interested in claiming her for his own. So if there can be some pretence that would allow for her and her husband to keep their zoo in piece rather than be destroyed for war supplies, he's willing to concede it.

The zookeeper and his wife want to try and use their zoo to house as many Jews as they can. They approach the stately quarters of Hitler's zoologist …

"Life" as political analogy, coming to you via Breitbart News

Immediately after seeing the film, I worked over whether or not the movie works as something the alt-right would produce to alienate us from the left. Mostly the film does work this way  -- as a sort of, de facto, Breitbart production -- I decided, though it's not entirely slam-dunk. There is no disparagement evident for the crew of the space station being a multicultural mix, for instance. Race is not invisible in the film; it feels conspicuous at times, like when the Japanese crew member is shown looking at his black wife on video conference; but the film maker, wherever he was actually raised, seems like someone who was a longtime habitat of a multicultural milieu, some place like London, and likes things that way. But the film cannot convince only as macabre relating to our current fascination with the possibility of life on Mars -- what it no doubt pretends to be doing -- because the idea of “threat” does not permeate this interest at all, whereas it absolutely saturates our …