Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
About Digital Art / Professional Cary A. Morton31/Female/United States Group :icondigitalfingerprint: DigitalFingerprint
Recent Activity
Deviant for 7 Years
Needs Core Membership
Statistics 598 Deviations 20,576 Comments 292,359 Pageviews

Newest Deviations





Mary Sue. It’s the phrase that makes nearly every writer cringe. To have a character labeled a Mary Sue is probably one of the worst feelings in the world, but why is that? What exactly is a Mary Sue?

The term Mary Sue originated as, yah you guessed it, a character named Mary Sue in the 1973 Paula Smith story entitled “A Trekkie’s Tale”. The story was a parody fan fiction centered around a 15 year old girl who epitomized the Mary Sue term we know and dread today. She was the youngest, smartest, prettiest, most well-trained teen ever to grace the Star Trek universe. Not surprisingly, the character was so ridiculously over-done that readers could only sit back, shake their heads, and laugh over how nauseating the character was.

Now, the original Mary Sue was a parody, but what she stood for was a very real problem. Throughout fan fiction and amateur writing at the time there was a prevalent trend of young female characters often characterized by an overblown assortment of skills, beauty, and intelligence. These characters were often the protégé’s or love interests of older canonized characters, and Paula Smith was right to point a finger at them and say “Look how ridiculous these characters are. Why are we letting authors get away with this?”

The term Mary Sue has changed a bit since then, but the core definition remains the same: A Mary Sue is a character that is often categorized as wish-fulfilling or as a self-insertion/proxy of the author. The character is usually endowed with a wide assortment of positive characteristics that makes all but the very worst of plot conflicts a breeze. They are usually “the best”at any number of things, or somehow special in a way that no other characters in the story are.

Chances are, if you’re a budding writer, you’re probably worried about creating a Mary Sue. No one likes to be told that their characters fall into this category, and there are any number of articles and “tests” you can find on the internet that will tell you what you can and can’t do to a character to prevent them from becoming a Mary Sue. These usually also get tagged with the advice “your character should have an equal amount of positive traits/flaws”. They aren’t wrong, but before you freak out and start taking quizzes that are somehow magically supposed to tell you if your character is a dreaded Mary Sue, take a deep breath.

Okay. Here’s the thing… no quiz, no single article is going to be able to tell you which traits you can and can’t use on your characters in order to avoid turning them into a Mary Sue. Characters are complex, and I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to use your common sense for a moment. I know it’s scary. I promise I’m right here with you.

There’s this trend going around right now where writers and bloggers are telling other writers and bloggers “You can’t use this trait. Your character can’t have this color hair. Don’t do this… don’t do that.” and it is complete and utter rubbish. There are a million and one ways to make a character with any number of these so-called “off limits traits” that won’t turn your character into a Mary Sue. Your character CAN have pink hair. They CAN have two different colored eyes, and they can shape-shift. It’s okay if they’re extraordinarily beautiful, smart, and witty.  Soak that in for a second. I’ll wait.

The main thing you need to remember when it comes to avoiding Mary Sue’s is this—be realistic. There’s no magic number of flaws that is going to make your character okay. There’s no limit of positive traits that will stop you just this side of becoming a Mary Sue. There’s no particular hair/eye color or superpower that is going to turn your character into the dreaded “she who shall not be named”. You just need to aim for realism. If your character is beautiful, witty, and a shape-shifter. That’s fine. Go for it. If she can also speak 3 languages and hack… you better have a pretty damn good reason for it… but it’s not impossible. Your characters need to fit within the world you’ve built for them, and there needs to be logical reasons for why they are the way they are. If you keep this simple fact in mind… you, and your characters, are going to be okay.

The phrase “Mary Sue” gets thrown around a lot these days, but if it were me, we’d replace it. “Mary Sue” isn’t a phrase that tells us anything. New writers don’t inherently know what it means when someone accuses their character of being a Mary Sue, and it leads to a whole lot of panicked writers freaking out because they aren’t sure what’s wrong with their characters. So let’s call it what it is: unrealistic character building.

If you find yourself wondering if your character is a dreaded Mary Sue, or heaven forbid, someone accuses you of already having done it… take a deep breath. You can fix it. Just ask yourself a few questions:

-Do all my character’s physical traits make sense based on their family genetics and/or circumstance?
-Are my character’s super powers or abilities relevant and necessary to the plot?
-Is my character the correct age, social standing, and intelligence level to have realistically earned the knowledge I’ve given them?
-Do my character’s relationships with other characters make sense based on personality, situation, and age?
-Did I give my character a reasonable amount of personality/physical flaws to offset the amount of positive traits I gave them?

This isn’t the end-all, be-all of checklists, but I think you get the general idea. It’s safe to say that if you answer these questions, you’ll have a decent idea of where your character falls into the Mary Sue spectrum. Just keep telling yourself it’s all going to be okay, remember to breathe, and of course remember: nobody’s perfect.


DarlingMionette has started a donation pool!
1,220 / 3,000
These points are used towards renewing my own subscription when it runs out, and towards buying other's subscriptions in the interem. Please donate!

:thumb333877700:Official Elf - STAMP by santas-workshop

You must be logged in to donate.
Wow. It's been a crazy year, and unfortunately, I spent little of it on DA. As most of you know, awhile back my Wacom died, and I had to set art aside. It was okay, because honestly, I was a little burned out at the time... but that didn't make it any less painful. I'd been making leaps and bounds in my art for the past year, and I was a little bewildered at having to put everything on hold. So, I spent my year working on my Book Review Blog, practicing my copy editing skills, and working on my writing. It was a bit of a journey, and although I didn't do any art... it was still a productive, and fun year. 

I revamped the outline for Khet (once I learned that writing by the seat of my pants wasn't a great idea). I'm about 20 chapters into revamping the initial outline into a more thorough detailed plot.. and then it'll be on to the 1st official draft. I'm hoping to have it done by the end of 2015 so I can look into getting it published.

I also worked on my copy editing skills by taking in chapters from people here on DA. I still have a few to finish up. I'll be honest, getting the first dozen out and sent back to people was an awesome feeling... although half of them didn't reply back (Naughty you.) I didn't set a deadline on getting them done (this was practice after all) but I am planning on getting through the rest (soon I hope) and getting them sent out as well.. and then -hopefully- this year opening up my copy editing business.

As for my blog, I managed to read through and review 112 books this year... which for someone who had stopped reading all together for a decade (who has time to read when you're doing art?) is nothing short of amazing. I'm pretty proud of myself. I got to meet a lot of authors, publishers, and editors along the way, and I even got interviewed in a podcast just a few weeks ago. It was awesome.

It wasn't all fine and dandy though. At the end of the previous year, and the start of this last year, I was majorly sick, and I ended up going deaf in both ears for a few weeks. I'm now partially deaf permanently, but I'm learning to adjust. It does get super annoying at times (especially when I'm out at restaurants) because if I'm not used to someone's voice, or there's a lot of background noise, I have trouble distinguishing what people are saying. My TV/headphones are permanently 10-20 marks higher than they used to be in order to hear like I used to. I tend to talk a little louder now - which annoys the crap out of my family... but we're all adjusting :)  On the upside, because of my hearing debacle, we learned that I was allergic to about 140 really common things, and deathly allergic to six... so my allergies have been better under control after a year of allergy therapy shots and a daily regimen of medication. I'm rarely ill anymore (in fact, right now i'm sick for the first time in a year. How amazing is that? I used to be sick every week).

I also started to teach home school over this last year, and that's certainly been an endeavor... who knew I'd make a decent teacher? But it's been fun, even if it leaves me with a lot less free time.

So what's next for 2015?

I'm not entirely sure. The good news is, I fixed my Wacom. I -CAN- draw again... but I don't know what I'm going to do with that yet. I'd like to continue on with my blog, my writing, my copy editing, etc. I'd love to get back into art again... but honestly, I don't know if I can find the time between everything else I'm doing. We'll see. I may start slow here and there... or I may upload nothing at all in the next year. I don't know. I have been trying to stick around and respond to messages though, and I'd like to continue that. I'd love to get some more tutorials out this year, with writing or art... either one. We'll see how it goes.

I hope everyone's had a great year, and that the upcoming year treats you equally well. As always, if you want to get a hold of me, you can send me a message here on DA at any time, on Facebook (Cary Morton), my blog: Author Unpublished (…), or e-mail ( or skype (darlingmionette). I'll try to be better this year about getting back to everyone. Feel free to bug me (even if you've never talked to me before... it really doesn't bother me, and I won't think you're a scary stalker or something) and I'll see you guys all soon!
  • Mood: Love
  • Reading: Veiled - Victoria Knight
  • Watching: Too much YouTube
  • Eating: Pizza Leftovers
  • Drinking: Sprite

AdCast - Ads from the Community


Add a Comment:
Fanfic-Queen Featured By Owner May 20, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much for all of your tutorials, from anatomy to sketching and lineart, and even your sai brushes!

I'll admit, and from the few pieces of art in my gallery, I've never been an artist. I've always been a writer (and I'm not even adequate at that haha), but even to me, these tutorials have helped me a lot! 

Thank you again! :hug:
MissMattel Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm Beardo from TBT, and I found a link to your DA, and YOUR ART BLOWS MY GODDAMN MIND! HOW DO YOU DO THAT? HOLY SHIT!
(1 Reply)
Popomatto Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015
I found your DA from the clothing tutorial you had written and found your redlines...DAMN you are anatomy queen!
(1 Reply)
BATTLEFAIRIES Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2015
Thank you for Favouriting! This means you can now ask the Djinn ONE question --> 'Ask The Djinn' stamp by BATTLEFAIRIES <-- clicky clicky
The Djinn will answer truthfully and to the best of her considerate abilities.
Have fun (and come back often)!
Add a Comment: