The Mary Sue Manual

By: TA Maxwell


The Mary Sue. We all at one time have most likely written one such character into existence. Hopefully, mistakes have been realized and now there are decent characters being written in your stories. Unfortunately, new writers are entering the field of fanfiction daily, contaminating webpages with their own perfect creations. This guide is for the beginning writers who are unaware of the unpunishable crime they are committing, because some writers just don't move away from Mary Sue creations.

Part 1: The Mary Sue

What IS a Mary Sue, you may ask. Simply, a Mary Sue, or for the male population "Marty Stu", is a representation of either the writer or the person the writer would most like to be. They are referred to as "perfect" characters. The perfection, however, is the flaw. Some people are under the impression that all original characters are Mary Sues, but this is not true. There are many well thought-up characters in between the Mary Sues, and every Sue has the chance to transform into a decent character. It all depends on the writer and his/her rate of improvement with characterization.

Part 2: Identification

Generally the Mary Sue can be identified by looks or by name. Oftentimes the character will have unusually colored hair and eyes and an exotic name, such as Isabella, Scarlett, Marianna, Trinity, Destiny, or a name stolen from elsewhere, like Arwen (©Lord Of The Rings.) Last names are variable from the writer's own last name to "Laretta O'Hara Ravensbane." Yes, that was one name. Also, the Mary Sue may be found as the child of two characters in the original anime/book/movie et cetera. 

After the naming and eye coloring, the characteristics of a Mary Sue split up to form different sub-categories of Mary Sue. The sub-catergories are as follows, each to be explained in full detail with examples in Part 3 through Part 8 of this manual. There exist currently the pity-beggar Mary Sue, the god-moding Mary Sue, the plot-stealer Mary Sue, the man-hunter Mary Sue, and the "perfect" Mary Sue.

Part 3: The Pity-Beggar Mary Sue

A: Description

The pity-beggar Mary Sue is a common one, often leading a painful life with hateful parents, perfect siblings/friends or no friends at all, no boyfriend, no guys hitting on her, and possibly, in the worst crime able to be committed in a fanfic, pointless rape. In the WORST of these cases, the raped character will have little to no reaction to the injustice, an injustice in itself to all who HAVE been through such a horrid experience.

B: Example

"DESTINY! GET DOWN HERE NOW!" Destiny's father's voice yelled from downstairs. Destiny sighed. It was always like this. Her sister, a beauty pageant child, would break something and give her father an innocent look while she accused Destiny of it and Destiny would be beaten. None of her friends ever asked why she had a black eye or a bruised cheek because she had no friends. Her mother had always tried to protect her from her father but then she was killed in a drive by shooting while on her way home. Destiny had tried to kill herself many times especially after she was raped on the street, something she had told her father about but he didn't care because he hated her. She just wanted out of this world, and any way out.

This story would be concluded by waking up in Middle Earth or finding a magical Library book or some way to get her into a world where everyone will pity her and she'll find the man of her dreams and live happily ever after there forever. 

C: How To Avoid Writing One

     1: Remember that even if you're one of those people we call pessimists, there are always good things in life.

     2: Also remember no one likes whiners. 

     3: Abuse and rape maketh not good plot points or character developments. Especially if the character doesn't show the true effects of these circumstances. It's a horrible insult to anyone who HAS gone through them and knows what it's really like.

Part 4: The God-Moding Mary Sue

A: Description

The God-Moding Mary Sue is rarely found alone. Oftentimes they can be located within the mind of a "perfect" Mary Sue or a Plot-Stealer Mary Sue. These creations are usually ultra-powerful, often not even knowing they have the powers that they use up until the first time. The powers themselves are generally numerous, or strong enough to chase away the baddest of baddies.

B: Example

Abby shrunk back against the nearest tree as evil laughter echoed out from the surrounding forest.

"You fell into my trap, priestess of Suzaku," a blonde haired man Abby recognized as Nakago from Fushigi Yuugi glided out of the darkness.

"I'm not the priestess of Suzaku!" Abby yelled as Nakago approached her.

"Stop lying! I'm not stupid!" Nakago shot back, coming even closer. Abby thrust out her hand in fear. Suddenly, a brilliant red light burst from her outstretched fingers and hit Nakago in the chest. His eyes widened for a moment and then he fell back against the ground, blood rushing out of a hole in his chest.

At this point, one or all of the Suzaku seishi would randomly appear from out of nowhere and gaze in amazement at Abby's amazing powers while one of them will undoubtedly fall instantly in love with the obviously strong, smart and (often) beautiful young woman. Story will continue developing their love for each other and they live happily ever after.

C: How To Avoid Writing One

     1: Powers usually take years to develop to full strength, and in the beginning, when they're first discovered, can harm both the opponent and the caster, or people around them. Magic is a dangerous play-toy that must be carefully raised over time, not immediately introduced for a plot point.

     2: If the main character couldn't beat them the first time, neither can you

     3: If you plan for them to know they have the power, state it before they use it, and limit the strength of it.

Part 5: The Plot-Stealer Mary Sue

A: Description

Plot-stealer Mary Sues are generally upset with the main female character of a movie/book/anime, and rather than have her out of the picture, they'll put themselves in that place. Cases have sometimes been noted as events of "déjà vu" to bring the Sue and her desired object closer together.

B: Example

Lucille stood by the wall of the fort at Port Royale, looking out at the sea beyond. The day was clear, and no pirate ships were in sight. It was a good day indeed. She heard the Commodore come up beside her.

"Lucille," He said. "You look lovely today."

"Why thank you, Commodore," Lucille tittered, blushing at the striking good looks of the Commodore Norrington. Her hand went down to her waist, where her corset began to feel rather tight. Norrington stood beside her.

"You know, it was a day like today, right here, that Elizabeth left me. If she had never fallen, she would have never met that Damned Sparrow. No matter. She's with Turner, and my heart belongs to another."

"Oh really?" Lucille choked out. The heat and the corset were getting to be too much.

"Yes. You're really a wonderful woman, Lucille, and…I would be honored to have you as my wife."

Lucille gasped.

"Oh Lord, I can't breathe," she whimpered.

"I know, I'm a bit winded myself," Norrington said casually as Lucille tumbled over the side. Down below, Jack Sparrow was sitting on the docks chatting up the two soldiers on guard. He had been marooned again by his new crew and was back to get another ship until he could get The Black Pearl as his own again. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a falling object and heard a loud splash. He blinked behind beautiful brown kohl-lined eyes.

"Can either of you swim?" he asked the guards.

"No," they said together. Jack shrugged.

"Déjà vu," he muttered as he removed his gun, sword and hat, stuffed them into the hands of the guards and dove in.

From here, the story would progress this time with Lucille and Jack falling in love and escape the rage of Norrington who would possibly kill himself later over the grief of losing two women he loved to his worst enemies. Jack and Lucille would have five happy children, start their own crew and live happily ever after.

C: How To Avoid Writing One

     1: There's more to making a story than making a character. Plot is the most important aspect of a story. Without plot, a story is mindless babble that goes nowhere and does nothing.

     2: People just like you used their imaginations to come up with the storyline for something that there was very little information on. You have a story to work with. Use your imagination and make the story your own.

Part 6: The Man-Hunter Mary Sue

A: Description

The Man-Hunter is pretty much every single Sue that has been made. The writer will make the character with the intent of the story being a romance ending with the successful pairing of the writer's desired love/lust object. Thus, the writer can imagine him/herself as the character and put him/herself into the circumstances in which they can end up with their dream date. Often Man-hunters forget important details such as time and place, putting showers in the 1600s for the effect of getting a certain pirate hot and steamy, or having Arwen give Aragorn a razor to get rid of that "scruffy mess of hair on his face" thus scaring the king away to look for another woman. Man-hunters will go to any lengths to achieve the desired effect overlooking detail and plot along the way.

B: Example

"Legolas," Gandalf called. "I need to speak with you on an urgent matter." Legolas went into Gandalf's room and sat down in a chair.

"Yes, what is it?"

Gandalf looked around, as if avoiding something he didn't want to talk about but knew he had to.

"Legolas, Mirkwood, your home, is in grave danger of being destroyed."

Legolas jumped to his nimble Elvin feet.

"What?! I must go home immediately!" he shouted, reaching for his bow.

"No! You cannot!" Gandalf shouted. Legolas paused, glaring at the old man.

"Why not?"
            "Because you cannot save it alone. These are evil land-mermaids that are endangering your home."

Legolas fell gracefully into the chair again.

"Oh no! Not the land-mermaids! What can I do, Gandalf?"

Gandalf smiled wisely.

"Well, I was hoping you'd ask. There's a girl who can help you, and she's completely trustworthy even though she's the daughter of Sauron. Her name's Sara. She's a witch who can control the land-mermaids and scare them away. You can kill them in you want too, but you have to protect her while on the way to Mirkwood."

Legolas's eyes narrowed behind blond locks.

"Daughter of Sauron. I knew not Sauron had one."

"He does! Why should he be any different from anyone else and have someone love him?!" a voice shouted from behind Gandalf. Out stepped a girl. She had black hair with red tips and red eyes like the Eye of Sauron. She radiated evil, but if Legolas had to help her to save Mirkwood, he would.

From here, Sara and Legolas would travel together and eventually fall in love despite the insane heritage the girl has and despite the fact neither witches nor land-mermaids exist in Middle Earth. The non-existant evil would be defeated, Legolas would profess his undying love to Sara, and they would live happily ever after. The Man-Hunter Sue, however, tends to miss such details while making a story that is "very original and romantic" in their eyes.

C: How To Avoid Writing One

     1: Do research. If you don't know a lot about the time period or location of the story, look it up. Making up things that "sound good" often aren't as good as one would think.

     2: People don't exist for love. Add reality to the character by giving them objectives and super-objectives. The Super-objective is what they want out of the situation, and the objectives are minor steps to getting the super-objective, each one pertaining to a new situation within the super-objective. If your character's super-objective is to win the love of Person X, then there's not much depth in that character. Depth is reality, reality is originality.

Part 7: "Perfect" Mary Sue

A: Description

The most positively sickening of all Sues is the Perfectionist Sue. These Sues often have a combination of qualities of the previously mentioned Sues, most often the Man-Hunter Sue. What separates this from the others is the perfection involved with the character. These are the creations that have no depth. They are beautiful, smart, skilled, graceful, the kind of person who would win Miss Universe. Twice, because she's just special like that and no one else can compare. So special, in fact, that often the men around her cannot help but fall in love with everything about her.

B: Example

Savannah stepped onto the Hogwarts Express with a nervous bearing. Her lithe hands tightly gripped the silver cage in which a pure white owl hooted softly. The lithe hands spread to tiny wrists, and thin arms, tan and slender. As everyone in the compartment saw the rest of her, they couldn't help but stare. Long silver hair flowed down her back like a glimmering waterfall, stopping only inches above the floor. A single strand hung over her shoulder like a river twisting down the front of a red oriental dress, altered, of course, to fit her shapely hips and D-cup breasts. Deep blue eyes that a man could fall into blinked slowly as she looked around. Drool dribbled down the side of an onlooker's cheek. Savannah blushed.

"Excuse me," she whispered, the voice sounding like a melody. The train compartment was entranced. Savannah walked, no, glided through to the back and entered into the next car. In it were four boys, seventh years by the look of them. The boys' jaws dropped as she closed the door behind her.

"Hello. May I sit here?" Savannah practically sang. One of the boys, one with long black hair pulled back in a ponytail, stood and took her small hand.

"Of course, you may, darling. I'm Sirius Black. Who are you?"

"Savannah McGonagall. I'm her niece."

"You must be a Veela," the boy known as Remus Lupin whispered, still staring. "You're much to beautiful to be mortal."

Savannah blushed again.

"Well, I don't like it to get out, but yes, my mother is a Veela. Father was Aunt Minny's brother."

The group shall enjoy their trip to Hogwarts from here. Later a fight will break out over the Veela, who will, of course, become a Gryffindor with only a millisecond under the hat. One boy of the writer's choice shall win, Savannah will scold him for fighting before forgiving him. The others will forgive him too, and all will be good, living happily ever after.

C: How To Avoid Writing One

     1: Bear in mind this important fact – You're only mortal. No matter how beautiful you may want a character to be, or how related to another character, they are not perfect. Flaws add depth to any character, and as previously stated, depth is reality, reality is originality. In layman terms, the more detailed a character is, the more realistic they will be, and the more realistic, the more your own. Mary Sues lack originality, even if they came from your mind. Remember, you're not the only one who wants to be a character of your creation. When five people write five stories with the same basic character design, originality is lost after the name.     

Part 8: Death

Notice so far, all of the examples have ended Happily Ever After. Only on the rare occasion does the Mary Sue pass on, generally in a violent romantic death of sacrifice for her loved one. In this case, one of three possible circumstances will occur. 1) The love object will kill himself to be with his loved one/The Mary Sue. They may or may not be reincarnated and finally live happily ever after. 2) The love object will devote his life to suffering and hermit-hood and never look at another woman as long as he lives. 3) The Mary Sue comes back to life for the purity of her sacrifice and is allowed to live happily ever after until the second end of her days.

To avoid this situation, remember that only Disney will have an adventure occur and the good guys all live. It's a hard, sad fact: good people die. Sometimes, even the main character must die. It's just how life goes.     

Part 9: Technique To Create Decent Characters

There are four parts to a character that when above normal, make a Mary Sue: Skills, Luck/Coordination, Romance, and Looks. When you create a character, designate which specific skills he or she will have, whether good or bad, and give them a number for how skilled they are in each, 1 being worst, 9 being best. Any number below 6 is a negative (1-5) and all other numbers (6-9) are positives. The same goes for how lucky the character is, how successful they are romantically, and how good-looking they are. Combine the numbers together when all are completed, adding the positives, taking away the negatives. Try to keep the number under 15 and over 10.

            The following is an example of this technique and some other helpful ideas which were used in the creating of one male and one female character.

Gwendolyn "Gwen" Robinson

Physical Stats

Age – 23

Hair – Chestnut brown, elbow length, straight

Eyes – Grey-blue

Character Stats

Unlucky, temperamental young woman/pirate-hater.

Previously engaged to John, a young blacksmith until his death during a pirate raid

Best Friend - Riley. Bar-owner and pirate-wannabe. 

Balancing Stats – Overall (11)

Skill(s) - + Swordfighting (8)

- Arguing (3)

+ Temper (7)

Luck – - Bad (2)

Romance – - Average (5)

Looks – + Average (6)


Riley Bates

Physical Stats

Age – 29

Hair – blonde, nape of neck length, free-hanging

Eyes – dark green

Character Stats

Bartender and pirate-wannabe. Admires Gwen, and loves her as a little sister.

Always jolly, loves to sing and make people laugh.

Childhood friend of John.

Balancing Stats – Overall (13)

Skill(s) - + Humor (9)

- Swordfighting (3)

+ Fistfighting (7)

Luck – - Average (4)

Romance – - Bad (2)

Looks - + Dashing (6) 

            Part 10: Conclusion

            When you make a character, it's natural and actually, essential to put some of yourself into him or her. It allows the writer to create a bond with the character that no other person can have. However, adding too much, or over-exaggerating certain traits can be pointless unless the idea is sarcasm and humor. Never forget the boundaries of the human body and mind. Fantasy is never an excuse to go too far beyond the ordinary. Never make assumptions about time or place. These are a few small yet very important details often forgotten when creating characters for the first few times. The most important, however, is this: No story ever focuses around a character. The adventures of a character, yes, but never the character himself. Often a Mary Sue can be detected simply by noting that the author focuses too much on the character. To write is to play God for another world. The world doesn't revolve around a single person. They can save it, but they are not the center of it. You can expand the horizons of a character only by restricting them. Play around, and see what you enjoy.


~TA Maxwell~