Did someone say "fate"? The sounds like a job for... duh duh duh dun! The destined one, today's topic of discussion!
Mary Sue, Part One: The Diary of a Destined
(aka: Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi --?--)
You all seemed very excited for the Sue bashing episodes. Pfft. And one wonders why? Pretty simple answer. She's effing annoying. So is her brother, Gary (Marty) Stu. Here's the thing about Sue: She has so many different forms. The one I felt needed to be examined first was the Destined One, the most prevalent in fantasy stories today. I seem to read that section most often, so I'll talk about what I know.
Before analyzing this Sue, let's look at what makes up a Sue and the idea of prophecy throughout history:
Brief Anatomy of a Sue
A cheerleader, a wonderful musician, a trained fighter, a mage, a long lost princess, exceedingly beautiful, a beautifully foreign name, a politician and against ALL odds is able to triumph. Such is the basic anatomy of a Sue. However, two things should be said about these traits.
- - - Individually they are fine; it's when they are all together that the character becomes unbelievable.
- - - Not all characters with these traits, or god forbid more, are automatically Sues/ bad characters. It's all in the execution. My friend Jenn and I did a Mary Sue litmus testfor Harry Potter, and it says he's a Sue. That's rather questionable.
History of Prophecy
There have been countless prophets throughout history, religious or otherwise, divining using astrology or other pseudoscientific techniques. In other words, prophecy is based off of some sort of divination (tea leaves, animal behavior, sticks, astronomy). There might be some force acting on us, controlling us, but for now, I'm going to be scientific and just say that it's gravity and the laws of physics. I never really like tarot cards and hotlines. Always felt they were a scam.
When used correctly, prophecy can be a great tool. What really destroys the use of prophecy is when it specifically states that only ONE person or only ONE group of people can fulfill the intended task. Take Nostradamus for example. Some claim that he predicted the 9/11 attacks (google or wikipedia it). Maybe I'm just a skeptic, but how can we be sure to trust something written hundreds of years past? Consider that when writing. (I got so annoyed with this inconsideration that, in one of my stories, I imagined prophecies being made in a factory.)
A personal preference: Don't divine the fate of a person. Rather, describe the course of events. This can make the character seem more average Joe. Plus, then the fate at the end could apply to everyone and anyone. Another Harry Potter example: Both Harry and Neville were born on the same day. Poor Harry was the one who ended up getting the scar on his forehead, though. Specific, yes, but think of how many other people have the same birthday as you.
After a while, all prophecy starts to sound the same. I'll say this: It's not the prophecy that's the problem. It's the character being prophesized. If you have a Sue, the prophecy will reflect that. Let's make up one right now:
Born of the seventh day of the seventh month,
she will rise from the shadow of despair,
with eyes of the earth and raven colored hair.
Shining brighter than the sun,
she will quiet the sound of alarm,
and one shall protect her from harm.
With beauty and magic that captivates all,
the Dark Lord shall tremble with fear,
and all will be well the day she comes to appear.
----Amako Denizen of the Third Order, 12th Century BC
Pretty shoddy, huh? What I'm trying to prove (besides the fact that I can't write poems) is this: Just because it uses a rhyme scheme, has 'sparkle' words, and talks about the character in a good light doesn't make it a good prophecy (or a good poem at that). Be mysterious, but not vague.
Besides, think of it this way. Does the fortune cookie or the horoscope always come true? No. Things in life change, which is why I find it hard to believe that someone who doesn't even know me thinks that I can be predicted.
If your Sue is a destined, then their actions will be predictable. Predictable can be boring.
You have to expect the unexpected.
Next time on "That Essay"- - - - - Mary Sue, Part 2: Fight the Power/Use The Force
--?-- : Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (fortune empress of the earth). Title taken from the songin Carmina Burana, composed by Carl Orff, written by wandering monks or scholars. Describes the effects of fortune on our daily lives as a wheel of fate.