Warning: This tutorial contains crash-tested advice, feminist theory, history, references to fandoms and fanfiction, wishes to unsee things that cannot be unseen, questions, ridiculous hyperbole, half-baked advice, psychology, instructions on being a better reviewer, time management skills, lists, and a violinist. Flames may cause spontaneous combustion within a 400 yard radius.
What is a Mary Sue, and why am I talking about it?
Up until almost precisely a year and a half ago, I was not aware of the concept of "Mary Sue." Why? Well, I was relatively new to the idea that writers congregated online to swap stuff – by no means new to writing, I've been doing that for over a decade now, with varying degrees of success – and because college introduces you to a lot of internet-based things that you'd like to unsee, not all of which are actually on youtube.
Why would I like to unsee the Mary Sue? Well, besides claims that:
A) "The standard description of a Mary Sue comes down hard on fantasy characters of most descriptions." (It does, though not as harshly as some say – generally, if your character's powers are anything but garden-standard for their universe, you get a one to three point bonus to your "score.")
B) "It's anti-feminist." (I do know, in real life, female writers who are somewhat reluctant to write female main characters or POV characters due to one too many accusations, not always of their works, of Mary-Sue-ness and the perception that female characters don't have as wide of an appeal to audiences. However, feminist theory changes depending on who you ask about it.)
C) There are problems with scoring the test in stories written in the first person. (The character telling the story may very well think that the universe revolves around her: this does not make it so.)
D) Fanfiction doesn't need another perjorative term for original characters. And then people apply the concept to original characters in original works, which just isn't good for beginning writers or sharing works online in general.
E) The idea has mutated memetically and has been applied to too many things in too many situations. Essentially, it's become a hot-button for starting flame wars.
But what I really hate is the stupidity of it.
Originally, it was a very specific idea, about fanfiction no less, and the fully exaggerated character who embodied the cliché was written as a parody of people who weren't content just to have female OC's in fandoms that had mostly male characters, but had to make them the best ever or at least appear so. Basically, it's what happens when you take the male/female gender identity perceptions of the previous century, circa the sixties and seventies, and give them a good smooshing. What happened was that everyone saw badass male characters in TV shows and literature with an overwhelming amount of male protagonists. And writers, especially but not only female writers, wanted some variety, but female characters they tried to write were either considered ineffective due to acting feminine, or if they didn't act feminine, unrealistic because they were too "macho." So the authors decided to go for the combination ground of supposedly 'feminine' and supposedly 'masculine' traits, which it's possible to do well, but which often resulted in characters defined mostly by informed attributes and bucketloads of information on their looks and skills and not enough attention paid to their actual personality.
Now, there have been bad original characters in stories since cave man and cave woman started telling stories around a campfire, but the purpose of this guide is to explore the modern, backlash against what is commonly perceived to be a "Mary Sue," and especially to counter the idea that writing these flat characters is empowering or has anything to do with feminism, antifeminism, or any other ism. Male characters (Often called "Marty Stus" or "Gary Stus" if you prefer the rhyme to the alliteration,) can have the same basic problems wrong with them – that they have to be the "best" without a believable amount of effort within the story by being 1) the most sexy 2) have all the characters of their gender preference lust after them 3) being more competent that anyone else, and 4) go overboard on the backstory, drama, and special traits.
How these Mary Sues Developed, the step by step guide.
Mostly, the characters that have to be "perfect" in every way (or which happened when more modern writers ran into the old-fashioned perceptions of gender roles,) seem to have developed over the course of literature something like this. A male character can have characterization problems along the same lines, but male characters just tend not to get stuck with the Mary Sue (or Marty-Stu) label by random commentators, even ones that are just as badly characterized. That is basically the only inherently sexist thing about the concept of the Mary Sue.
From here on out, all Mary Sue qualities are listed using feminine pronouns and some of the psychology of the backlash against the female Mary Sue is explained, as well as the psychology of attempting to write these characters in the first place. I'll be updating with psychology of writing a Marty-Stu as soon as I get some reading done on the subject, because the traditional male wish-fulfilment character is slightly different than the traditional female one. (I pick on the traditional ones because atraditional wish fulfillment characters at least have the benefit of being more novel ideas.)
Without further ado, this is how to make a traditional Mary Sue.
1) Have a woman who has an extraordinary amount of sex appeal.
This is by no means uncommon in any sort of story, at least among protagonists (with villains, too – secondary and bit characters tend to get shortchanged by this,) because all people are somewhat shallow. People tend to have attractive characters because, hey, why not? Also because beauty is easier to describe than hideousness (look up some synonyms for "perfect" "even" and "shining" and then fill in a character sheet with the person's hair color, eye color, skin color, height and weight, and scars or other distinguishing marks, you'll do fine) and in fact, it allows you to essentially not describe your character, or take note of such things as the shape of the face and it's features, a person's mannerisms, and the tone and pitch of the voice. These are traits that make a character recognizable and unique. Without them, everybody has the same face. To get them right, observe real people. Notice what shape their ears are, the kind of gestures that they make, and how they walk. If I see any more food-metaphor described voices today, I will puke. Certainly, I have no idea what you're talking about if you think you can tell me someone's voice was like chocolate. Go on youtube, grab a channel, shut your eyes and listen to someone's voice. How would you describe it? Nasaly? Muttering? Clear and enunciated? Then take a second run through with the sound off and notice the motions that they make while talking without being aware of what they're doing.
2) Demonstrate her sex appeal and femininity by having most of the male characters (or at least the ones she'd conceivably go for,) lust after her.
Again, have you ever seen someone in a love triangle in fiction who wasn't at least a high ranking secondary character? Most people don't bother to develop one romantic interest for peripheral characters, let alone more than one.
Now, the idea that this somehow validates a woman's femininity – having guys like her – is utter crap, but it's a holdover. The fact that having more than one romantic interest (no matter how far apart or how different the relationships are) is usually a huge marker of so-called Suedom, and that it leads fan-haters to call the girl a slut even if people have only ever kissed, or maybe held hands/exchanged tearful goodbyes or such is annoying. Yes, a lot of characters who I personally think are poorly written are sexy bombshells with hordes of admirers, but I don't hate them because of the multiple relationships, I hate them when there's no reason for so many characters to be utterly devoted to them and for when their conduct makes any relationship seem far-fetched. The problem isn't the woman's love life or sexual/romantic identity, the problem is the writer's clumsy handling of characterization. Develop reasons that people met and get along (or reasons why the relationship doesn't work and is just based on physical attraction,) rather than describing the characters' perfect looks and how much they are "destined to be together." You'll go a lot further and you won't be left holding the bag when people who have actually studied gender roles and feminism come down on you like vultures for insisting that having a female character defined only by her relationships to males is "feminist."
The other thing not to do, while you're here? Don't make her hideously bad at anything that actually would matter in the setting and expect her to not get called out on sucking horribly. (Especially don't use the excuse of "see, she has flaws!" become "Why is nobody but the reader annoyed at her yet?" or say that people never call her out on her actions, especially stuff like overreactions, because she is a girl.) Being delicate and dainty and clumsy and needing a strong man to protect her is not validating your character's femininity any more than random fainting spells would, and it's most certainly not a valid basis for romance. It's making her become inconvenient in your own universe, and if you don't face that possibility honestly, you're going to be left holding the bag, again, when people get sick and tired of putting up with that crap in order to be reminded that your character is a lady.
Which leads us to the following point:
3) Make her far more competent than anybody else in her universe.
Again, this is a common protagonist trait. Settings where the entire world's fate rests in the hands of one person are common. They're an established literary tradition at this point. Especially because those plots are just easy to write – we don't have to worry too much about developing lots and lots of characters if nobody's actions matter but those of the protagonist. I'll get back to that point in a minute.
Raise your hand if you see the inherent, latent sexism in the Mary Sue Litmus test's question about a (female) character "having to prove that she's just as good as the guys?" (Take one point. Take two more if she completely pwns them in the process.) Why should she have to prove it? If the dude's her rival, okay. If there's some serious aspersions on her competence because she happens to have more than one x chromosome, then you have latent sexism.
Sometimes the setting makes this hard to avoid, as history (and therefore, 90% of fantasy, which is primarily made of glamorizing the past,) is not politically correct. So don't avoid it. It's a legitimate societal conflict and we do not have to pull our punches because someone might get offended. But don't make this about the boy in the fifth grade who teased you for being a crybaby or pulled your hair and stuffed a beetle down your shirt. Your heroine isn't less competent because she doesn't go out finding unenlightened people and taking them down a peg.
Other characters need to have skill sets too. Your character cannot be the best at every single little thing she takes it into her mind to try because a) that annoys the readers who might actually struggle to do things like win races and play the clarinet and b) characters should never be perfect. Have things that she's bad at or only mediocre at, things that matter somewhat in your but still shouldn't automatically exclude her from the plot. Have things that she's good at but she has plausible rivals in. Make her be good, but not the best at something. Make me care about her victories, because if she's the best at singing, dancing, needlework, astrophysics and jujitsu, winning is just too cheap in her universe. She needs to work at it. And other characters need to be interesting as well.
The other thing to watch out for is that there are no possible ways for your protagonist to have so many skills (especially when they're too young to have learned them all, and when the skills are insanely difficult,) especially if we never see her work to gain them. Now, human beings are amazing things, capable of typing and breathing and listening to music at the same time, but usually when people study a skill intensively, it takes time away from other skills that they could be honing. A person who is going to medical school might conceivably have time to practice the violin, were they passionate about it, but it's unlikely that they could also be a blackbelt in four martial arts, write bestselling novels, have a full-time internship, learn to master their inherent force powers, run at the Olympic level, and be a world-renowned singer. All of those things take time to practice (and going to any sort of college takes up a fairly high percentage of a person's waking hours,) which your character clearly doesn't have. A more realistic arrangement might be that your young violin-playing medical student was a karate blackbelt who competed in high school, but is now somewhat out of practice and jogs to relieve stress.
If the reason a character has a skill is "they're the main character," then it's not a skill that they need. If the reason your that the plot is about your character is that they have that skill, then it's permissible.
4) Give her a lot of complicated backstory or other personal conflicts.
Why does this last aspect generate problems with characters and gender?
Well, more men than women in fiction have tragic pasts, and it's usually the main characters who have them, so back when there were even fewer reasonable female main characters in fiction, tragic pasts tended more towards gender-specific traumas. For example, a hardboiled cop could have lost his wife and child while he wasn't home to protect them (much like NCIS' Leroy Jethro Gibbs,) and a female character was more likely to have past grief by having had a miscarriage, having her lover die in a war, or being trapped in an abusive situation by not having anywhere to go. Note that while characters of both genders can have most of the above in their backstory, the "traditionally feminine" ones all involve the female character not really having any ability to avoid the situation. The male protagonist might torment himself with the idea that if he'd been home, he might have been able to fight off the burglar that killed his wife and child, but the female protagonist most likely could not have prevented a miscarriage or protected her fiancé. That continual denial of agency to female characters is the real problem with tragic backstories about rape, abuse, and many other real and horrific traumas. A depressing amount of fiction keeps insisting that the female half of the species cannot prevent bad things from happening to them and those that they love, while the male half at least might have had a chance.
Backstory is for trying to make the character more sympathetic to the audience. Sometimes this works: sometimes this makes you want to dig your brain out with a nickel. That depends on how good the writer is at making it seem believable, and whether or not it was necessary. For Batman and Harry Potter, being orphans is absolutely crucial to the direction of the story (i.e. neither story would exist, or be in any way remotely the same, if their parents had lived, and the characters would have grown up completely different to the way that they did,) but there are a lot of stories out there which use "Orphan," "Abused," "Abandoned," "Mental illness," and "Rape," as get-out-of jail free cards to "excuse" a character's behavior. But for the love of all that's original, does every character have to have dead parents or be abused/raped/insert other potentially-triggering-to-your-readers trauma here? No.
Also, I and a large portion of the internet will come down on you like a ton of bricks for trying to glamorize abuse or insist that it didn't really affect your characters. I don't care why you're drawing a distinction between the woman whose husband hit her when he was drunk and the woman whose husband threatened to poison the children if she ever tried to leave him, and between them and the woman whose husband insisted to everyone who knew her that she was mentally unbalanced, to the point where no one ever believed anything she said. They're all victims of abuse, and just because one of them has the bruises to prove it doesn't mean that you get to go establishing that one of them is magically "less affected," just so you have an excuse to pair her up with the next guy. Remember that you can't ever be certain who is reading and who you're triggering, and that for any horrible thing you can think of, there's probably a real person somewhere who survived it and still struggles with it to this day.
You can have characters with difficult pasts. You can write about difficult events from which your characters will never exactly recover, and which formed part of their character. You cannot cheapen it by claiming that someone can be "normal" after all that or by pretending that something life-shattering happens just to give your character one chapter or episode's worth of pretty crying, then she's over it. Other than the fact that it severely pisses off people who do have real life events in their past that severely impacted their emotional or mental health, it's also not respectful to your own abilities as a writer. I cannot reiterate enough how severely a mature reader's faith in humanity can be shaken by reading so many people who brush horrific traumas off and knowing that their authors either sincerely think that they can or should be pushed under the rug, or that they only exist for creating more drama. Or how much that sort of drama-mongering becomes disturbing when you inflicted it on a character that is, by virtue of being a self-insert, supposedly your favorite or even an expy of you or you the way you'd like to be in an ideal world. Don't conflate your parents yelling at you for forgetting to walk the dog with abuse, or somebody socially inept crushing on you with stalking, or the people who picked on you when you had braces with people really persecuting you and try to milk it for attention. Fiction is about your characters and your world, not about you.
A lot of the time, people with lasting traumas find it difficult to write about them directly, and you just don't know, especially when you publish on the internet, whose nightmare you're laughing off.
Instead come up with something that will drive the development of your character. You need your character to break up with a love interest who is going to become a villain? Fine. Have her realize that he's an arrogant, egocentric bastard who doesn't respect her opinions. Have her see that he's more attatched to money and social status than principle. Have him be selfish, a liar, unfaithful, jealous of someone else's accomplishments, an attention whore who accuses everyone else of making drama whenever someone else is in the spotlight, be too squicked out to take care of her when she gets the 24 hour flu, too much of a coward to stand up with her against authority, or only interested in her skills, money, or societal position. Don't have him gratuitously try to rape her or beat on her just to 'prove' that he's the bad guy. If you have done your job, we should already get that, thank you. If he isn't the bad guy, don't insert extra trauma to make him into one.
Alternatively, could people ever break up because they're just not into each other? Or because they have different goals and aspirations, so them being exclusively "together" isn't leading towards any sort of stable future? Must all literary characters either almost-immediately find their "soul mate" or embark in relationships that consist of nothing but hot, steamy sex and no romantic, intellectual or emotional intimacy at all? The average real-life person can date quite a few people before getting married. Heck, they can figure out they're not a good match after a few years of marriage and start the process all over again. Finding your soul mate is hard, and you have to work for it, but nobody said all those previous relationships didn't mean anything either.
So, why is any of this relevant? And someone yelled "feminism," care to explain that?
The ideas above aren't inherently "masculine" or "feminine," though they can be presented that way. As a society, we have (hopefully) grown out of tired gender role stereotypes being our conception of a person's identity or worth. None of the steps above for creating a character are inherently bad until you strain credibility by turning them up to eleven, or by developing a character by saying that they are the most (insert adjective here) ever, or by saying, "what I think would be cool if it happened to me in a fictional life would be…" or "What is the most perfect thing to do here?" But it's also problematic if you decide to go the anti-mary-sue route, and make your character universally despised, etc. which is just as ridiculous as if they're universally adored and can do no wrong.
We want characters who we can empathize and identify with, which is impossible to do for someone who is "perfect" or someone who is a complete monster with no redeeming qualities. Competent characters with believable flaws that they work at overcoming or compensating for restores our faith in humanity in a way that "perfect" characters who get everything right the first time, or characters who can't do anything, probably shouldn't be trusted to, and are generally a waste except for the one time they saved the world simply don't.
Yes, all of the above four precepts can get ridiculous on their own, as can almost every other attribute of characterization. But the idea of a "Mary Sue" tends to give female characters (or characters with 'feminine' attributes) short shrift, and it especially gives short shrift to beginning writers and to fanfiction writers, which is why it comes into contact with feminism and ignites flame wars.
For the record, I think I ought to define feminism in the broadest terms possible:
Feminism: Stances and actions advocating for gender equality in social, political, and all other rights, including those not codified by law, specifically for promoting the rights of women so that they are equal to those of men.
Anti-feminism: Backlash against the feminist movement and against either the idea of gender equality or against specific actions and advocacies that are intended to achieve gender equality.
Rule of thumb: if the work is all about how both girls and guys can succeed, or aimed towards specifically showing that women can compete with men, its feminist or gender-equalist. If it's about how men suck and ladies rule, it's misandrist, and if its about how women are feeble and men have to save the day, it's misogynist. Keep in mind that a lot of fiction written before the last fifty years or so can have a lack of strong female characters without being inherently misogynist or anti-feminist – it's only if the main message is that girls should stay in the kitchen that it's misogynistic. The same applies to female-centered fiction: if it seems like the author keeps saying that guys are savage brutes who aren't' good for anything, then it's misandrist. There has to be an element of disgust and hatred for something to qualify – for example, the fact that the only important female character in Macbeth is a villainess isn't proof that Shakespeare was a misogynist. The fact is, almost all of Shakespeare's historically-inspired plays have a relatively low proportion of female roles compared to his comedies, because most of his historical plays are about fighting and politics, and the real people who his characters were based off in those situations were overwhelmingly male.
I'm still allowed to make Original Characters, right?
People over at are not as wild to read about your OC as you are to write about her. Why? They don't know her yet. And if she's stealing the spotlight from your favorite characters, that's a no-no. Fanfiction is supposed to be about the characters and world that your readers are fans of, and limelight-stealing "sues" tend to come with unbelievable plots, such as a) conquering something that the main protagonists couldn't overcome b) existing either to boink a character or to get two characters together, basically creating shipping sludge, c) having ridiculous amounts of powers, to the point of making the main cast look incredibly stupid and d) the author making canon characters react extremely out of character in order to accommodate her. I suppose in the name of fairness I should start writing "him" as well.
Good fanfiction OCs do happen, but that's usually in cases where they are unavoidable or make for smoother storytelling than putting an established character in a new situation, (such as not having a known character present an original case to Sherlock Holmes, or having diplomats from a hitherto-unknown planet kibitz with the cast of Star Trek,) or when they're taking more minor roles. Another thing is that you can take a minor character (for some reason, Harry Potter's house elves come to mind,) and tell what they think about the world and how they view their society or canonical events. In a situation like that, having OC's to interact with is pretty much a necessity.
The same list of problematic things from the first paragraph can apply with original works, but they're generally a fault of either not characterizing the protagonist well enough, or not characterizing the other characters enough, both of which only get better with practice and maturity. So yes, go practice making reasonable original characters. The internet could use it.
Why is the Mary-Sue concept so popular? And how do I get rid of it?
Basically, the concept of the Mary-Sue started as an identification of the reaction to having male-dominated fiction, and it's ended up as a lot of contradictory things, but mostly it is now about stereotypes and lack of writing experience or emotional maturity. No litmus test will ever make you write better characters. No amount of bashing other people's characters will ever make yours better. Characters who are legitimately "Mary-Sues," wish-fulfilment characters, or author inserts do exist, though a "Mary-Sue" and an "author avatar" are not necessarily the same thing. There are reasons that many "Mary Sue" characters are annoying to read about, and most of them stem from the reader not being able to fully invest in the character because they can't believe in them. But everything on the Mary Sue Litmus test (and by extension, the ubiquity of the test itself) is a symptom, which can be treated, but not the disease.
The real reason for the creation of most of the flat characters labeled Mary-Sues is people who think that writing boils down to a) making their protagonist always right, b) giving them a lot of traits that don't pertain to plot or characterization, c) making their protagonist never really struggle for anything, d) making other characters who have no identity except in regards to their protagonist, and e) having a world in which nothing exists unless it directly affects the protagonist.
Basically, you get people who sit down with the first "cool" idea that they come up with and never bother to world build, character build, or figure out if any of their ideas are internally consistent. They think that a plot consists of a list of random events happening between point A and point B, and often don't have the experience (not necessarily in the real world: you can learn from fiction or there would be no point to it ) to understand that no person is always right, rational and justified.
What happens to these people when they post these ill-thought stories online? You flame them. You take people who are not very emotionally or intellectually mature, and you step on their ego. They flame you back, because they feel insulted. They get a bunch of people who are their (emotional/intellectual) age or younger who think that they're cool, or who like having their attention, to praise the heck out of them in response to their flame. You are cast as the villain in their little brains, because you have just validated their worldview.They do not know what it is about their favorite character that you find annoying, especially when you slap the catch-all category of "Mary Sue" and don't give any specific, constructive criticism that might actually help. You've just given them the kind of unexplained, irrational "authority" figure put-down that their darling little "self-inserts" get, and made a lot of well-meaning people jump to defend the poor heroine. Writer, I mean. Or their character – part of the problem is that people who have written a Mary Sue cannot mentally separate their own worth from that of their character, and don't spend a lot of time with writers who can. Why do you think they keep writing someone who is always right in a universe which centers around them, if no one has ever treated them as able to understand a rational argument or argued with them expecting them to present relevant points? You have not provided them with the atmosphere of reason and respect that they need to develop as a person and a writer.
What is your job as a writer, a beta, or a reviewer?
To write people who act like people, with flaws and strengths, mistakes, embarrassments, days they didn't perform to their full ability, relationships of many types with many characters, (not just romantic ones here,) and changes in their relationship with other characters and their own self-image and image of others. Characters who actually have to struggle sometimes, even if it is against their own insecurities, and whose attributes go together, rather than being picked at random.
To develop secondary characters, discover their motivations, their relationships with each other and minor characters, and present them as doing more than standing around waiting for the main character to drop by. Even if all they're doing in their free time is baking a soufflé or organizing their stamp collection. To develop a world enough to give context to your character's actions, and to have the current situation or actions not directly concerned with the protagonist or the main villain affect someone in some way.
To deliver neither empty, nauseating praise ("Really cool! Keep it up, no mistakes!") nor flames, but to help the writer better flesh out their world and characters, which is why it's called constructive criticism in the first place. Your beta should be a combination of the guy whispering in Ceasar's ear "remember, you are mortal," the guy cheering him on from the street, and the guy who took a look at his battle plans and said "Hey Ceasar. The Rubicon River's in your way there, how are we getting across it? It would really suck if we had no boats and got delayed."
Point out things that don't make sense. Point out things that you felt were tacked on (avoid saying "remove this," because it might actually be ripe for expansion,) and the bits that went surprisingly well together.
Ask questions, ask for clarification. Feel free to open and close with the good bits. Feel free to express that you are personally frustrated with the actions of a character which you feel were the result of the character being stupid or shortsighted, but which may have legitimate reasons in story, without making it seem like you're angry at the author. Even when you're shipping. Especially when you're shipping, don't fall into the "interferes with my favorite pairing, must be bad person," logical fallacy.
Stop forming opinions of characters based on some teenage stereotype, and stop characterizing your characters using them. Having other people call them that: okay. Having them identify with a particular subculture: okay. That being an aspect of their characterization, especially when you don't give any thought to how they act before or after they're at an age where they self-identify as "emo," "Goth," "Skater," "Prep," "Jock," "Nerd," etc, is not okay.
Basically, and though I know this is a long shot, try to remain mature about the process of writing and reading.
So, should I never use Litmus tests?
No. You can still use them as long as you realize that they're tools and guidelines, not instructions.
The Mary Sue litmus test exists as a list of things that tell you that you might have spent more time developing the character's list of romantic/ideological conquests, appearance, and cool accessories than how she thinks or what she believes, or when you're stretching suspension of disbelief. It's not particularly helpful to use for evaluating your writing quality, for referring other people to in lieu of giving them constructive criticism, or for being anything other than a list of "character clichés that can get annoying, especially when used by someone who either didn't work very hard or who clearly hasn't had enough experience yet."
More than wishing I could un-read all of the relevant data about the Mary Sue phenomenon, I wish that the writing world in general will grow up, wise up, and realize that the thing that's preventing us from taking ourselves seriously is, well, ourselves. We need to human up and stop assuming that we're the only ones who are right, and start helping each other gain the experience to be good writers and good human beings, instead of just labeling things with derogatory terms and inflating our own egos.
AN: Okay, I think that's my last unscheduled editorial/essay for a while. This was brought to you by the general population of the internet, so, people who have been talking to me: this is not an attack on you, on your character, on whatever, this is an essay about the psychology behind Mary-Sues, hatred of Mary Sues, the psychology of the Hatred of Mary Sues, and how to have a good hard look into how not everybody thinks the same. Nothing in particular brought it on except for a few days of internet trawling in which I got sick and tired of seeing the same few things getting parroted and never examined in any sort of depth, or from a perspective that doesn't make the idea of Mary-Sueness a political statement. I'm not an expert any more than we all are, I've just got a lot of writing and some formally-taught psychology and philosophy under my belt.
This has been edited (again,) as of 12/09/2012. It will probably be edited again. Stuff about the psychology of the traditionally male self-insert wish-fulfillment character (Marty Stu) will show up when I figure out how to chop this chapter into more manageable pieces. Other tutorials on characterization will happen on a rigorous "when I make them" schedule, and requests for tutorials will be accepted at any time, though I reserve the right to fill requests at my own discretion.