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I'm apparently having trouble seeing what a Mary Sue is.:

I know a mary sue as a character who is perfect in every way. I've read the wiki pages on it, and some characters they listed I didn't think were a Mary Sue. For example, Starkiller in The Force Unleashed. Yes, he was ridiculously powerful. But he had major issues. How can he be a marty stu?

Can someone explain this to me?

It's good that your character has major issues, but do those issues somehow impact how "ridiculously powerful" he is or some other aspect of his being, like how he handles attention or his emotional/mental functioning? If his major issues exist, but don't balance out his more "Stu-ish" traits, then people are going to call him a Stu, regardless of what the author (often legitimately) thinks. If his flaws/issues hinder him in a noticible way, and his being really powerful has some sort of big-time draw-back, it makes him more realistic (and thus, less likely to be called "Sue/Stu").
 
I see. That's not my character, it's just an example.

So, a timid prince with a powerful MacGuffin who is afriad to use it isn't a marty stu?

 4 Mr AHR, Tue, 8th Mar '11 2:37:36 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Traits do not a mary sue necessarily make, they can always be warning signs. Execution is what matters.

Does your character have moral superiority over everyone they meet? Even if they don't tout it, are they always morally right in the end, and no prejudices or what else have you?

Does everyone know your character, obsess over your character, think about your character, hate your character, etc. etc. etc.?

If anyone hates your character, do they get they 'comeuppance' at one point or another?

Does your character have any form of idealization? If so, how much do these idealized traits shine through?
No to all of those. I'm on the right track then?

 6 Mr AHR, Tue, 8th Mar '11 4:56:20 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Well, you're not on the WRONG track. That does not mean you are on the RIGHT track, just not on the wrong one.
 7 Collen, Tue, 8th Mar '11 4:57:06 AM from it is a mystery
vilent waler
Take this test. It will tell you.

I got a 23. No too bad, by the time I'm finished he'll be a little more polished, but so far I think I'm good.

 9 Archereon, Tue, 8th Mar '11 5:25:43 AM from Everywhere.
Ave Imperator
The Professor: Take Mary Sue Litmus tests with a grain of salt.
This is a signature. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
 10 Major Tom, Tue, 8th Mar '11 5:48:29 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Unless you run through many different tests. (Which is both impractical and time consuming)
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 11 chihuahua 0, Tue, 8th Mar '11 4:18:28 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Basically, if your Mary Sue seems too prefect, make sure people would like your character, and make sure she isn't in the spotlight too often.

Stories bend to make space for a Mary Sue.
 12 Jackerel, Tue, 8th Mar '11 4:44:47 PM from ur sentry
SURPRISE
Even people who rank low on a Mary Sue litmus test can be Mary Sues.

A good sign of a Sue is that they resolve all conflict with no damage done to anyone and that the plot revolves around them. Boring Invincible Hero's another good sign.
 13 Native Jovian, Wed, 9th Mar '11 7:09:23 AM from Orlando, Florida
Io vs Jupiter
"The plot revolves around them" is a good, simple definition for Mary Sue. Not in the sense that they're central to the story (that would be every protagonist ever), but in that things happen just for the benefit of that character, like an extended Deus ex Machina.
 14 chihuahua 0, Wed, 9th Mar '11 3:04:57 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
[up] Yes. That's a better way to state that. Just make sure that the story doesn't shape itself to solve the Mary Sue's problems. Make it so she have work hard to solve her problem.

EDIT: A Black Hole Sue would be this Up to Eleven.

edited 9th Mar '11 3:05:21 PM by chihuahua0

The fellow who currently occupies my avatar, LS 01, started out as a Self Insert Sue when I was young and evolved out of his Stuness as I evolved and matured as a writer.

A comparison:

Old 01 destroyed planets for rather poor reasons and was never called out on it by anyone. He was a Boring Invincible Hero, fighting enemies way below his power level (Immortal Precursor battle android Vs. average human criminal; who do you think will win?). He was the emperor of the most powerful government in existence mainly Just Cuz'. He never regretted his actions, and was never portrayed as wrong.

New 01 destroys planets for good reasons, and silently angsts about it (that is, he grits his teeth whenever it's brought up in conversation). He fights enemies on par with his power level (Another combat android of the same make, a god-slaying universe-eating physical manifestation of all hate), and even loses occasionally (indeed, pretty often). He's still the emperor of the universe, but he actually has to deal with political matters on top of his adventuring and has a lot of responsibility because of his position. His decisions in the past actually come back to bite him, even if they ultimately turned out to be right. New 01 is hated by people who while portrayed as evil still have a very good reason for hating him (he ordered for them to be executed for crimes Earthlings would consider minor, they slowly evolved into complete immoral bastards after hundreds of generations trying to escape the law).

It's a pretty decent example of the differences between Sue and non-Sue.

 16 Sal Fish Fin, Wed, 9th Mar '11 6:15:47 PM from on top of Your Mum Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
Litmus tests are usually about what your character can do, as well as other less important things (EG, if your character is named Raven or Hunter it adds Sue points. WTF?). A Sue is defined by how characters react to him/her.

Away on the wind~
Many Sues have fantastical names like Raven or Ebony.
There are too many toasters in my chimney!
 18 Sal Fish Fin, Wed, 9th Mar '11 7:05:49 PM from on top of Your Mum Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
[up]You forgot the word "Often." A flowery name does not a Mary Sue make.

It's easy, mmkay?
He said "Many", not "Mary".
At first I didn't realize I needed all this stuff...
 20 Jewely J, Fri, 11th Mar '11 9:17:19 AM from where the food is
Eh I'm iffy about the litmus test. It's not completly useless though because it tells you if you have too many things thrown onto your character, which can be Sueish.

One of my characters went from a massive genius Stu to a Tyke Bomb who knows a bunch of scientific facts and multiple ways to kill a person but doesn't know how to relate to other human beings (or match clothing). Now I;m actually a lot happier with him and have a better idea of how to develop his character arc. All those accesories were just distracting.

edited 11th Mar '11 9:39:25 AM by JewelyJ

 21 Dec, Fri, 11th Mar '11 1:15:55 PM from The Dance Floor
Stayin' Alive
Mary Sue's are a bit complicated to explain in general, so its understandable to be confused.

The simplest way I can think of to describe it, is that its the label put on the sort of main characters written my very amateur young writers. Because of that, they will all be bad in many different ways, and follow many differing patterns, but these are just the symptoms of the actual underlying problem.

The core problem behind a Mary Sue is that the writer has no clue how to handle writing people as realistic people, interacting with other equally realistic people in realistic situations. That's not quite the best definition in the world, since telling a good story isn't all about realism, and people generally use Mary Sue to talk about bad writing, but its the closest I've got to explaining what a Mary Sue is.

edited 11th Mar '11 1:16:45 PM by Dec

Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit
Deviantart.
 22 chihuahua 0, Fri, 11th Mar '11 6:06:43 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
@Post 17: Actually, that sentence is grammarly correct. It could be read as "Many Sues" (using Sues instead of Mary Sues) or "Mary Sues".
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Total posts: 22
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