My friends, fellow writers, and those of you who are neither friends nor writers but for some reason are reading this thread anyway:
I know some of you are probably looking at this right now and thinking "oh no, not another Mary Sue
thread". I can't blame you; there's been three in the last day or so. And that's part of the reason I'm writing this post.
Most people who have bothered to think twice about it are aware that exactly what a Mary Sue is supposed to be has become... disputed. To quote a relevant post from one of those other threads:
- Some people say marysue is only a fanfic term others think it includes canon.
- Some people think it's a female only trope others think it is for all genders.
- Some people think Mary Sue is "bad thing/bad writting" others thing it can be "charming and good", others that a sue can be written well.
- Some people think just being perfect makes a sue, others think having few flaws make you a sue, others think that even flawed characters can be sues.
- Some people think every Author Avatar is a sue, others don't.
- Some think it's all about how the other character's react to her, others think a sue is on itself a sue regardless of the plot and character interaction.
- Some think it is an inmature isult and others a valid description and a form of good criticism.
- Some think we must use the "original" concept, others that the concept has "evolved".
- Some people believe that you can measure how much "sue" a character is. Others that a character is either a Sue or not.
- What's the main trait of a sue?, being disliked?, being too perfect? bending the plot?
- Some people think it exists. Others don't.
In the past, I've been of the opinion that what this represented was the decay
of the term - that there was a core concept underneath all of the use for "bad character" and ludicrously-flawed "litmus tests" and arguments that really did mean something. But slowly - I didn't fully become convinced of it, in fact, until just before writing this post - that opinion has changed.
The term Mary Sue is not decayed. It's not disputed. It is meaningless
Whatever it may have meant originally, whatever any individual person thinks it means, it's become so widely abused in so many ways that it's no longer a relevant means of criticism. If someone calls my character a Mary Sue, what am I supposed to take from that? That the character bends the plot in her favor, that too many things go right for her to suspend disbelief? That she has too many "special" traits - or traits believed to be special by one of the many self-appointed Sue Police on the internet - to be realistic or well-written? That the reader is just verbally abusing me with a common amateur-writing insult and has no intention of making any meaningful point? I certainly wouldn't be able to tell.
And that's why, as of this moment, I'm declaring war against the term "Mary Sue", and urging the rest of you to do the same. I won't use it. I won't start or participate in any threads debating the finer details of what is and isn't one. If I see a character who makes me think "Sue", I will take the time to rephrase my objections into something more articulated and concrete - the character has no flaws; everything revolves around them; I just plain don't like them; or whatever. And I'll do my best overall to put Mary Sue in the linguistic graveyard where it belongs.
I seriously doubt there's anything I can do by myself - or even with everyone else on here - to challenge what's now become an entrenched part of internet writing culture. But when success means never having to see another debate about the arcane trivia of an utterly meaningless term, I think it's worth the effort regardless of my chances.
Who's with me?