,

The Mary-Sues of Literature

Bella Swan, Clary Fray, Ever Bloom, and all you other wonderful excuses for heroines, come on up!
~

A Mary-Sue is considered to be a "proxy" or wish-fulfillment for the author; the term basically describes when a female author writes a book in which the main character is a version of her own self, just perfect/better (this is not true self-insertion). A Mary-Sue is seen as too flawless/perfect to be interesting or relatable, and can be a poorly developed character. Mary-Sues are what the author wishes they could be: special, beautiful, loved by all, perfect, etc. etc.

There are times when an author may just do true self-insertion. When an author does such, the character isn't usually considered a Mary-Sue; rather, the character is simply the author herself, unchanged.

Some hints that a character may be a Mary-Sue:
~ Exotic hair/eye color
~ Magic/super powers (Even if it is in a fantasy world, the Mary-Sue may have some extra special, super-uber cool power that's extremely uncommon/rare)
~ Best at whatever she does

Note, however, that sometimes in stories, features such as these are actually common, so some characters aren't really Mary-Sues.

Some other clues that a character may be a Mary-Sue:
~ Mary-Sue gets her true love, who may be extremely attractive/wealthy/cool/perfect (in some cases, just like her)
~ Mary-Sue shares similar features/behavior with the author
~ Mary-Sue will always win in fights against her enemies
~ Mary-Sue is one of the most knowledgeable and clever people, and cannot be bested
~ Mary-Sue may be a part of the "in-crowd," or is welcomed into a group where she is practically worshipped, generally after being an outcast
~ Mary-Sue is taken care of, and has to worry about little, since usually everything works out for her


Still, remember that not all of these features indicate that a character is a Mary-Sue; perhaps just a few.

In many books, the main character is special in her own way, which is why the book focuses on her. Just remember that a Mary-Sue seems to be too perfect in some aspects, and has too much luck in some scenarios, thus, causing her to seem one-dimensional and blah.

*This information came from both Wikipedia, and from information I've gleaned from books I've read/read reviews about, where the main character is widely considered to be a Mary-Sue.

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Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Derya (new)

Derya Becca Fitzpatrick claimed that she's a little bit like Vee Sky, not Nora. =)


message 2: by K (new)

K How about a male version? The main chara from "Magic's Pawn" by Mercedes Lackey is absolutely excruciating. Silver eyes, good looks, magic powers, epic capacity for angst, other characters as are just foils for him. Blech.


message 3: by Carrousel (new)

Carrousel Kat wrote: "How about a male version? The main chara from "Magic's Pawn" by Mercedes Lackey is absolutely excruciating. Silver eyes, good looks, magic powers, epic capacity for angst, other characters as are j..."

Sure, why not? :) Be sure to check later for the list!


message 4: by Hannah (new)

Hannah You kiddin' me? Jacky Faber from the Bloody Jack books is a total Mary Sue!!


message 5: by Carrousel (new)

Carrousel Faize wrote: "You kiddin' me? Jacky Faber from the Bloody Jack books is a total Mary Sue!!"

Feel free to vote for any books you'd like!
And I've yet to read the series; I'd heard about it, but the concept didn't really grab my attention..

Kat wrote: "How about a male version? The main chara from "Magic's Pawn" by Mercedes Lackey is absolutely excruciating. Silver eyes, good looks, magic powers, epic capacity for angst, other characters as are j..."

Just to let you know, the Gary-Stus of Literature list has been made, so feel free to vote for the "male Mary-Sues!"


message 6: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary um, the ones at the top of the list seem to be mary-sues, there is one major difference (out of the books i've read). While the book isn't very well written, to be sure, Clary from city of bones is not a Mary Sue. She's not "hot" or "beautiful," she is often stupid and reckless, and she is completely ignorant of the shadowhunter world. She has her talents, and yes, she does have a "special gift," but that's why she's the protagonist. Jace, on the other hand, is a total Gary-Stu.


message 7: by Kealsey (new)

Kealsey Rosemary wrote: "um, the ones at the top of the list seem to be mary-sues, there is one major difference (out of the books i've read). While the book isn't very well written, to be sure, Clary from city of bones i..."

But she attracts amazing, perfect Jace and Simon without really trying so she's at least a little mary-sue-ish.


message 8: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Rojas I'll admit that Nora Grey (Hush Hush) at the first book was a bit sue-ish, but in the rest of the books she's not. CLARY FRAY (City of Bones) isn't a Mary Sue! the fact that Simon and Jace are in love with her doesn't make her one, she wasn't "loved by everyone" neither Alec or Isabelle liked her much at the beginning and they aren't the villains. On the other hand, Elena Gilbert (The vampire diaries) is a COMPLETE Mary Sue and should be among the top 5.


message 9: by Chloe (last edited Apr 25, 2013 01:08PM) (new)

Chloe Burton I agree with all of these save Grace Brisbane (Shiver), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), and Tris Prior (Divergent).


message 10: by Merary (new)

Merary How are Rose Hathaway, Karou, Rhine, Katniss, Tris, and Lena "Mary Sues"?
I think this list is more like: Heroine I don't like = Mary Sue.
Although, I agree with 1-7.


message 11: by Skjam! (new)

Skjam! It's a bit easier to spot Mary Sue in fanfiction (where the term originally came from) and to a certain extent tie-in novels.

Big hints in those are: related to main character (especially if main character is explicitly an orphan with no close relatives in the original) or being the only *other* character with the specialness that made the main character important.

"Yes, Spock, I am the only other Human/Vulcan hybrid in the galaxy!"

Also, the other characters alter their behavior and personalities to have their lives revolve around Mary Sue. (Hermione suddenly dropping half her IQ points to let Mary Sue be the smart one in the story, for example.)


message 12: by Ioanna (new)

Ioanna Joseph I think Mary Sues generally don't have much of a distinctive personality and they are usually used as an empty vessel for the reader/writer to project themselves on. Which is why Bella Swan is such a perfect example of a Mary Sue, since she has no hobbies whatsoever, her blood is exceptionally tasty and hers is the only mind Edward can't read. To say that characters like Katniss Everdeen, Rose Hathaway and Grace Brisbane are like her is absolute blasphemy.


message 13: by Emmelia (new)

Emmelia I didn't think Rose in VA was a Mary Sue, but I avoided that book for awhile because her friend, Lissa, set off my Mary Sue alarm. Last of the royal line (parents and brother died in a car crash), was a princess in the first place, and has a rare power. Rose got called out on her shit at least once that I remember and she did seem brash and reckless at some points. Plus she's a Dhampir, and the impression I got of them was they were just stronger-than-average humans. They didn't seem to have any special powers. The only sue-ish thing I saw in Rose was that she played a part in Lissa's special rare power but that's pretty much it.

Also, males can be Mary Sues. The terms for them are Marty Stu and Gary Stu.


message 14: by Therealbadkitty (new)

Therealbadkitty There is a duplicate of Delirium. Speaking of Delirium, I don't see how Lena is a Mary Sue?


message 15: by Therealbadkitty (new)

Therealbadkitty Katniss,Katsa and Karou are most definitely NOT Mary Sue's.


message 16: by Zee (last edited Dec 09, 2013 05:33AM) (new)

Zee Elmer I agree that Katniss and Tris can be Mary Sues. Most people will argue they aren't because they absolutely adore the characters but to be honest, they are. I'm a huge Divergent fan and even I can see that (albeit my favorite character was Shauna and not Tris.)

Katniss is "just friends" with Gale - BUT HE'S SO MADLY IN LOVE WITH HER! She also wants nothing to do with Peeta romantically - BUT HE'S SO MADLY IN LOVE WITH HER! See where this goes? And then there's of course the getting a high training score while shooting an apple at Ceneca Crane (possible misspelling) and getting a 12 when implying the capital killed Ceneca (again I probably misspelled that.) Also having the odds stacked against her - and she wins? Not only that, she manages to get Peeta to win, also? TWO victors? All because she rebelled? In reality she would have been snuffed out faster than anything because the game makers wanted her dead. And to be fair they did. But no, she overcomes them all and gets the guy, too. She is a total Mary Sue, just no one wants to see it.

Tris is a Mary Sue. She knows she doesn't belong where her parents are and thus picks the most opposite place she can - and then learns to succeed there against all odds. She also gets the good looking guy, also from where she came seeking the same things she was, to fall for her simply by "being herself." Honestly I wouldn't have been surprised if he fell for her, but for once I want to see the main character work for it!

So yes they ARE Mary Sues. Most people just don't want to think they are because they like the characters so much.


message 17: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty Nelson Zee wrote: "I agree that Katniss and Tris can be Mary Sues. Most people will argue they aren't because they absolutely adore the characters but to be honest, they are. I'm a huge Divergent fan and even I can s..."

Can't say anything about Tris, but I wouldn't call Katniss a Mary Sue at all. Mostly because she does have some pretty severe character flaws/makes some poor decisions that do negatively impact on her and those around her. This gets worse in the later books. The things that she is particularly good at- e.g. archery, she actually has reason to be good at. The first training score was a bit of an eyeroll I'll admit (though even so the possibility was addressed that her temper might not work in her favour at all and she might get a low training score instead) but the second was given so that the other characters would target her in the arena.

I think it was pretty well established in the books that so much faith/interest was placed in Katniss not so much because of her own attributes, but because of what other characters made her out to be. I don't know if you've read the second/third books but it comes more explicit that the rebellion was looking for someone to be their spark and so when Katniss, a girl from the poorest district (and thus really unlikely to win the games) volunteered for her sister (basically sacrificed herself) they were all over that (starting with Cinna and his opening ceremony outfit for her, which led to more and more interest in her.)

I thought it was pretty clear that without Peeta, Katniss would have been far less likely to actually win the games (and certainly both of them wouldn't have survived) due to his decision to present them as star-crossed lovers (which Katniss was oblivious to.)That was also a big part of what won Katniss favour/interest with the Capital (meant that the gamemakers were less likely to kill her off immediately and that she had sponsorship gifts.)

The only kinda Mary Sue thing for me was Peeta being in love with Katniss, despite having spoken to her apparently once in his life. Gale is for me, much more understandable. (I also did read somewhere that Gale wasn't originally intended as a love interest at all, but the author had pressure put on her to create one, because they thought that would be a big pull for the teen demographic they were selling to.)

Actually if I had to accuse one Hunger Games character of being a Sue/Stu it would be Peeta and not Katniss. (But that's another argument for another day.)


message 18: by Skjam! (new)

Skjam! I am reminded of my review of "Planet of Your Own" by John Brunner. Kynance (the heroine) starts the story being described as frighteningly smart, multi-competent and exotically beautiful. So she figures she'll leave Earth for the stars, get rich and return in triumph.

What has actually occurred, however, is that Earth has been bled of its best and brightest over the last few centuries, so *everyone* in space is exotically good looking, multi-competent and smart to the point that average 15 year olds are earning the equivalent of Earth doctorates. And it gets worse the farther Kynance gets from Earth.

So she winds up nigh-unemployable and has to jump on the first job she can find, even if it's obviously a trap.


message 19: by Ash (new)

Ash I think a lot of people are just voting for characters they dislike. Yes, Clary is completely irrational and annoying and yes, Katniss spend most of Mockingjay sitting around and moping (she's one of my favourite characters of all time, but I just wanted to smack her in that book!) but that doesn't make them Sues. A Sue is a character who never fails at anything and has no real flaws, which makes them impossible to relate to and extremely irritating.

I voted for Bella and Karou, and this isn't because I hate them. Bella is beautiful, has all the guys after her and even has "nicer blood," than other people, and we never know how she attracts all these boys because she has no personality. And Karou...I'll let this bit of description do the talking:

"Karou was, simply, lovely. Creamy and leggy, with long azure hair and the eyes of a silent-movie star, she moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx. Beyond merely pretty, her face was vibrantly alive, her gaze always sparkling and luminous, and she had a birdlike way of cocking her head, her lips pressed together while her dark eyes danced, that hinted at secrets and mysteries."

She can do everything, is good at everything, is smart and funny and popular and not only pretty - oh, no - but vibrantly alive. Plus, she has a beautiful, 50-year-old angel stalking her, much like Bella, who falls in love with her instantly. And the worst thing is, the insta-love happens twice.


message 20: by Bop (new)

Bop I think it's pretty obvious that to some "Mary-sue" simply means "female character I don't like." Katniss Everdeen? Katsa? And I am sure there are others. But for the most part, yes, most of these so-called "heroines" are Mary-sues. I've quickly learned to be wary of any book presented as fantasy or supernatural adventure/romance, since they are a hot bed of Mary-sues, insta-love/lust and other literary diseases.


message 21: by Ellica (new)

Ellica Kang Karou basically fits every definition of a Mary-sue listed up there, but she's still my favorite heroine. I definitely don't think she's a one-dimensional character.


message 22: by Draconian (new)

Draconian Ice Whoa, whoa, whoa...what the hell is golden lily doing there? Sure, it's not the best of the Bloodlines book, but that's all in the past! You just need to read the rest of the series before making any stupid decisions!


message 23: by Jamie (new)

Jamie there is no mary sue character in mortal instruments. Every last character is as far as perfect as they come. The only reason Jace is good at killing things is that he's been trained hardcore by the clave since he was atleast 10 years old. Actually, he's kind of a jerk at first. A self obsorbed, Arrogant character. His lines are some of the most memorable in the entire series. Mary sues or Gary stus are your typical perfect characters who do everything right and make no mistakes. Jace is a rich character which has many faults throughout all six books. the type of character your talking about is good at everything. he's far from perfect. Yes, he's one of the best at killing things only because he's been trained that way since he was little. It's the world they live in. Nothing more. The last time I checked, Mary sue characters were characters you couldn't hate because of things they'd done because their virtually perfect. Certain times in book 2 I wanted to reach through and slap Jace for how he spoke to Clary even though Clary practically deserved it.


message 24: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Oh and when Jace was put in the mundane world situation he stuck out like a sore thumb. In the 4th book they show that rather clear. Simple things most people take for granted like cooking or going to the store are foreign to Jace.


message 25: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca According to this list, EVERY female in a fictional book, is a Mary-Sue. Mary-Sue for me is someone who has really stupid flaws, all the characters rely on her, everyone's lives revolve around her and excels at everything without trying.

For instance, in Fighting by Cat Phoenix, the protagonist is a thief who only spent a year pick-pocketing then eventually after that year, she was reformed. I wouldn't have a problem with this, but the book never said that she trained herself to pick-pocket and said that she had a knack for it, like it came easy for her. Not only that, but the author never said she got caught. Come on! If you start pick-pocketing, you're gonna get caught at some point regardless if you get in trouble. Heck in some of the movies and tv shows I watch, pick-pocketers have a wrap sheet and are known by the police because pick-pocketing is hard. Not only that, she can throw knives after like two weeks of training - not well, bet well enough for her team. THAT is a mary-sue.

Katniss is not a mary-sue because she has way too many flaws, actually spent almost her whole life perfecting being an archer, isn't selfish, makes bad decisions which puts people at risk and a lot of other things. Just because TWO guys want her as more than a friend, doesn't make her a mary-sue. Lets not forget that she didn't always get out of every bad situation. If you read Mockingjay, she is far from perfect. I'm just saying.

I haven't read the entire Divergent series, but Tris isn't a mary-sue either. She got the same training as everybody else. She was determined not to be at the bottom of the list or she'd become factionless. If I were faced with living as a homeless person, I'd work my butt off not to become homeless. But that's only in Divergent. Not so sure about the last two books of the series.

I really do feel like no matter what, people will find Mary-Sue attributes. You can't really escape it. And I know that when people write, they normally do add a bit of themselves in their characters or characters they'd like to be, but aren't. Like I said, no escaping it. It's the over doing it where it becomes unbelievable and hard to bare that kills a book. You have to find a balance or else the author will destroy the book.


message 26: by Shadowjac (new)

Shadowjac Does anyone else want to vote for My Immortal, AKA the worst fan fiction. Of all time. It infamous for its Mary-sue, look it up if you've never heard of it.


message 27: by Vicky (last edited Mar 23, 2016 03:33PM) (new)

Vicky Rosemary wrote: "um, the ones at the top of the list seem to be mary-sues, there is one major difference (out of the books i've read). While the book isn't very well written, to be sure, Clary from city of bones is..."
If Bella is there then Clary deserves a spot. I never consider Bella flawless or perfect and she herself is very awkward more than clary.
Clary is beautiful, way more than what Bella is, Simon Jace and Sebastian are after her and say she is beutiful just that she like all the mary sues doesn't consider herself beautiful because she has frekles, she's short. and lacks personality. Bella at least has some goals, a past and loyalties. Clary is just a fierce mary sue. Fierce but mary sue.


message 28: by Whitney (new)

Whitney This might include some spoilers.
I never thought of Blue in The Raven Cycle as a Mary Sue, but then maybe that's because she's my favorite character and I'm in love with the series. But I guess she kind of is.
She herself says that rather than being made an outcast at her school, she has a lot of people who want to be her friend. We don't see her try to form a friendship with anyone at her school yet we're supposed to believe that she is well liked despite the fact that she lives in a family (sort of family) full of fortune tellers- something that would usually cause one to be considered an outcast.
She ends up being adored by both Adam and Gansey. She and Noah get a long great. Everyone seems to get along with or at least like her as soon as they meet her, except Ronan. She was rude, rightfully so, to Gansey during their first meeting yet he still ends up falling in love with her.
As much as I absolutely love her, I can't really think of any actual flaws of hers... I don't want to say it, but she probably is definitely a Mary Sue.


~☆~Autumn♥♥☔ Does Mary Sue have good manners? (a thing which has disappeared in the past years).


message 30: by Rashik (last edited Jul 24, 2020 09:05PM) (new)

Rashik Chowdhury All Sarah J Maas heroines are just the definition of worst kind of Mary Sues.


message 31: by Sarah (new)

Sarah What about a Gary Stu? Is there a list for them?


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