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message 1: by Sans (new)

Sans I've been seeing "Mary Sue" a lot more lately and that got me thinking. How do you define "Mary Sue" and "Marty Stu" characters? What makes you call them a Mary Sue instead of bland or lacking depth?

For that matter, how do you define or describe:

TSTL (aka Too Stupid To Live)

contemporary (anything in this decade? Your lifetime? The past two generations? This century?)


paranormal vs supernatural

Are there other terms you use or see that you think have multiple definitions?

The UHQ Nasanta (uhqs) | 829 comments I somewhat define "Mary Sue" using Wikipedia's definition.

For me, contemporary would probably be anything within the past century or so. Maybe less.

message 3: by Lisarenee (last edited Feb 24, 2011 10:37AM) (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments I'd go with Niquae's definition of "Mary Sue".

TSTL is a very politically incorrect term to define so you may not get many people to tell you their opinion, but I may be wrong. In regards to books I'd define it as a character who had all the hints anyone could possible have and still makes a bad choice/decision. When the inevitable happens you just can't feel sorry for them. It doesn't necessarily mean that you wish them dead. Perhaps it is interchangeable with Too Stupid Too Learn?

I define contemporary as anything that relates to your lifetime or beyond that you can relate to. For example, I would not consider anything during WWII or the roaring 20s as something I could relate to so I couldn't include them.

I've changed my definition of fantasy just this year. I always thought it meant a place or setting that it is so fantastical that it can't be real. The actually genre definition, however, states there needs to be some magic involved in the story.

You say tomato you say tomata. I had to confront the paranormal vs supernatural this year. On the surface they seem almost the same, but as an English teacher once told me about the way I pronounce coupon is different than the way it should be pronounced. Darn my Midwest accent. While the two pronunciations may sound similar one is incorrect. So the same is true about the definition of paranormal and supernatural. There is a slight difference. Paranormal is for the unexplained or outside the realm of scientific explanation. Supernatural is for the intangible/something you can't see and usually has some connection to religion. So I'd consider an angel a supernatural, but not paranormal. I know it almost goes against what I defined since there are sightings of angels in the bible, but what can I say? The controversy goes on. ;)

I'll have to think about any other terms.

message 4: by Sans (new)

Sans Wonderful definitions Niquae and Lisa!

I have very similar opinions on those terms as well, though I've noticed I have a tendency to lump any female protagonist who I simply don't like as TSTL (either the original or Lisa's kinder version). The chick in the story might be smart, might not get into every scrape that crosses her path, might even receive the Nobel Prize for astrophysics and poetry. If she annoys me I label her as TSTL and hope against hope that either a black mamba gets put in her underwear drawer or the killer truck from Duel takes her out.

I do notice that Mary Sue's don't bother me. Sure I get bored by them a bit, but usually there are other characters that capture my attention. If I sit down and really think about it, I can totally see why Niquae felt Rhapsody was Mary Sue-ish. I didn't really think about it before because I was more caught up with the other characters (especially Achmed and Ashe).

As for contemporary, I like your definition, Lisa. I really struggle with that (mostly when I'm trying to assign tags to my books!) but I'm going to use your idea. I feel like I can relate to things that happened in the 60's and 70's (political movements, war, younger generations reaction to that war, music, etc) but not the 50's. My dad tells me what it was like in those days but I just can't picture it. When I do, I'm left with an image that's a combination of pod people and zombie sitcom.

message 5: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Sans said, "I was more caught up with the other characters (especially Achmed and Ashe)."

Gee, I wonder why. lol

message 6: by Sans (new)

Sans Hey, be nice! ^o^

message 7: by Alicia (last edited Feb 24, 2011 01:26PM) (new)

Alicia The wiki definition of Mary Sue looks excellent to me too! There are a couple of things for me that will elevate a character from just being "bland" to being a Mary Sue. Things like a "special" (but ridiculous) name, "special" looks (startling purple/turquoise eyes, hair brighter than gold, whatever), and also how the other characters react to her (ie. if every single guy in the book is falling all over her). If you get a couple of those factors together in combination, for me that pushes a character from bland or lacking in personality into Mary Sue territory.

I consider anything written in the 80s or 90s and beyond to be contemporary. I think once we're talking post-Vietnam, post-civil rights and post-women's movement (ie. 1980s and on), there haven't been any highly significant shifts in societal values, so I would consider that contemporary. There have perhaps minor shifts in values since then, and some new technologies, but I wouldn't say that there has been a true paradigm shift, so I would consider anything that arose from the 80s or 90s to be contemporary to us in 2011. I think the 1970s and the late 60s are where it becomes a bit of a grey area. Anything written in the 1950s or earlier is usually considered a "classic", but for something written in the 60s or 70 it can be a bit more iffy as to whether its a classic or contemporary.

I tend to use paranormal and supernatural fairly interchangeably, although I realize that it probably isn't correct to do so. I think I usually use paranormal to refer to more "traditional" horror, or what you might call "straight-up" horror - basically ghosts, haunting, polteirgeists, and maybe demons and exorcisms as well. I use supernatural more broadly for other types of creatures like vamps, weres, shifters, etc. I've never heard of the difference in paranormal vs. supernatural having anything to do with religion. Is that an American thing? What if you're not religious?

message 8: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Let me see if I can find the definition that made me associate it with religion.

message 9: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments From the merriam webster dictionary:
Definition of SUPERNATURAL
: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil
a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature b : attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)
— supernatural noun

message 10: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Here is Wikipedia's take on it:
The supernatural or supranatural (Latin: super, supra "above" + natura "nature") is anything above or beyond what one holds to be natural or exists outside natural law and the observable universe.[1] Science limits its explanations for phenomena to natural explanations, a process known as methodological naturalism, and cannot consider supernatural explanations, as they cannot be investigated empirically. To explain something using natural causes and excluding supernatural causes is to naturalize it.[2] To explain something as resulting from supernatural causes is to supernaturalize it.[3]

Supernatural themes are often associated with paranormal and occult ideas, suggesting the possibility of interaction with the supernatural by means of summoning or trance. In secular societies, religious miracles are typically perceived as supernatural claims, as are spells and curses, divination, and the afterlife. Characteristics for phenomena claimed as supernatural are anomaly, uniqueness, and uncontrollability. Thus, the conditions in which such phenomena are thought to manifest may not be reproducible for scientific examination.

Supernatural phenomena are sometimes referred to as paranormal. The field of study dealing with the supernatural is sometimes called metaphysics or the occult.

message 11: by Sans (new)

Sans How do you categorize immortals? Not the vampire kind.

message 12: by Lisarenee (last edited Feb 24, 2011 04:31PM) (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Fictional. Sorry couldn't resist. lol I'd categorize them as supernatural even though it goes against the religion definition. My original thought of supernatural (before dictionary surfing) as paranormal and those things not considered paranormal but definitely not normal. Paranormal would have included anything that would have originally been classified as evil. Not really sure.

Examples of Supernatural only(not classified as paranormal):
Immortal non vampire

message 13: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments I edited my previous statement.

message 14: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Lisarenee wrote: "From the merriam webster dictionary:
Definition of SUPERNATURAL
: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable univ..."

Ahhhh, cool! That's very interesting. I've never thought of supernatural in those terms before, but I suppose that's because as an adamant agnostic with an interest in current pop-culture I hear a lot more about vampires and werewolves than I do about spirits, God or religious entities. I also almost wonder if the meaning has been co-opted somewhat in the last five years or so? 50 years ago, when religion was far more prominent, no doubt the word usually had religious connotations. Recently though, with the huge popularity of paranormal romances, urban fantasies, Twilight, supernatural creatures ranging from vamps to werewolves to fairies, I do think I see the word being used more broadly to apply to any magical type creatures that don't necessarily have a religious history (although angels, demons, Nephilim and jihn definitely do), nor do they always seem to transcend the laws of nature. In fact, the books often have elaborate world-building that establishes and explains in a logical way how the creatures came to have their powers and how the magic or power system works. It's interesting how words and meanings evolve over time.

The main reason I had asked was because I was curious if Christianity was assumed to be the default religion in such a definition or explanation, but I was pleased to see that the definition is not biased towards Christianity and seems to leave room for an interpretation based on any polytheistic or monotheistic belief system, even mentioning "demigods". Very cool!

message 15: by Lisarenee (last edited Mar 01, 2011 05:04PM) (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Sans because of your question about paranormal vs supernatural, I asked Alyson Noel the following question in her Q&A:

"Somewhat silly question. I hope you don't mind. Some friends and I were discussing the difference between paranormal and supernatural and were wondering what one of your immortals would be classified as. Would it be paranormal (I'm guessing no), supernatural (unsure about this one since there is an explanation to their longevity) or something else? Maybe an altered human? "

Her response (she writes the Immortal series):
"I think paranormal and supernatural are interchangeable. They are both about things that exist outside of the ordinary."

Not sure if Immortals are classified as supernatural, but it kind of sounds like it.

message 16: by Sans (new)

Sans Awesome, thanks, Lisa!

Got another question for you. I was reading a review for a YA paranormal novel today and the reviewer kept using the word "interesting". It threw me a bit. that's kind of a catch-all word to me, very ambivalent and arbitrary. Sure, all reviews are arbitrary to begin with. Reviews are how we, as readers, explain the journey a story took us on. It's how we interpret that story and how it changed us. I firmly believe that all experiences, good or bad or in between, change us, even if it's infinitesimal.

But...interesting? Interesting good or interesting bad? Is there such a thing as a general "interesting"? That word alone depends so much on the inflection you put on it and the meaning behind it. It's almost a word that needs to be spoken aloud to truly get your point across.

While reading this review and seeing this word repeated several times, it left me scratching my head. Did the reviewer actually like it? Dislike it? Did the book really leave any impression at all on them? And it wasn't a short review. It was intelligent and lengthy didn't seem to say much. Beyond "interesting".

What does "interesting" mean to you, especially when you see or use it in a review?

message 17: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Sounds to me (without actually seeing the review) like they were avoiding having to make a comment about whether they liked the book. I agree it's generic and saying it more than once makes you wonder if they didn't like the book and didn't want to come right out and say it. How many stars did the review get?

Interesting to me can have, like you said, a duel meaning. When my kids ramble on about something that you can tell they are really into, but is not something I'd want a long conversation about I say, "That's very interesting." I'm not really lying because to me it is interesting to me that they are so interested in it. On the other hand, if I find something that I'd want to investigate further or intrigues me I'd also state that it is interesting.

A Voracious Reader (a.k.a. Carol) (avidreader68) | 724 comments When I say a book is interesting I mean it interested me. Interest=like. I can't remember if I've reviewed a book and called it interesting without qualifiers, but if I did then I was probably just being lazy. :)

message 19: by The UHQ Nasanta (new)

The UHQ Nasanta (uhqs) | 829 comments I sometimes use the word interesting when there is something about the book that held my attention or, well, was interesting, but I cannot pinpoint or articulate exactly what I liked about it or what it was that made me pay attention or something. I don't necessarily like the book but if something made me think but I wasn't sure what it was, I would use interesting.

message 20: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Yeah, I definitely occasionally use it as a tactful way of getting around commenting on the quality of something, same with words like "unique" or "different".

-"Hey alicia, how do you like my zebra-print UGGS?? They were a total steal! I drove to Buffalo just to get them"
-"Um, very interesting, ummm.. they're unique! Wow, that's interesting. And um, they're comfy, right? Everyone says they're comfy!"

I do also use it when I genuinely find something interesting, probably more often for nonfiction books than fiction books. Interesting when applied to books makes me think of history, politics, sociology, etc. I usually describe fiction in other ways, or if I do use interesting I think I usually indicate what I find interesting (ie. an interesting twist on the classic fairly take, and interesting perspective on rape fantasies, etc.).

message 21: by Sans (new)

Sans LOL! Alicia, was that a recap of an actual conversation?

message 22: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Sadly, yes.. a friend recently purchased those. You can see a pic at the link, lol. I'd like to be able to say that at least it's March, the snow is starting to melt and she won't be needing winter books much longer, but she is the type who wears UGGs even in the middle of July with a miniskirt, so I don't we'll be seeing the end of them for some time.

message 23: by Sans (new)

Sans *winces* Ouch.

message 24: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (treychel) | 1484 comments Normally I use the word interesting to mean odd. Someone will tell me a off-the-wall story and I will say, "Hmmm, how interesting." So instead of simply walking away, I say that because I cannot thing of any thing else to say to the person.

message 25: by Lisarenee (last edited Mar 05, 2011 03:45PM) (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments What does pternatural mean? I looked up the definition, but I swear Gail Carriger who wrote Soulless had a different definition then what I found when I googled it. How do you define it?

message 26: by Sans (new)

Sans Fascinating question. I use preternatural when referring to abilities, not people/creatures/ideas themselves. A supernatural creature has preternatural abilities. Gah, not explaining myself well, too tired. I'll come back after a good snooze and try again.

message 27: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (treychel) | 1484 comments This is what I go by when I try to decide.

I use Drummond's definitions. They make the most sense to me and aligns with the classifications that I have always used for myself. I really don't think anyone knows for

message 28: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments So here's another questionable term, how do you define Urban Fantasy? I thought I knew and now I'm not so sure.

message 29: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments My definition of Urban Fantasy was any supernatural/paranormal story set in modern times, but then I found out Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel (set in Victorian times) was considered Urban fantasy. Apparently the story being set around a city is a main component of the Urban part. So I guess if an Urban Fantasy moves away from the city for a book or two it's no longer considered Urban Fantasy? That would be confusing. Why are there no hard answers or definitions to these things?

message 30: by Sans (new)

Sans I think Urban Fantasy is more action oriented paranormal and the romance (if there is any) is not a major or important part of the plot. There aren't several smut scenes in UF though there is likely some UST that remains unresolved for a few books. UF series tend to focus on a single character, not moving on to another character in a group like PNR series. The lead character can be either gender. It's darker and grittier than PNR and is told in first person more often than not.

I don't agree that it has to be based in a city. I think any setting with more than two people can be considered UF. Take the Suki Stackhouse series for example. They're in a small boondock town in the deep south but I consider that series to be more UF than PNR, mostly because of the items I listed above.

message 31: by Lisarenee (last edited Mar 08, 2011 09:35AM) (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Here's wikipedia's definition:
Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

They seem to be the only ones bold enough to take a stance on a definition. Could they be wrong?

message 32: by Sans (last edited Mar 08, 2011 09:50AM) (new)

Sans I don't know that I would say their definition is wrong. I do think that, as this thread has proven, everything is subjective. We all have our own ideas that sometimes jive with each other and sometimes don't. ^_^

I can believe that the general definition of UF stipulates that the setting be in a city or urban setting. I also think that there are always subgenres upon subgenres where the definition will will change. Maybe I've just been reading those subgenres?

And really, what is the definition of urban at that point. Technically, couldn't any collection of buildings and people be a city? Does it really have to be a concrete and steel collection? Are we going by a specific person to building ratio or saturation?

Interesting note, when I go to my local Half Price Books, there is a section called "Urban Fiction". All of the books in that section are by African American authors and have almost exclusively African American characters and they seem to run the genre gamut from fiction to romance to erotica to paranormal.

message 33: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Definition of Urban by Merriam-Webster:

of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city

Definition of Fantasy by Merriam-Webster:

imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters —called also fantasy fiction

I wonder if Wikipedia just merged the two definitions to make theirs? Notice no mention of a time period.

message 34: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments I must admit I'm laughing at the 'grotesque characters' usage in the definition. That I did not see coming.

message 35: by Sans (new)

Sans I originally posted this as a comment on the book itself, but I really don't want to attract the wrong kind of attention (getting flamed for my opinion and asking an honest question is not in my horoscope today). But I'm honestly curious if I'm reading this incorrectly or something.

I got my copy of the June RT Book Reviews magazine and was browsing the Urban Fantasy section. The review for Hammered, the third book in the Iron Druid series, has me raising an eyebrow. The reviewer says, “…it’s becoming apparent that while Hearne has female characters in his books, they are nothing more than supporting characters, their roles limited to defending the male protagonist or driving getaway cars. This is becoming a pretty serious flaw in an otherwise exciting and entertaining series.”

Now, don’t take away my girl card, but I have to wonder. Is that really a “serious flaw”? What’s wrong with having the main character (the single main character I might add) be a boy? Why would these books have to have another main character be a girl? They’re about Atticus. Not about Atticus’ opposite-gender friends. I’m sure there are books out there where all the boys are supporting characters to the main girl protagonist. I didn’t finish it, but the first Elemental Assassin book seemed to have a main female character and all her supporting characters were men.

Granted, I have not read Hammered yet, I’ve read only the first book, Hounded, so I can’t say if these supporting female characters have been relegated to the roles of booty calls and infodumpers. If that’s the case, I can see how that would be a major flaw and my eyebrow would be twitching for an entirely different reason. But if they’re actually supporting our main character, I’m not seeing the problem. This isn’t a romance series. It’s urban fantasy. About a one guy. All of the characters are, by default, going to be supporting characters.

Am I missing something? Am I being dense? Why is writing the girls as supporting characters bad?

message 36: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (treychel) | 1484 comments If this reviewer is male, then you have your answer. He just wants a hot, sexy female main character... [view spoiler for less appropriate ending for this sentence] (view spoiler). That's my opinion. No, I don't think you are being dense and there is absolutely nothing wrong with girls as supporting characters. We can't ALWAYS do the work. Damn. Lol. I also get tired of reading books with females as the main character(s).

This is one reason I don't read reviews for anything...movies, books...nothing. Reviewers (professional ones and others that get published) make me mad and even though they are sometimes amusing to read they don't have me changing my mind about a book or thinking about it in a different way. If anything, I always end up thinking about how stupid the reviewer is. And that's my two cents. :)

message 37: by Lisa Kay (new)

Lisa Kay (lisakayalicemaria) | 15159 comments Rachel wrote: "We can't ALWAYS do the work. Damn."


I haven't read the series, so I don't know if the author is objectifying women or not...but I don't think a book should be ranked down just b/c there is a male lead.

message 38: by Sans (last edited Jun 02, 2011 03:53PM) (new)

Sans Rachel, the reviewer was a woman. Do you think that makes a difference? It was in Romantic Times Book Reviews, but it's obviously a UF, not a romance.

Lisa, it's written by a man. The female characters are all powerful (goddesses, witches, stuff like that), they just didn't have a large roll in the first book. He slept with one of the goddesses a couple of times (Celtic goddess of the hunt), flirted with a couple of others, but didn't treat them badly at all. In fact, he was uber respectful of them. Granted, they could make his life very difficult, being deities and all, but he's a genuinely good character in my opinion.

It almost seems like the reviewer is mostly upset that Atticus is having sex but not in a relationship with any of the female characters.

message 39: by Lisa Kay (new)

Lisa Kay (lisakayalicemaria) | 15159 comments Hummmmm...sounds like the problem was with the reviewer. Just like with every book having a "kick-ass" heroine; I like to see some history of how they got that way. Not just **poof** born as a full-fledged Rambo-ette.

message 40: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Sans, Now I feel I should read the series you were talking about just to see what I think. Darn! I have so many books already on my to read pile. :(

Lisa Kay, Elemental Assassins (which Sans referred to) actually does go into how the main Kick-butt character actually became the way she is. I know the series isn't for everyone, but I truly love it.

message 41: by Lisa Kay (new)

Lisa Kay (lisakayalicemaria) | 15159 comments Man-oh-man, Lisarenee! Are you trying to get me to add to my towering TBR pile? LOL!

message 42: by Sans (new)

Sans Do it, do it!

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