Forum: Writing Mary Sue: the Mother of Challenges

Discussing: Genre Questions

Genre Questions

General questions may be asked here, e.g.: Is a Mary Sue necessarily a self-insert? How have others dealt with those already existant romantic committments? Anyone have any canonical texts for wedding ceremonies in M-e for *any* of the races?

 

 

Re: Genre Questions

Anyone have any canonical texts for wedding ceremonies in M-e for *any* of the races?

Martinez has a summary of canonical and HoMe mentions of weddings in Parma Endorion, in particular a detailed summary of Eldar wedding customs from Morgoth's Ring. This link opens a big PDF file; go to chapter 10.

Not canonical but perhaps helpful: Anglo-Saxon wedding customs.

 

 

Re: Genre Questions

Sue links (I think I've given these elsewhere, but no harm putting them here):

Pro.

Anti; and another one (also contains a typology of Sues).

Firerose's very measured and multi-fandom article is here.

 

 

Re: Genre Questions

Is a Mary Sue necessarily a self-insert?

Well, now that all comes down to your definition of what a Mary Sue is, and I am not willing to define it here. I know everyone has different beliefs as to what constitutes a Mary Sue, and am perfectly happy saying that if YOU think your OC is a Mary Sue, then she is! I guess I am just one of those types who likes to defy labels.

I have seen many good Mary Sues and most of them are not self inserts or are inserts of a more mature author who has realized some of her own faults and has presented her character more honestly than most teens do. It all comes down to believability. A good Mary Sue is one you could actually buy as being part of the story - believability in the context of the tale. A bad one stretches your suspension of disbelief to the breaking point and you end up dismissing the story altogether. I will readily admit that breaking point gets lower the more bad MSs you have to wade through!

How have others dealt with those already existent romantic commitments?

The best ones I have read treat existing relationships realistically also - keeping them 'in character' and providing a reaction to the OC that seems believable also. If you know your characters well enough, you can usually do a good job of predicting what their reactions to situations will be even if they have never been in those situations in the story.

Legomance... good heavens. I have NEVER read a Legolas romance (I have ZERO interest in the elf...) - and didn't have any clue that it was such a popular genre (though that does sort of validate this forum, doesn't it?).

Edit: Thank you for those links, Altariel. I have read Firerose's article before - but it is so measured, I am never quite sure what her point is.

Ariel


 

 

Re: Genre Questions

Oops, I've just posted something in the "Some Theoretical Perspectives" thread which I think might have gone better under this one. Not sure what to do - perhaps I should cut and paste - or people can pop over there to have a look.

Sorry

 

 

Re: Genre Questions

We'll just pop over and look.

[Material that follows is in response to the posting in "Theoretical Perspectives, for the curious.]

I don't know of any distinction between adolescent self-insert and adult self-insert. I'm not actually sure what you mean by the terms: do you refer strictly to the author's stage of life, or to the behavior of the OFC? My first instinct would be to say that Mary Sue is going to be adolescent behaviorally, but then again, I'm not sure how many adolescents go in for certain sexual practices that I've seen some Sues engage in. Although, that could be interpreted, *perhaps* as a sign of a non-realistic, Hollywood conception of what constitutes 'erotic.' I just don't know.

I agree that we all put pieces of ourselves in whichever characters we write--that is part of what makes writing such a queasy prospect in terms of sharing it with anyone, I think. But with Mary Sue (as negatively understood--not talking about a simple, neutral OFC), the idea is that there is a wholesale appropriation of the character--she exists only to say what the author has longed to say, do, feel, be, and she says, does, feels, and is to extremes. That is my understanding of the "self-insert" side of Mary Sue definitions.

Una posted a great link somewhere, that has a whole section on the "place-holding" nature of OCs (or really, for *any* character, I would say) and why it doesn't work with Mary Sue. I'm not explaining this well--sorry, brain fried two hours ago. The link was either posted in either Tavia's forum or in the old Mary Sue discussion under "Prospective Challenges"... er... anyhow, if you haven't read it, go read that article. It's fabulous, balanced, and whether you like Mary Sue or not, I think the article is well-done and informative.

 

 

The Inner Sue

Rambling, with a question attached, because it seems as if I can't think like a normal person at midnight. Hm. I wonder why that is?

Anyhow, as we write our OFCs, it occurs to me to wonder what traits I've given canonicals over the past year that express my inner "Mary Sue." And in thinking about this, the weirdest one I came up with was the following:

I made Denethor an accountant.

Seriously. The Mary Sue poll that Aralanthiriel put together for us gave all the standard pie-in-the-sky powers that we know we'd all love to possess free of cost but can't possibly have. But there are other, more subtle things that we do with canonicals and OCs that are speculative (and appropriate to the character) but which are, essentially, us doing wish-fullfilment on a small scale. Money is mysterious to me. I suck at handling money; Denethor, on the other hand, is damn good at it--good enough to be able to look at sheets of paper and figure out that there's a problem in Poros of the treacherous kind. I wish I were better at languages; Bergil is way more fluent in hradathur than I ever will be in French.

What are some of the more bizarre, quirky, low-level (and therefore unnoticed and sneaky, heh heh) "Suvian" traits you've passed on to characters?

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

Seriously. The Mary Sue poll that Aralanthiriel put together for us gave all the standard pie-in-the-sky powers that we know we'd all love to possess free of cost but can't possibly have. But there are other, more subtle things that we do with canonicals and OCs that are speculative (and appropriate to the character) but which are, essentially, us doing wish-fullfilment on a small scale. Money is mysterious to me. I suck at handling money; Denethor, on the other hand, is damn good at it--good enough to be able to look at sheets of paper and figure out that there's a problem in Poros of the treacherous kind. I wish I were better at languages; Bergil is way more fluent in hradathur than I ever will be in French.

What are some of the more bizarre, quirky, low-level (and therefore unnoticed and sneaky, heh heh) "Suvian" traits you've passed on to characters?


Imrahil is dirt-repellent, and somehow always contrives to remain tidy, no matter how stressful the circumstances. Celeborn never, ever loses his cool. Elrohir has a wicked rapier wit. And Heth is the extremely coordinated, dextrous, wonderfully physical person I wish I had been. As well as being universally admired, arguably the most important Suvian trait.

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

That is very interesting.

I can see that in friends' OCs - where they are the one thing the author is not, but I can't say as I have ever done that. No, really... I tried to think of a character that I had created that was something I wasn't and about the only thing I could find was that my OCs (in my original fiction too) are just in the right place at the right time. I wonder if that means I never am, eh?

I agree that all OCs are self-insertions of at least one aspect of your character, and that's not a horrible thing. When I referred to mature vs adolescent self-insertions, I was really referring to the realistic vs idolized ones and was not placing any onus on the age of the author. Many mature adults have written horrible Sues. Maturity in writing is not totally dependent on age.

To write a good OC (OK, I'll stop calling them all Sue's -though what is in a name?) you really ought to put yourself into it - but all of yourself - including your faults. This requires a pretty good handle on your own issues and not everyone is comfortable exploring themselves that deeply. I must confess to being very good at this... I have self-loathing down to such a science I have even invented neuroses for myself!... and hopefully my Sues aren’t what most of you would call Sues because of it. Come on, there has to be some benefit to being this way!

Ariel

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

Dwim wrote:

What are some of the more bizarre, quirky, low-level (and therefore unnoticed and sneaky, heh heh) "Suvian" traits you've passed on to characters?

Well there’s my Keeper. He works for an ancient and august institution that considers him to be a servant rather than an employee. He is conscientious about his duties but feels that his efforts are not always recognised and rewarded in the way that he would like. His moral is undermined by a sense of futility and impending doom. He gets one over on those considered smarter than himself. He gets the chance to enjoy an early retirement in the location of his dreams. Hmm ……

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

> He works for an ancient and august institution that considers him to be a servant rather than an employee. He is conscientious about his duties but feels that his efforts are not always recognised and rewarded in the way that he would like. His moral is undermined by a sense of futility and impending doom. He gets one over on those considered smarter than himself. He gets the chance to enjoy an early retirement in the location of his dreams. Hmm ……

Oh dear. We're not going to be reading stories like this one about you, are we Andria?

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

Oh dear. We're not going to be reading stories like this one about you, are we Andria?

Now if I could just work out a way of getting that large oak 14th century altarpiece under the photocopier ......

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

What are some of the more bizarre, quirky, low-level (and therefore unnoticed and sneaky, heh heh) "Suvian" traits you've passed on to characters?

Well, Faramir is a natural linguist (although I think that's canon, isn't it, rather than just me Sue-ing?); anyway, I play that up because I'm incapable of learning another language. And, it transpires, he plays excellent chess, whereas I'm at the 'nice horsey' level. I also gave him an awful lot of shelf space, which I sorely lack.

Other stuff would apply generally to most other characters: big houses (and several of them), vast personal wealth, extensive lands, political power, good looks and nice clothes.

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

Well, Faramir is a natural linguist

Indeed... and a cunning one, as Isabeau can point out.

(Sorry, my evil muse is working overtime today).

Meg
--

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

Well, Faramir is a natural linguist

Indeed... and a cunning one, as Isabeau can point out.

Meg! You'll be the death of me!

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

Well, Faramir is a natural linguist

Indeed... and a cunning one, as Isabeau can point out.


 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

Before this degenerated into a good ol' fashioned "let's all pitch our knickers at Faramir" competition, Dwim wrote thusly:

What are some of the more bizarre, quirky, low-level (and therefore unnoticed and sneaky, heh heh) "Suvian" traits you've passed on to characters?

As someone who vehemently disagrees with the idea that a Sue is defined by a laundry list of traits (my own personal litmus test is, does the character exist to forward the plot/themes of the fic, or does the plot exist to further the character?), I find this a very interesting question. Therefore:

In Shards of Time, both Barahir and Mazikeen have the political adroitness I would like to have, with the added bonus, in Barahir's case, of the sort of perception I would give my right arm for. Anguo, who appears in both The Sand Circle and Tower of Glass, is the experienced, widely-respected professional I want to be when I grow up. Faidar, also from ToG, shares the political adroitness I mentioned before, only even more so (who hasn't wished to be able to balance the myriad demands of a complex position? -- er, maybe you'd better scratch that, after all I'm a geek). Eowyn in ToG breezed through the harsh training of a Healer as I wish I could have done when I was in/return to med school. Again in ToG, Arwen's talent to discreetly handle highly delicate situations (not to metion her ability to understand the mystery of pictograms) is something I wish would come to me in the immediate future. And I would sell my soul to be able to make people blurt out "confessions" after half an hour of small talk around a nice cup of wine, as ToG's Faramir does.

There's also a variety of traits I do have and which I have passed on to my characters, like Elanor's analytical mind (although that's partially derived from the unpublished Epilogue). But, frankly, if having her sort of mind makes her a Mary Sue, she can be joined in that realm by Hercule Poirot and Nero Wolfe.

Schnoogles,

-----AM

 

 

Re: The Inner Sue

As someone who vehemently disagrees with the idea that a Sue is defined by a laundry list of traits (my own personal litmus test is, does the character exist to forward the plot/themes of the fic, or does the plot exist to further the character?),

Now, that's a good way of defining a Mary Sue, and I suspect it's precisely what the challenge is trying to get people to think about. So many refuse to read OFC stories because of the certainty that they're Mary Sues, but I think often that's unfair.

As for the Sueish characteristics I've given my own OFC, let's see...

Well, a Mary Sue may be a stand-in for the author, bearing her characteristics or ones she wishes she had. So for how she's actually *like* me, she and I are both stubborn, both in our 30s, both study submission grappling (though she's much better than I am) and would do much for our teammates if they asked it of us, and neither one of us is exactly a beauty queen. We both also swear like gutter rats, and the concerns she expresses near the beginning about things like voter apathy are mine, through-and-through. The world she inhabits when she's at home is the world I fear ours becoming (well, except for the magic part - I don't actually forsee that).

It's how I wish I were like her that's more interesting to me. I wish I knew Muay Thai kickboxing. I wish I knew how to handle weapons the way she does - though, interestingly, I have zero desire to have one in my house. I wish I had her ability not to obsess over past mistakes. I wish I had her confidence in her own decisions, rather than simply an incredibly advanced ability to fake it. I wish I had her cardiovascular system. And that black sheepskin vest. Oh - and I wish I knew how to knife-fight.

What I'm not a bit clear on is why I wish I knew how to knife-fight and how to handle guns. It's not like there's any call for it in my day-to-day life. Or ever.

And I'm very glad that I *don't* have her reasons for needing those skills. And I wish I didn't have reason to fear our world becoming hers one day.

I suspect the reason I'm writing her, now that I think back on it, is to have a greater feeling of control over things that scare me.

Oh, la, clearly I should get more coffee before this moves any further into the realm of TMI.

Cheers!
-Rachel

 

 

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