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The Mary Sue/Gary Stu test - Stephan [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Stephan

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The Mary Sue/Gary Stu test [Aug. 6th, 2008|02:14 pm]
Stephan
(This is being written as stress-relief during my lunch hour)

I’ve always been mindful of avoiding creating a character who is an “Author’s Pet,” IE they hog the spotlight or are too heroic, etcetra. Just recently I’ve learned that since the 1970’s there has been a term for such a character: “Mary Sue/Gary Stu”

I was reading Wikipedia’s current entry on the character named “Dog” of the Footrot Flats series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footrot_Flats#Main_characters) and therein the article described him as “having a Mary Sue touch.”

Michael Sauerpüss, being my primary fursona and largely based on myself I was worried about this, particularly after I became more keen on his character than the original main character in my comic, Patrick Digby (you’ll meet Patrick in the upcoming episode of KZN – Carl Foxmarten has already seen what he looks like). For this reason I have segments planned for the comic where Michael is absent for a good length of time.

I found an online test (http://www.katfeete.net/writing/marysue.html) and thankfully Michael came up with a score of 35 (I presume that’s out of 100).

I’m wondering about other characters and Fursonas too…

Florence Ambrose? Mark created her AFTER Sam & Helix, but I dare to say she’s now the main character, and very dominant (something Perri commented about her in a poem).

Millicent Mudd? She took over the spotlight from Ozymandias Llewellyn, and she has certainly been the more dominant character in the later years.

Jack Black / Jenny Curtis? No, I think Scott’s rounded his characters reasonably.

Mzkitty? Nope! Bill has shown her to be both unfortunate, as well as having personal flaws (Mary Sue characters are typically lacking in flaws)

Kathy Grrsn? In the current series especially she’s actually LOST a lot of her lustre (IMHO).

Mab of DMFA. Possibly… but granted I don’t know DMFA that well.

Tiffany Tiger? We might be onto a candidate here… (sorry Gneech :( ) Her life is shown as one of triumph against social adversity, plus she’s from a broken home, and she’s adored by several males. Those elements are typical for Mary Sues. In fairness I might be biased due to my strong preference for Yin.

Sue Deer? Mmmm…. Yes and no. She and her author share a name, and there’s a similar triumph against adversity theme (socially). Atypically however Sue Deer is often the victim of circumstance.

Others? Suggest! Comment!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sleepyjohn00
2008-08-06 01:49 pm (UTC)
One should always be looking for traps, but not so focused on them that one walks into a tree instead.

Chuck Jones said that he created Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. by looking into himself and pulling up one part or another. Bugs is who he always wanted to be, Daffy is who he always ended up as. And they were major stars. Now, would you consider Bugs Bunny a MarySue?

OTOH, James Bond is the biggest MarySue in the history of fiction, and he's done pretty well over the years.

I got thoroughly tired of analysis and 'this is what the author meant, but is that really the meaning of what he meant' back when I got my degree, and I stay away from it. Writing material has to come from inside, what other source is there? It's what the writer does with it that tells the tale. If the story is mostly wish-fulfillment for the writer, well, that's probably a MarySue. The test comes down to: is it entertaining and worth reading?

To misquote Dark Helmet, Evil will always get better stories, because Good is dull. Florence without Sam would just be a study in engineering. If it weren't for Millie, Ozy would have disappeared into his navel years ago.

I think the test comes when your character does something you don't expect. And you say "Wait, I wouldn't have done that!" And the character says "But I would!" Then you know you're writing about someone else.

So go ahead and develop KAN, and don't obsess over who someone "really" is. Be yourself, and let the characters be themselves, and then you'll know.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2008-08-10 05:12 am (UTC)
SleepyJohn, you didn't happen to have a certain yellow-spotted ambush predator talking over your shoulder while you were typing? I'm getting some very strong hyenaesque de'ja'vu here... A casual discussion turned into an edict for me to work on the comic.

sleepyjohn00 said:"Chuck Jones said that he created Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. by looking into himself and pulling up one part or another. Bugs is who he always wanted to be, Daffy is who he always ended up as. And they were major stars. Now, would you consider Bugs Bunny a MarySue?",
To answer the question, yes I do very much consider Bugs to be a Mary Sue - the character has quite a number of traits to indicate so.

Nicholas Park spoke of how he created Wallace and Gromit from different aspect of his personality, however neither of these two have any significant number of Mary Sue traits because Park balanced them very well. Simply creating a character based on yourself is only one small such trait, often insignificant. Florence Ambrose wouldn't be based on Mark, and James Bond (whom you've mentioned below) wasn't based on Ian Flemmings, but on one of his friends (or acquaitances). Recently they've "Rebooted" the Bond series to try out a different personality on the character.

While there are successful Mary Sues there are infinitely more UN-successful ones, and these don't become popular so people generally haven't heard about them.

It's a trap I'm aiming to avoid, since I'm just starting out and need to have characters worthwhile enough to hold the audience attention.


sleepyjohn00 said:"OTOH, James Bond is the biggest MarySue in the history of fiction, and he's done pretty well over the years.

I got thoroughly tired of analysis and 'this is what the author meant, but is that really the meaning of what he meant' back when I got my degree, and I stay away from it.",

Whereas I find such topics fascinating, hence my commencing this as stress relief.

sleepyjohn00 said:"Writing material has to come from inside, what other source is there?",
The other sources are outside! The more you can adapt to other ways of thinking the better a writer you will be. Point in case the "Hyena and cow" pic superbly drawn by my friend was his way of saying thanks for the stories he'd received from me. In doing so I apply my best to emulate his mindset, so they are a match for his tastes. Mary Tamm, the actress who played Romana I in Doctor Who said that "Acting isn't about playing yourself, it's about playing someone entirely different to yourself." In most cases so is writing (unless you ARE writing about yourself).

sleepyjohn00 said:"To misquote Dark Helmet, Evil will always get better stories, because Good is dull. Florence without Sam would just be a study in engineering. If it weren't for Millie, Ozy would have disappeared into his navel years ago.",
I think both Sam and Ozy have more to offer audiences than they've been permitted to do. Mark hasn't been TOO bad with Sam, there have been some terrific moments of Sam, but Ozy defintely has more to offer audiences. Both characters started out well, then faded somewhat.

Mix and match with characters is a vital way to test their strengths & weaknesses. I once commented on the CTC forum that Florence & Helix worked well together. Mark agreed in a reply post and indicated he might reinvestigate that idea. The CTC should be exploring this mix & match concept further still.
[More below - LJ 4,300 character limit]
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[User Picture]From: sleepyjohn00
2008-08-11 01:56 am (UTC)
SleepyJohn, you didn't happen to have a certain yellow-spotted ambush predator talking over your shoulder while you were typing? I'm getting some very strong hyenaesque de'ja'vu here... A casual discussion turned into an edict for me to work on the comic.
I don't carry water for Kathy or anyone else, and I don't try to dictate the affairs of you or anyone else. I'm trying, as a friend, to encourage you to work on something that you have had trouble working on. Encourage, not demand, order, or ordain. Your life is your own.

I retired from the meanings and interpretations game a long while back; Moby Dick works just fine as a whale for me, and I don't need to see him as the symbol of hierarchical white male mysogynist society (which I have seen) to enjoy the novel. But then I don't watch the Olympics either. I'm weird all over.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2008-08-10 05:13 am (UTC)
sleepyjohn00 said:"So go ahead and develop KAN, and don't obsess over who someone "really" is. Be yourself, and let the characters be themselves, and then you'll know.",


I prefer the approach that the story is a vehicle made up of large & small parts, all of which have to function together appropriately. By the way, the abbreviation for my comic is KZN not KAN. I know it's unusual to use the third letter of a word for an abbreviation, but there are precidents. Australia's fast train is called (simply) the eXpress Passenger Train and this is abbreviated to XPT not EPT.
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2008-08-06 03:24 pm (UTC)
FWIW, "Gary Stu" is one of a few names for the male version. TV Tropes prefers "Marty Stu."

Some people say that Mary Sue is whom the author wants to be, even tho some Mary Sues suffer all the time. By this definition, I have my doubts about Florence and Tiffany. Millie is even more doubtful, because she frequently comes across as dimwitted, mean, unpopular, and ineffective.

A snarky site whose name I'll forgo declared that all furry comics have either a Mary Sue or a self-insertion character. It is true that many of them do, but those who say "all" either haven't read enough or have a very flexible standard.
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2008-08-06 05:32 pm (UTC)
Ah, I just applied the test to my characters and am relieved to see that none of them is a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Perhaps the comedy style helps ensure that everyone is notably flawed.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2008-08-10 09:28 am (UTC)
deckardcanine said:"Ah, I just applied the test to my characters and am relieved to see that none of them is a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Perhaps the comedy style helps ensure that everyone is notably flawed.", /span>
Being flawed though isn't an automatic gate against a character being a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.

Given that your comic focusses on a very small number of charcters in an environment that by definition has tight borders (IE there's not far that they can go) it isn't the sort of situation that highlights a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. I'm trying to think of one similar. Batty's "Render Strips" works in a similarly restrictive environment, but I was looking for one in the normal-sized world. "Calvin and Hobbes" comes close, but then Calvin's imagination allows him to go just about anywhere. The point is that such comics need to focus everything on the cast of characters and little else.
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2008-08-11 09:19 pm (UTC)
Being flawed though isn't an automatic gate against a character being a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.

True, but MS flaws (sheesh, that sounds like Microsoft bugs) are almost always few and either endearing or easily overlooked, at least to the author. Aspen, my favorite character, is selfish, often dim, and pretty obnoxious to the others, and I assume that the reader wouldn't want to spend much time with her. Virgil is drawn to her largely out of loneliness, and Kody mainly just doesn't want her to starve.

That said, you have a point that an MS could well exist undetected in a work of such limited scope. I'd better keep an eye out for signs that I'm going too far.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2008-08-10 09:21 am (UTC)
deckardcanine said:"By this definition, I have my doubts about Florence and Tiffany. Millie is even more doubtful, because she frequently comes across as dimwitted, mean, unpopular, and ineffective.",
There are different types of Mary Sues/Gary Stus/Marty Stus. Not all are based on the character, not all are heroic or intelligent ("Dog" of Footrot Flats certainly wasn't, he was just cute and chummy).

Generally the definition is an author's pet - one given excessive attention without justificaiton. They become worse at varying degrees when the other traits are added.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2008-08-10 09:22 am (UTC)
Sorry, a typo in the post above. That should have read "Not all are based on the AUTHOR." I wish LJ would allow us to edit mistakes.
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[User Picture]From: secoh
2008-08-07 08:18 am (UTC)
I'd actually dispute that Footrot Flats suffers from Mary Sue syndrome at all. I have read every one of his comics, and while The Dog is a central character, he's often not in the strip at all. On top of that I remember reading that Horse (the cat) was the only character based entirely on a real creature/person. I suspect that Wal and Cooch are aspects of his personality rather then The Dog.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2008-08-10 09:52 am (UTC)
secoh said:"I'd actually dispute that Footrot Flats suffers from Mary Sue syndrome at all. I have read every one of his comics, and while The Dog is a central character, he's often not in the strip at all. On top of that I remember reading that Horse (the cat) was the only character based entirely on a real creature/person. I suspect that Wal and Cooch are aspects of his personality rather then The Dog.",
Like I've explained in posts above, people shouldn't read too much into a character being based on the author's personality. It's merely one possible trait of a Mary Sue.

I suspect that the reason the current entry in Wikipedia describes "Dog" as such would be due to the egocentric nature of the character, and that so much of the story revolves around him (not all but most). The animated movie highlighted this even further.

Now IMHO "Horse" (for the benefit of non-Footrot flats fans, this character was a stray tom cat) was the worst Mary Sue of them all. He was an invincible stone-face whose only soruce of humour was in what happened when anyone opposed or confronted him. Without other characters around to glorify him "Horse" just didn't have any substance, yet Murray Ball (author) regarded him as something wonderful. Imagine trying to start a series of books with Horse as the lead character.
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[User Picture]From: carlfoxmarten
2008-08-09 08:35 am (UTC)
Sometimes it seems like a character is a Mary Sue because they get attention for a long time or always get the focus whenever they're around, but that doesn't mean that they are one.

Some stories actually start out focussing on a particular character, then end up spending the rest of the time concentrating on another character.

For example, if the real main character of a story spends his time trying to help the homeless, wouldn't it make some sense to focus some amount of time on one or more of the homeless that the main character is helping?

I suppose what I'm trying to say is this: While it may seem like Michael is getting more attention right now, he's probably providing background and introduction to the rest of the story.
(if that helps any)
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2008-08-10 10:13 am (UTC)
carlfoxmarten said:"Some stories actually start out focussing on a particular character, then end up spending the rest of the time concentrating on another character.",
Very often those are classic instances of Mary Sue types. You've just reminded me of "The Rose Tyler Show" :lol:

carlfoxmarten said:"For example, if the real main character of a story spends his time trying to help the homeless, wouldn't it make some sense to focus some amount of time on one or more of the homeless that the main character is helping?",
I couldn't say. It would depend entirely on the aims of the author. That's a very good question though.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is this: While it may seem like Michael is getting more attention right now, he's probably providing background and introduction to the rest of the story.
(if that helps any)

carlfoxmarten said:"I suppose what I'm trying to say is this: While it may seem like Michael is getting more attention right now, he's probably providing background and introduction to the rest of the story.
(if that helps any)",
The episodes of KZN thus far haven't explored very deeply into either the story or the characters. Patrick's introduction comes soon, but it's just a brief cameo because Patrick needs time to drive up to the virtual reality games centre and join in. In the meantime there's THREE story arcs, all of which are designed to explore Michael; his personality, skills and the people involved in his life. There's a risk that these may exhibit him as something pretentious, particularly in story arcs #1 and #3. #1 shows off his problem-solving skills and #3 shows off his physical prowess.

However, I'm now delving far too deeply into this. I really did commence this LJ post as a way to relieve stress during a particularly difficult day. I guess I'd better get back to work on the comic, handn't I? :D
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