09 July 2009

overly idealized characters?

One of my writing groups recently brought up the concept of "Mary Sue" and "Gary Stu". I must admit I was not familiar with the term. Apparently Mary Sues and Gary Stus are overly idealized characters. Wikipedia indicates they lack flaws, and primarily function as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors. Hhm...my Mary Sue would be a famous editor who wanted to buy dozens of books from me... Oh, wait, I digress.

I was shocked to hear authors still write characters like this. Didn't this go out in the 1950s? None of our Electric Spec authors do this.
Has anyone read any Mary Sues lately?

Keep sending us your flawed-character-filled stories!
(I must confess I am a little behind on my slush, but will catch up by the end of the month.)


writtenwyrdd said...

I suspect that every new writer's trunk novel or earliest works are closet Mary Sues. These traditionally are wish fullment stories, but the clincher is when the main character is a thinly veiled version of the writer, just idealized. (Laurel K. Hamilton has been accused of writing Mary Sues with the most recent novels in the Anita Blake series, and, in mild support of that accusation, her main character sounds like a prettier, badder, more powerful version of LKH.)

Betsy Dornbusch said...

I find quite a few Mary Sues in that first person urban fantasy female characters. Sorry, but a penchant to solve problems by kicking someone's ass and issues with men are so cliche they no longer rate as character flaws. (Right up there with the alcoholic detective with money problems.)

I have written Gary Lous or whatever they're called before, but that's usually in first draft. I think Trinidad is suffering from it right now, but he's developing flaws as I write him.

Deb S said...

I wrote an MC that arced into a drug addict and a royal bitch. (Yeah, that's "royal" literally. It's fantasy after all.) I hated showing her in such a harsh light and cried buckets writing some of those scenes but it had to happen.

Oh, and IMHO Carol Berg does a great job of creating flawed protagonists. Characters with real flaws not interview answer weaknesses.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Yes, she's quite good at that. We'll pass along the compliment next time we see her!

Martin Willoughby said...

Those two types are quite common in comedy writing...but only to poke fun at.