Oftentimes, when creating characters for a story, there is a tendency to create one character that is supposed to be better than the rest of the characters in the created universe. This is the character that the audience is supposed to identify with; to support the character’s endeavors; and to fawn (and fan) over. But there is a fine line between creating a over-arching protagonist and creating a character that is so overwhelming overflowing with affirmative traits that the other characters pale in comparison. This character is often referred to as a Mary Sue.
There are many definitions of the character type that defies any kind of logical existence in the actual story. Mary Sue characters – as well as their male versions of Gary Stu or Marty Sue – take on many forms. Sometimes, especially in fan-created properties, they are author-inserts – in essence, characters whose existence starts with a breach of the Fourth Wall, teaming with knowledge that only the audience would have. These Mary Sues proceed to remake the universe in their own image, all the while upsetting the order established within the target universe – and all of the characters, regardless of standing within the old order of the universe, will accept these changes without resistance – except for the characters the inserted author does not like; in these cases, the characters will meet either an unfortunate demise or are somehow written out of the story.
Other times, the Mary Sues are already established characters whom the author feels an affinity for. In these cases, new powers and abilities are written in, and new backstory is added to justify the quick and/or continuous powerup. Again, however, the other characters will still fawn over the Mary Sue, even if the Mary Sue upsets the story balance of the Universe in question.
The list below contains many traits of Mary Sue/Marty Sue/Gary Stu characters. Any reference made in a show or character analysis will mean that the character in question meets at least 3 or more of the common Sue/Stu traits listed below.:
– Continuous assignment of affirmative or positive traits and/or abilities as the story progresses. These new traits are central to the story of moment, although they can be referenced after the story itself. Also, the assignment of affirmative or positive traits will not be counterbalanced with limitations or hindrance even if these same traits contain had been assigned to someone else who suffered limitations on them.
– Demonstrates superior abilities far beyond those in the same profession, regardless of experience, training, or stated limitations on technique. This may also happen with newly acquired or recently mentioned skills and abilities. In such cases, the Mary Sue character will demonstrate equal ability to their more experienced counterpart from the outset, even though the more experienced character had to undergo more rigorous training than the Mary Sue.
– Assignment of negative or detrimental traits are offset by storyline justifications to either minimize the impact of the trait itself or the other characters’ ability to recognize it. This also has the effect of trivializing other characters’ airing of misgivings relative to the negative traits in question. If the Mary Sue has a failing, then it is usually assigned to an outside influence that the Mary Sue has no direct control over.
– All or nearly all of the Mary Sue’s physical, mental, emotional, and/or storyline failings cannot be discussed by other characters without the character having a failing that would “cloud” any otherwise valid observation of the Mary Sue’s failings. The most common reason for the character objecting to the Mary Sue having little “standing” in the story is that the Objector is “jealous” of the Mary Sue in some way.
– Through both character interaction and storyline involvement, the Mary Sue character is supposed to be the person that is the one that the audience is supposed to support unconditionally, the one to root for, the one to cheer for.
– The character is shown to fundamentally right in nearly every aspect of character conflict, even when the conflict’s resolution is against any of the character’s personal or group moral foundations. Even when the character may be proven wrong about a peripheral issue concerning a character or situation, their underpinning concerns, misgivings, or judgments are shown to be correct.