The truth about Mary-Sue is she doesn’t lurk in only fan-fiction. She is published daily by beginning and veteran writers all across Internetdom. She possesses the protagonist of many a novel-in-progress, and the author may not even know it.
You cannot know that you have one if you don’t know what she is, so I’m going to put it in the simplest terms I can: Mary-Sue is a character who is indisputably admired because the author will never let her be wrong. To expand on that, the Mary-Sue is an unrealistic ideal, a pawn of a character who serves only to act out the dreams of the author, or Suethor.
If the Suethor wants to be a cheerleader, for example, Mary-Sue is the prettiest, peppiest, and fittest cheerleader – also captain – who is the only one on the squad to get every single person in the stadium to chant along (even the people rooting for the other team)! She already has a full scholarship for cheering (is that even a thing?) and probably will get onto the Dallas Cowboys’ cheer lineup when she effortlessly performs the best routine that anyone has ever seen, ever. Oh, also they’ll just make her the captain automatically, so she’ll be the youngest, prettiest, peppiest cheerleader the world has ever seen.
This concept is taking form, you say, but how can you tell if you have a Mary-Sue infection without reading the entire damn book? The simplest indicator is other characters’ reactions to Mary’s actions, beliefs, or even presence. Typically, characters of Mary-Sue’s gender will assume a sidekick-type role, wherein they admire every little thing about Mary-Sue (or Gary-Stu), even if he or she has no way to realistically take credit for that thing (You have perfect earlobes! -or- You’re the best lifter here!).
Opposite-sex characters are automatically romantic-interests. They appreciate Mary-Sue as if they were always meant to be together, and no matter her actual attractiveness and charm, her fan-boys will drool over the very thought of escorting her to her locker. They are protective of Mary-Sue, who inspires obsessive chivalry among her fans and bitter envy among her acquaintances.
Every admirer’s dialogue at some point serves as the cheap disguise for the author, who sneaks some justification and approval of Mary-Sue’s actions: “You said you weren’t any good at planning parties!” or “I thought you’d be horrible at karaoke, but you’re even better than Cecelia, and she’s been singing since she was twelve!”
Do you think you might have a Mary-Sue? What do you consider the most offensive Mary-Sue characteristic? Is the “My Immortal” story a fake? What books or movies have a Mary-Sue? Discuss in the comments below!