Everyone's definition of a Sue varies. Some of them are vague and some of them just don't take into account of other areas. It's sometimes difficult to be clear and be able to define completely what a Sue is. But here is a general definition that can give you a pretty good idea of what it is.
1. Mary Sue - sometimes shortened simply to Sue, is a term used to describe a fictional character who plays a major role in the plot. These Mary Sues are particularly characterized by lacking noteworthy flaws, or having too many, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors or readers.
In other words, all characters described as "Mary Sues" are the types that seem to be too perfect. They are the ones that an author seems to favor a lot by pushing how exceptional and wonderful the "Mary Sue" character is on his or her audience.
The term is also associated with over-the-top and clichéd character features, such as exotic hair and eye color, mystical or superhuman powers greater than those of the other characters, exotic pets, possessions or origins, or an unusually tragic past, especially when these things are not keeping up with the inner consistency of the canon of whatever fandom they are in.
There is also features that are common with Sues such as in romance they have many of the male characters fall in love with her quickly and she always gets the one she wants. In adventure areas of the story she always wins a fight, is capable of doing things without experience or without any problems (and when a problem does appear she overcomes it without difficulties) and/or knows what to do in difficult situations. Lastly, she' popular, too popular because she’s always able to fit in perfectly with the characters and she attracts attention (and usually that attention is given to her without a reason as to why the characters are suddenly interested in her).
All in all, these characters confront very few significant problems while attempting to achieve their goals. They always have things go their way without much difficulty. And because of that, they seem to be unrealistic since no one is capable of doing things without some sort of change in thoughts, opinions, and actions when faced with a challenge.
The Subtypes of Mary Sue:
You got the general idea of what a Mary Sue is but there's more to her than that. These subtypes of Sues are still Mary Sues but this is just being more specific of what one might encounter in reading. After all, a Mary Sue isn't just a character that's "perfect". Those that define her as perfect usually think of the massive amount of stories they've come across, that centers around a original female character that is very popular because she's extraordinarily gorgeous, amazingly talented, unusually powerful, and exceedingly attractive.
And yes, that's usually the case with all of Mary Sues, but there are some Sues that don't necessarily contain all those "perfect" qualities. So for new writers they might make the mistake of thinking there is only one kind of Sue but in reality that's not exactly true. Some authors do try to avoid in making their original character a Sue and they do that by adding or changing a few things, usually things that make them seem imperfect. But it fails because they forget one thing and I'll tell you what it is in the next part.
1. Angsty-Sue - is a character who is constantly depressed and has a tragic past, frequently involving murder, child abuse, rape, or abandonment of some sort. She often feels guilt for something that happened in the past, even though it is usually not her fault, which gives her the ability to feel bad about something without having done anything wrong. Such backgrounds constitute an ill-advised attempt to gain sympathy from the reader.
The other version of the "Angsty Sue" sub-concept involves a character who has a similarly tragic past, but rather than angsting about it, she seeks revenge. She is thrust into the spotlight of the story while doing so. The writer is seen as using her past not merely as a device to gain sympathy (also see Sympathetic Sue), but also to claim moral superiority and justification for her actions. As such, this type of "Angsty Sue" rarely has any guilt at all - after all, she hasn't done anything "wrong."
2. Villain-Sue - usually replaces, befriends or is romantically involved with a major canon villain. Other traits include defeating canon characters with ease, secretly having redeeming qualities, having a tragic past that somehow excuses and justifies all her heinous deeds, and letting the canon characters live when she could kill them -- not out of bad qualities such as wanting to see them suffer, a desire to have all of them as prisoners at once, or wanting to gloat, but because she really isn't so evil as others might think. In fact, she may even secretly be a hero, or have hidden heroic tendencies. This can be seen as a variant of the "Angsty Sue" seen above.
3. Anti-Sue - A Sue that tries to be the complete opposite of a Mary-sue by being riddle with so many flaws (they are so highly exaggerated) that it's highly unrealistic and makes for a horrible character to read about. After all, would you read a story where the OC is filled with so many flaws and has no good points which would've added depth to their character?
No, you wouldn't want to read that. Just picture a Sue that's has animals dying around her (unlike them automatically loving her), highly paranoid, obsessive compulsive, depowered, physically handicapped (instead of having extraordinary abilities), extremely incompetent, and super super ugly. Yet, this Sue still has people flocking to her like honey, completely fascinated with her and she's able to do things despite her flaws. Either the universe of the fandom bends to her will or she finds some other ways to get around her flaws like having luck on her side (but still paranoid that it's something else but doesn't question it or whatnot). Many find this Sue the worst kind, even more so than Mary-Sue herself.
4. God Mode Sue - this Sue is so powerful (without any explanation or any of the normal limitations) that she only exists to show how pathetically weak the rest of the world is, and how badly they need their help. If there's anybody else that is even capable of standing up for themselves, they may lose their abilities for some reason when the character comes into the equation, or become stupid, or both. They'll probably get captured or find something that they just can't handle. Then the God Mode Sue shows up, saves the day on her own at least twice as easily as they usually do when working as a team, and doesn't get her ass kicked at all. Then she stands around and wallows in their praise a bit.
5. Sympathetic Sue - basically a Sue that wants your sympathy. She's usually moping and depressed while angsting all at the same time. She always has bad things happening to her. All starting from the moment she's born and growing up so her backstory is filled with a terrible things. With this Sue, her unhappy past doesn't really match up with how much she angst over it. Often, it doesn't even have any real permanent implications; it's just a reason to gain the attention of a true love who will spend most of the story trying to make her fell better about it. Essentially, it's not an important part of the story, or the character. It's just there to make people feel sorry for her.
She'll talk about it constantly and as soon as possible, often blatantly ignoring all the positives in her life. Self-blame is often irrational, but Sympathetic Sue takes survivor's guilt to its most extreme state, even blaming herself for her parents dying in a plane crash. The other characters will never get tired of trying to cheer her up, even if it's totally out of character for their personality. If they're not near her, they'll probably be discussing how sorry they feel for her. She'll never attempt to relieve the emotional pain herself - other characters do all the legwork for her. Any character who doesn't try to help gets chewed out or portrayed as a jerk. And most of all, the story comes to an end as soon as the angst is gone.
Mary Sue Fanfiction Checklist:
Like I said earlier it is sometimes difficult to be clear and be able to define completely what a Sue is. However, defining it is hard but what isn't, is pointing out what makes a original character a Mary Sue. This is a list of traits (qualities, features...whatever you what to call it) that are commonly found in Mary Sue characters.
But remember, many authors try to avoid writing Sues only to fail because they forgot one thing. That's realizing that it's not the end of the world if their character has a number of these traits describe below. After all, the Mary Sueness can still be averted by a good enough explanation for why (and how) they are there. So take this list as a guide to help avoid and develop your characters into an realistic and believable beings.
Each of these traits were found in many Mary Sue stories from many different fandoms. With those listed traits there will also be a reason as to why they are and for some of them, there will be a way on how to avert them.
1. Stubbornness and a bad temper. These are usually a Mary Sue's "major flaws". Why for the quotations? Because these will only ever help her, not hurt her. She's always right, so whatever cause she dedicates herself with such stubbornness will be good, so her flaw isn't a flaw. And whoever she loses her temper with will deserve it so that too isn't a flaw.
a. Clumsiness does NOT count as a flaw. It's far too generic and only serve to make her look "cute". If your character is inherently clumsy, they need to be clumsy during battles, not just when it would be funny to have them fall down. Or have them trip when they're around their love interest just so they can fall into their arms. In order for it to be a real flaw it must be a problem for them and the characters around them. And don't over do it either, especially if the character can't go without two seconds causing problems because of their clumsiness.
b. Being innocent isn't a flaw. Most Sues that are innocent go extreme with it, to a point where it's annoying because she's good, pure and can do no wrong. And that she's so innocent it's a problem to the other characters because she doesn't understand they're flirting with her. Again, that's not a real flaw, nor is stupidity and obliviousness (which sometimes comes with being "innocent").
c. If they have cowardly tendencies, DON´T make them overcome this during the first or second (or even third or fourth) battle. They may cower many times and learn to overcome it over time, but their cowardly tendencies must show effort and struggle of trying to get over it. It's realistic when they've thought they had fully gotten rid of it only for it to come back and get the better of them when they least expected it. It makes them more human and relatable if they struggle to overcome it or maybe not be able to stop being afraid sometimes.
d. Flaws like impatience, obsession with looks and trouble making friends are realistic flaws within the character. They should be flaws that have real consequences for the character in his or her life and advance the story forward. So when a character has overwhelming positive attributes, flaws are use to counteract and to balance them out. Lastly, avoid going too far in the other direction, and creating an "Anti-Sue". The Anti-Sue is a character so flawed and so incapacitated that they become practically unusable, and incredibly dull to read about. In many cases this is actually considered worse than the normal version. Balance again is the key here.
2. Having unnecessary skills/abilities, especially when they play no factor in the plot and are only there to make the character seem more amazing. Or worst, having a skill or powers that such thing in the canon universe it does not exist or has never even been mentioned as a possibility of ever existing.
3. When it comes to skills or powers they are always better than the canon characters. They're so better than them that they didn't require effort or training to get so powerful. Or if they happen to train themselves or get some help in mastering them, they managed to catch on very quickly and/or fully master it in a few days or weeks or maybe in just a month or two. Which is unbelievable, especially if it took a canon character years to get so strong.
a. Natural athletic ability. She can run like the wind without ever having worked on her running, and has impossibly high acrobatic skills. Even if she trained when she was younger or it's has been two years since she has done intensive track or whatever. But no matter who or what they are, they WILL get tired quickly and become sore when using muscles they haven't used in a very long time. It is only believable if she is currently active in a sport or in an activity that requires one or more skills, depending on whatever it is and is constantly in use. After all, the more active they are and train, the more stamina they have to do stuff.
4. Sometimes they have powers that are similar to what another character has, only with the limitations remove.
5. Perfect singing voice. In which people (or the male interest) flock to her when she happens to be alone and singing to herself. She tries to be modest or shy but eventually her singing becomes a big deal and becomes the center of attention. And/or the males fall in love with her angelic voice and the females turn green with envy. Sometimes she takes every opportunely to show off her skills when someone asks, or if singing is needed or she's just in the mood to randomly sing.
6. Is excellent at playing any instruments of her choice. Most of them choose a guitar or a piano and they happen to have a natural talent at it or took lessons when they were younger (but yet they seem to be good at it still like the first day they mastered it. Logically they would be pretty rusty because they learned it in their childhood and people tend to forget things too). This trait could be realistic and believable if it's relevant to the plot (so no showing off that the character knows how to play just to make her seem awesome). Everything needs a reason to appear and if it's important that the character knows how to play alot of instruments than make sure that's clear. For example, if their power deals with soundwaves and they need to carry an instrument to help produce it incase their voice gets damage or maybe they can't sing correctly. That if they try to, they might kill someone by reaching a wrong pitch like erupting their brain. Maybe they can make people deaf or blind. So it's important to have a reason behind it and that when it comes to powers or whatnot there's a balance of pros and cons.
7. Speaks several languages fluently. This can vary depending on the setting, of course. A modern-day diplomat is expected to know at least one or two other languages, but a 14-year-old pleasant girl in Feudal Japan shouldn't know anything but her native language.
8. Speaks to animals. It's does not have to be a bad trait as long as there is an reasonable explanation as to how and why. Whatever it is, make sure it's important and not just thrown onto your character to make them seem powerful or special.
9. Is so beautiful that it's a curse. Yes, there are beautiful people but beauty isn't everything, nor should it be the center of attention. People also shouldn't fall all over themselves at her. It also shouldn't be the first thing that every character sees or thinks of her. Nor should they all desire her for it either. There is more to a person with a pretty face and a gorgeous body. So it's important that her personality is developed and focus on first. After all, just because a character is beautiful that does not mean that their personality will be just as beautiful too. Of course one has to make sure that if they happen to create a character that's got an ugly soul/attitude/personality that the other character don't love her or easily get along with her without question or problems. Just think realistically! If you met someone that's always making snide comments about everything (including you...whether it's in your face and/or behind your back), putting people down and thinking negatively, would you be best friend with them? I doubt anyone would unless that character changes their attitude. But the character must 'want' to want it, not 'have' to better themselves just because someone told them to. They have to realize it for themselves and make the effort. Plus the change can not happen that quickly or easily. Best way to think of it as one of those moments...where you realize how much something means to you until you lose it or almost lose it.
10. Unusual hair and/or eye color that's rare or unheard of in the fandom universe.
a. Always has long hair. No matter where they are or what situations they're in they always have long hair and it never gets in the way for them. (i.e. in the army many women tend to cut their hair short to manage it easier and keep it from being used against them in the battlefield. So it would be highly unlikely for a character to have very long hair if they were in the army or somewhere that would require or make sense to have short hair for.)
b. Usually has highlights. Depending on some fandoms it's unreal, especially if the character was born during a time period or world where such a thing doesn't exist or it is not canon. But if a character was suddenly transported or dropped into another world (like those plots where a real person from the real world is sucked in an anime, game, movie, book, cartoon, comic) and in which their world doing such a thing is normal than that is understandable. However, if the universe they happen to be transported it is unheard of than it should be noted by those canon characters the strangeness of it. Plus, if this is dealing with a realistic character...it should be remember that hair grows and that eventually the real roots will show. What's worst is if it's natural highlights and there's no explainable reason for it.
c. Having rainbow eyes or mood ring eyes, whichever you prefer to call it, for no reason other than it's 'natural'. Or having a certain color eyes when such thing in the fandom doesn't exist. (i.e All humans in a planet called Kaita have blue and green eyes. There are a few with hazel eyes but it's extremely rare to see a brown eyed person. So when a OC appears with natural purple eyes with no explanation how it's possible than something is very wrong.)
d. Slim and delicate with perky breasts which are D-cups. That's unbelievable because in reality, the slimmer you are, the smaller your breasts are likely to be. As for D-cups, her breasts never seem to get in the way, especially when she's running. It's even more unbelievable if she's braless and they're naturally perky without the support. Breasts of that size sag without support. Also, it's been noted that the most common word that is used to describe a Sue character is "hourglass" figure/shape.
e. Wears revealing outfits and most of them contain fishnets. These outfits are likely to be unrealistic in Real Life and most likely, depending on the fandom they are also impractical and uncanon (like wearing Hot Topic fashion during the Midlevel Ages).
f. Birthmark. Scar. Tattoo. There always seems to be a mark on her that denote her specialness, and it will always be meaningful in shape and never anyplace that would compromise her beauty.
11. Magic jewelry. It is only okay if it is common in the setting. If it's rare, or is hardly ever worn than just leave it out.
12. Exotic weaponry in a setting (place and time period) where she shouldn't have access to or it shouldn't exist in that fandom. Usually, the question of why the law enforcement allows her to carry it doesn't come up and nobody seems to find a girl carrying a large sword intimidating or strange.
a. Katana. When it comes to swords the most commonly used is this one.
b. Has more than one weapon. It's best to give your character only one weapon. Or if it's not possible than give her a pair of weapons that are usually paired together (pistols, daggers, etc), or a primary weapon and a plain backup weapon (an ordinary short sword for the archer to defend themselves with in close combat, for example). A character with a magic sword, a pair of abnormal ammo guns and a magic whip is implausible and going too far (unless the setting has everyone armed to the teeth, as in a combat-centric story centered around the military, mercs, or large-scale battles).
13. Laptop, ipod, cellphone. For her, these things exist anywhere and she can whip them out anytime she wants. She can even hack into the Pentagon with skills that she magically learn from thin air. She can use each item without ever worrying they'll die because they're enchanted to contain unlimited energy. Best of all, they have everything she wants on it and all she needs to do is think of it.
14. Attention Grabber. She always seem to grab the canon character's (the love interest she has her sight on) attention straight away. Even if they already have a stable love interest in canon, than that relationship will be treated as either non-existent, or the couple will be split up in some way. Such as the love interest stands aside or sacrifices himself/herself so Mary Sue can be happy, or they are twisted into a hateful/horrible person to justify breaking up the canon couple so that Mary Sue can get with the one she wants.
a. It's love at first sight. They haven't even gone on one date and she wants to get in their pants (and they want to get in hers). Heck, they haven't even known each other for long and they already believe they're love with each other. Or in only 6 months they're going to marry each other. It's a bit disturbing if they're only 13 years old and all that happens. They fell in love not even for a month of knowing each other, had mind-blowing sex, gets married than has kids and it all ends with an happy ever after. That in itself is a Mary Sue plot.
b. Even the characters that aren't her love interest(s) give her more attention than they normally would. Characters she likes can't stop talking about her beauty and power. Characters she doesn't like can't stop making themselves look bad by insulting her. There may be just "something special" about them, with no particular reason why anybody would think that. In the worst-case scenarios, they pay no heed to their own responsibilities or lives, only to Sue.
c. Speaking of dislike character(s) behaving badly toward the Sue they eventually see the "error" of his/her ways and grows to love Sue as much as everyone else does. Their bad behavior and treatment of her is portrayed as jealousy and nothing else.
d. Sometimes steals the spotlight of the canon characters (like their dialogue, action scenes etc.), especially when it was their moment to shine in the canon storyline. The best way to avoid your character being an attention grabbing whore is to not just focus on her. She alone does NOT make the world go around. You have to pay attention and care about the other characters in the story, even the villains because without them there would be no story...no fandom for you to write about in the first place.
15. They're a offspring of a canon character. It's made worse if that character would have been too young to have the Mary Sue, is gay/asexual, or perhaps is just physically incapable of it. It can be done well but not if it's just to make things easier for the author to write with the canon characters already "knowing" the Sue or to have her be accepted quickly. It's also bad if they happen to be an offspring of a villain just to give the Sue something to "angst" about.
16. OOC also known as out of character. Whenever the Sue is around previously-established personalities change in reaction to her. An arrogant self-centered character becomes a stalker that admires her for everything. A sweet, mild-mannered characters (that she doesn't like) suddenly insults and degrades her. A leader with responsibilities pays attention only to her. Young, reckless characters who would never settle down just yet will become totally reliable. Evil characters follow her around like a puppy or seem uncharacteristically obsessed with her. The characters in general just seem unnaturally focused on her, positive or negative.
17. If she's inserted into a story from before a canon character turned out to be evil, she will be the only one who suspects him. Even if all the other characters that've known the character since childhood or have a close relationship with them didn't pick it up. Sometimes she doesn't need a reason, she just sense it and that's good enough for her to suspect them.
18. Special treatment. Things just happen to go her way, for example in the Harry Potter fandom, she's an American exchange student who's was lucky enough to enter Hogwarts. There are other schools but none of them but Hogwarts invited her and that was exactly the school she wanted to go to in the first place. What's even better is that she doesn't have to wear the uniform (because she hates it or that it's not her favorite color) and immediately gets a spot on the Quidditch team when she asks for it.
19. If she has any flaws intentionally written in by the creator, expect them to be informed or not really flaws to begin with. Or if they're genuine flaws that would actually be pretty awesome were it not for their drawbacks (e.g. substance abuse, nymphomania, etc.), and of course the drawbacks will never be shown.
20. She the Chosen One. Even if the canon hero is already the chosen one, she either 'shares' the position or just steals it away from them. Or she is "destined to help the destined one fulfill their destiny" which pretty much means do all the real work except for the final blow so the prophecy isn't technically wrong.
21. She is often around the age the author is, or just looks that way despite being really five hundred years old. But that never works because she still retains the maturity of a teenager despite being immortal. So she should have matured and wizen over the years...centuries. This doesn't have to be bad (there are many settings where it's acceptable) but if one does this they need to make sure that the character acts their age.
22. Sympathetic Sue has an unusually dark and troubled past to the excess, but other subtypes often have them too, just to emphasize how brave and special she is to live through it. This past is never really a point in the story, it's just dropped casually into the conversation to get attention. Alternatively it's written badly and owing to not doing much research. And how much she angst about it is usually out of proportion with how bad it really is. There are several popular methods:
a. Abusive Parents. All too often because she's special in some way, and not just because her parents were assholes.
b. Heartwarming Orphan. Plane crashes and car accidents are increasingly common ways to make her feel responsible, without actually doing anything wrong.
c. Parental Abandonment. Not just because it's a baby and babies are expensive, messy and smelly and the parents didn't want it. There has to be a SPECIAL reason for that abandonment -- this is Sue, after all.
d. Rape As Backstory. Most notable when it's given just as a cursory excuse for... well, whatever. A real Sue will shout it out, "I WAS RAPED!" she'll scream, and that is supposed to explain everything.
23. Performs a heroic sacrifice as a way to prove that she's too good for this sinful Earth. Or better yet, doing such an act bought her back to life because "God wanted me back here." Or some supernatural great being of the afterlife decided she deserve a second change at life for such a good deed just because she's special.
24. She might turn out to secretly be half-human, half something else. Or maybe just full (insert species here).
a. Elf is extremely common, but any sufficiently human looking, pretty race will work. And usually she feels outright shame because she's not human even though, if anything, it only makes her more beautiful and/or powerful.
b. Or maybe she's a cute monster girl. But sometimes whatever monster she is, it conflicts with what is canon (i.e. canon dragon girls have heavy scales, flat chests, large talons for hands/feet, and are just flat out monstrous, but this character...Sue is just simply a human with dragon wings, tail, unobtrusive horns, and a couple of random scales on her shoulders and midsection).
c. Also common is vampire-anything (like a half-vampire), with no discernible monstrous attributes or drawbacks, which often leads to great amounts of purple prose or a copy cat sue syndrome (i.e. Blade).
d. In some cases she's somehow half-human + half-elf + half-veela + half-angel + half-saiyan + half-machine + half-God-like ridiculous hybrid creature. It's even worst if one or most of these races do not even exist in the story's canon, or if the end result would be illogical by definition (i.e. a half-demon/half-angel).
e. If the character is already a furry, they'll typically be some incomprehensible hybrid thing, a rare or little-used (always pretty) species, and/or have wings regardless of species.
25. Redeems the villain through her overwhelming goodness. Sometimes it might be through redemption equals sex. And a big part of it is her loss of virginity for which the villain will worship her because of the honor of taking her purity. Sometimes the villain comments on how awesome she is in bed despite said virginity.
a. As she gives the most awesome, mind-blowing, divine sex ever, it obviously comes with super-redeeming powers. Yet, if the villain isn't her choice love interest, her love interest of choice will be better at it.
b. Speaking of virginity. It always, ALWAYS hurts like hell for her. She cries a waterfall and bleeds (or rarely bleed). Yes, it does happen at time in Real Life but it's not suppose to hurt like "hell" if it's done right. Which is making sure one is lubricate real well before penetrating and taking it slow so that the female can adjust. Again, if it's done right, all she'll feel is weird in being stretch but not in excruciatingly pain.
c. When it comes to the female virginity, the hymen is not inside the vagina. It's the opening OF the vagina. It encircles the opening like a tight ring, but it may completely cover the opening. It may tear at the first attempt at sexual intercourse, or it may be so soft and pliable that no tearing occurs. The hymen may also be torn during exercise or insertion of a tampon or diaphragm. Tearing usually causes slight bleeding. In women who have had intercourse, the hymen may be unnoticeable or may form small tags of tissue around the vaginal opening. But the point is, as soon as a penis is pressing up against the opening...that's the hymen. So once the penis enters inside, the virginity is gone. The "barrier" inside the vagina is not the hymen, it's the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the uterus, the womb and that's connected to the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. This could easily have been known if one pays attention in Health class or research it.
d. Condoms do not exist when she does it. Nor does sexual transmitted diseases. Pregnancy does happen, but always when she wants it and at the perfect time to happen for her.
26. In fantasy canons, she can break the rules of the world at will. Often, nobody will even be surprised.
27. If she ever does anything wrong, she's both instantly remorseful about it and easily forgiven by those she wrongs.
28. She will often suffer from special snowflake syndrome, having some trait or backstory that sets her apart from her race. This can be taken to the point of being from another setting entirely being from another setting entirely. It's no coincidence that many of the most notorious fanfics are mega-crossovers.
29. Some may be named after the author in some form. Becoming less frequent as people catch on. The more common practice is to give the Sue a name that the author really, really likes. As in, wishes it were their own name or the name they'd give to their firstborn. Names like Raven, Hunter, Jessica, Samantha, or Sam are really popular for this.
a. Some may have overly long, complicated, usually meaningful names that related to her abilities, personality or her fate - whether this is usual in canon or not.
b. Her name is sometimes a gemstone, a flower, celestial bodies, (i.e. Luna, Stella, Celeste) or a pretty color (e.g. Violet, Sapphire). With Emo-Sues, her name is something spooky, mystical, or related to darkness (e.g. Raven, Trinity).
c. Maybe they have a generic Japanese name like Hikari or Sakura, especially if it's a non-Japanese setting. The reverse can also occurs in other cultures, when people are given "exotic" English words for names. Often results in names which doesn't mean quite what the author intended, due to the large vocabulary and connotations attached to many supposedly synonymous words in the English language. And of course the same can apply to any other language that the author thinks is cool.
d. Above all, the name is inconsistent within their particular culture. So you get cases of a small isolated village where Bob and Andy are lusting over Serenity Jasmine Sunrise Snapdragon.
e. Which raises another point: if standard western names have 3 parts–a first, middle, and last name–expect her to have four or more.
f. They also usually have "cool" nickname and/or unique title/address. They are fine, but only if the nicknames were CHOSEN by the person's friend or family members. It shouldn't be picked by the Sue themselves because they would always pick something they'll like and force the other characters to call them by it. That's not a real nickname. Nicknames are chosen by people who are close to the Sue, because they'll pick something that has personal meaning to them or something that they feel represents the Sue to them. (i.e. They have a friend that's very girly, loves to shop, and dress in bright/colorful fashion. A friend calls them 'Pink' because it's a feminine color. That nickname is what the friend feels is what represents the girl well and it's something only they called her by.) As for a unique title, this can be Mary Sue but it depends on what it is and how they obtained it. A non-Japanese Samurai is impossible, no matter what Hollywood says.
g. Common names with unusual spellings (i.e. Faery, Ravyn, Jennifyr, Breighanna, Elizabetteth, Destanee, Grayce, Haelie, Madisenne, Mychal, Zakkary, Nikkolas, Maygun, Jessycka or Jessika, etc.)
30. A massive amount of time gets spent on describing her every feature in her introduction. Obviously, most canon characters are already well-defined to the reader whereas the new character needs an adequate description, but if it spends paragraphs, continues cropping up throughout the story, and includes detailed appendices on every little detail than you got yourself a Sue character.
31. Pressing concerns of the actual story such as a villain who's actively trying to take over the world, aren't even addressed because everybody is too busy taking an interest in the new girl's life.
32. Alternatively, major plot points (that aren't solved by the new girl) are done entirely off screen. If the handsome yet evil character walks in and explains that he has seen the error of his ways, confronted his evil father, killed the dragon, and found the seventh and final MacGuffin all in one sentence and nobody seems to really care because Princess Doctor Professor Saint Serenity Jasmine Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot KBE, wasn't directly involved, that's not a good sign.
33. When the character is off screen, if ever, the other characters are always talking about her.
34. The same character tends to appear in all of the works by a particular author or artist because the author/artist identifies so closely with the character. A character should be created and develop because they were meant for one universe. It's not right to squeeze them into several different universes. Nor is it fair for those other universe to bend to the new characters rules. Or have those canon universes' rules change simply because the author didn't want to create a new original character, or several, specifically meant for each universe.
35. The author takes personal offense at any criticism of the character or story, no matter how well-meaning or justified it is. Not necessary related to Mary Sue but majority of those authors that write them take it too seriously and find constructive criticism highly offensive when they are not.
36. The butterfly effect doesn't exist. Many Mary Sue characters that are from the future (or from another parallel reality) become transported into the past, decides to change a scene or an event because they strongly disagree with what was/is suppose to happen. They change it but surprising it does not effect the future at all, nor do they or any of the other characters face consequences of it. For example, if a prince was suppose to die in a battle than he's suppose to. Because if he lives the future changes completely, not only would his cousin not become the ruler but he wouldn't find his true love, nor would he be in the right place and time to defeat the evil warlord and win the war and save the world.
37. Tag along. The Sue lets the other characters do all the hard work, and only helps or jumps in the end to take the credit/finishes off the bad guys and they also happen to snag their love interest while they are at it. This doesn't have to be bad but your character needs to stand on their own two feet in a story. No one likes to read a story where it's a exact retelling of the canon plotline, word for word with only the Sue added onto it. It's even worst when the Sue is stealing the dialogue and scenes of the canon characters or replaces one of them (and the author makes the excuse that they died and Sue is the replacement). Technically, this should also have a butterfly effect since with a new character in it(or if one or two things are changed) than things SHOULD change as a result of it. So also keep that in mind.
38. The Sue is usually just as good or even better at the jobs and/or skills of one or more canon characters for no apparent reason. (i.e. better hacker, or smarter than the nerd character, better fighter than the tough character, sweeter than the sweet girl and so on.) They also usually have the talents, skills, and/or abilities of several canon characters combined.
39. When it comes to the Sue, everyone mourns her death even those that don't know her but acts as though she was the world to them.
40. She saves the day way more often than other main characters.
41. Her history is remarkably similar to the history of a canon character. This goes along with making your character the exact same thing as a canon character you like, just because you want to. It's also bad if it's unneeded for the character and/or unnecessary for the story.
42. Pets. Majority of the Sues all have a pet or numerous of them. Sometimes they are a cute baby versions of rare or legendary creatures or wild animals. Sometimes they are full grown and/or they can "transform" into a larger version or their "true forms" (like a dragon, griffin, unicorn, fox, tiger, jaguar, lion, cheetah, wolf, hawk, scorpion, ferret, rabbit, horse, kimodo dragon, etc). Other times they seem like normal pets but can magically talk to their owners. A lot of Mary-Sues don't have a good reason for having pets, let alone why their pets are so special or how come all the animals automatically love them.
43. The Sue single-handedly accomplish what no-one has managed to do so far.
44. The canon characters constantly comment on or are amazed by how much Sue looks like his/her canon relatives. If it was mention one or twice it is fine, but it's over-doing it if it's constantly pointed out. It should be obvious that she's related to them if she looks similar to them. And it's defiantly a Mary Sue if she's related to them but looks NOTHING like them. It is only excusable if there's a very good reason for her to not look anything like them.
45. They're rich. Some how, some way, they can get anything they want. It's very strange that a 15 year old owns a house, has the latest electronics, large closet full of fashionable clothes and has unlimited money to spend on things. It is never mention how or where she's getting the money. Most of the time the reason is that she's rich and that's it. Other times it's never mention at ALL. Just keep in mind that if your character is an orphan or whatnot...figure out her source of income is and if it's plausible for whatever fandom she's in and the time period. Remember, first figure out what kind of jobs there are in the fandom for your character. Than ask yourself if your character is old enough to do that job and whether or not she'll struggle to do it well and if she's getting paid enough. If not, she may need another job to help pay the rent and bills or work longer hours. But if she needs to work more, don't forget that in the story. There's a lot of stories that are unrealistic in how the characters that are working two jobs STILL have time to go shopping, go to the movies, battle the bad guys, go to school and all that in ONE day. Time doesn't stand still for no one.
46. Parents. The Sue hardly has any parents or a family. Even when she does, they are horrible, evil and abusive. Or they're so busy that they are hardly around to get in her way (or ever appear in the story). When they do it's when they're actually being a parent but the Sue portrays them as annoying and overbearing control freaks. For example: when the Sue wants to go on a date with her boyfriend of 6 months, her parents...or father is being difficult about it for no reason other than he doesn't like that they're going on a date. Even though she's 19 (an adult) and they're familiar with her boyfriend so it's not like she's going on a blind date from a guy on the internet.
a. Sometimes the Sue lives her life as though she doesn't have a family even though they are in the picture and treat her very well. The readers forget that they exist and when they do appear it makes them realize how unrealistic it is. After all, what kind of parents that are supposedly normal, nice and caring not be interested in what their daughter is doing? Or who she's hanging out with and where she's going? Parents and family member want to be a part of their kids lives. Even if it's not every single day they still like to check up on them once in a while and make sure they're okay or not getting into any trouble.
47. This is more of a character development problem but it does relate to Mary Sue. Make sure to really develop your original character so that her actions, choices, behavior, personality, culture, way of thinking, speaking and whatnot all match up. If it's not thought through she is endanger of being a Mary Sue.
a. Why would a OC be bubbly, happy, hyperactive and whatnot when there's no possible way for her to become like that? Such as in her life there was nothing but war, hatred, fear, discrimination, and loneliness. Those kind of things are what she was born into, what she grew up with and what she continues to see into the future. They shape how she becomes and it's highly unlikely that out of all that she would be childish, hyper, and happy. A good example would be the movie X-Men: First Class...Erik Lensherr/Magneto. We get to see his past, how he becomes from it and then we see how he evolve from that to who he is today. You'll notice that all his actions, personality and whatnot is connected and matches up with his way of thinking and personality, etc.
b. The same could be said with a serious and mature OC. Or a cold-hearted assassin or whatnot. There must be good reasons for why they are who they are. If they suddenly change to being happy, kind, and silly...there MUST be a good excuse for it. The fictional character that comes to my mind that does this well is Himura Kenshin from Rorouni Kenshin.
c. An OC is a Sue if they aren't consistent to who they are. Such as they behaved unreasonable in certain situations. For example it's unrealistic if they act over-the-top happy/hyper/childish in serious situations. Even more so if they don't have a excusable reason for behaving that way. Or for suddenly being a bitch if they have always been happy, sweet and nice.
48. Keep track of the time. It's important to manage your time well when writing your story because it will make your OC appear as a Sue. After all, no human being...let alone a OC is capable of being introduce to a the fandom, learn how to fight, gain a family, transfer to a new school, go on a summer vacation, defeat the bad guy and win over the love of their life all in one day (or within a week or a month). Nor can a OC be able to travel from the North Pole to the South Pole within a 10 hours or within a day. Time doesn't still for no one unless they manage to develop a instant transportation device with a built in time machine.
a. It helps greatly to plan out your story and then break it down further by figuring out what will happen in each chapter. Just think of it this way; your whole story needs a beginning, a middle and a ending. So do your chapters, they too need a beginning, a middle and a ending. It doesn't necessarily mean that each chapter starts with the OC waking up and going to bed in the end. So be creative! A chapter could start with the OC going to school and then ends with them working on their homework at night. In the next chapter/day they are waking up because they slept in and a friend is giving them a surprise wake up call, things happen and then in the end of that chapter they are watching a late night movie. In the next chapter/day they could be in school, sitting at their desk and blankly staring at the chalk board with droopy eyes, because they didn't get enough sleep. Things happen after that and in that chapter it ends with them heading home after hanging out with friends.
b. You don't need to put every little detail they do. Your readers are smart and they can fill in the blanks that the OC does go to sleep (sometimes not in their bed) in each chapter and wakes ups/eats breakfast or whatnot. Just keep in mind that a few times is enough and not to go over board with the details, and to not constantly repeat them either. For example the clothings they wear in each chapter. If it's important to mention what kind of clothing it is, because it plays an important role or whatnot then that's fine.
Again, in case anyone forgot. If your character has some of these traits, you can avoid Mary-Sueness as long as there is a very good reason for them, that they are relevant to the story, doesn't break canon rules of whatever fandom they are in, and matches up with the character's background, race, culture and time period. And remember, these characteristic shouldn't be used as a gimmick to make a character seem cool, interesting or stand out. Instead, the character should be developed first and they should grow as you write because characterization is what matters. They shouldn't be flat or seem fake, so the key to making them great is to make them realistic, believable beings that people can connect with.
A litmus test is designed for authors to put their original fiction characters threw in order to know if they are a Mary Sue or not. There are many sites that contain litmus tests and they basically help determine if you need to work more on your character's characterization or not. Sometimes they aren't completely accurate, but they do help in letting you know what is consider Mary Sue, in certain areas of your character when it comes to certain fandoms. So it can be helpful to those that are new to writing by pointing out the obvious in Mary-Sueness, in whatever fandom they are checking for.
I personally don't take them seriously because they may not take into account the rules of each individual universe, where traits that are usually considered Sueish may actually be quite normal. Such as in most anime universes they have some pretty odd hairstyles and colors. And again, keep in mind that as long as there is a justifiable reason behind a trait than you're fine. And good characterization is more reliant on how the writer maneuvers the character rather than what the character is.
1. The Universal Mary-Sue Litmus Test
2. The Original Fiction Mary Sue Litmus Test
3. What's In a Name? -- Harry Potter and the Mary Sue Litmus Test
4. The Writer's Mary Sue Test
5. LOTR Mary Sue Litmus Test
6. The Naruto Mary Sue Litmus Test
7. Sailor Moon Mary Sue Litmus Test
8. Bleach Mary Sue Litmus Test
9. The Kingdom Hearts Mary Sue Litmus Test
10. Stargate SG-1 Mary Sue Litmus Test
11. The World of Warcraft Mary Sue Litmus Test
12. Pokemon Mary Sue Litmus Test
13. Death Note Mary-Sue Litmus Test
14. Yu-Gi-Oh Mary-Sue Litmus Test
15. PotC Mary Sue Litmus Test
16. Gundam 00 Mary Sue Litmus Test
17. KHR Mary Sue Litmus Test
18. Big-Ass Naruto Mary Sue Test
19. Tranformers Mary Sue Litmus Test
Examples Of Mary-Sue Stories:
These are actually samples of what I've seen in many fanfics.
1. (Yu Yu Hakusho)
I sigh as I walked out of the den I shared with my mother, Celeia. She wasn't like most mothers. She never told me to stop trying to pick fights or not to steal from others, she actually encouraged it. Before I was born. My mother was caught in a horrible fire. That was the last time she ever saw my father. Today was my 18th birthday and I was going to find my father. Mother said his name was Youko Kurama and he lived in a big castle somewhere in the eastern region (she doesn't know who Youko Kurama is because her mother kept her away from all of the stories about him). I knew he was a fox demon and he looked a lot like me except for my eyes. Mother claimed he had gold eyes like most demons while I had blue eyes. Blue eyes are very rare for a fox demon. Mother said she name me Aurora Borealis because of my eyes.
I wonder why he didn't come looking for mom?” I was so caught up in my thoughts that I didn't notice that a squirrel (yes a squirrel) was about to attack me (it’s the attack of the teenage mutant ninja squirrels! Sorry inside joke with my brother). I snapped out of my thoughts as soon as I felt something attack my head.
“OMGWTFH! GET OFF OF MY HEAD YOU LITTLE FUR BALL!” Being the klutz that I am, I tripped on a rock, knocked my head on another rock, and blacked out.
Stranger’s Prov aka Youko.
I was taking a nap when I heard “OMGETFH! GET OFF OF MY HEAD YOU LITTLE FUR BALL!” Nice vocabulary. I recognized the voice as female so I decided to see what was going on. I walked to where I heard the voice only to see probably the strangest sight I ever laid eyes on. A female fox demon about 18 by the looks of her, was lying unconscious on the ground with squirrels throwing pinecones at her. Ok, it wasn't that strange but it was still pretty weird. I decided to save her from the rabid squirrels. Picking her up I noticed that she was really HOT! She had long silver hair that went to her lower back, the face of and angel, two silver fox ears on top of her head and a long silver tail on her backside. Maybe I'll have some fun with her then I'll take her back to the palace.
Review - There are many things wrong with this story. It contains tense changes, interruption of unnecessary comments, fragment sentences; lack of descriptions (such as the surrounding area, if it's the afternoon, the type of weather it is, etc.), canon character is out of character (What is Youko's purpose for being there? Would he truly live in a castle when he's a wanted thief? He's a fox so wouldn't it be reasonable that he has a secret den instead?), unnecessary caps, and ignoring canon facts (I've never heard of squirrels existing in the demon world so I doubt they could survive in a place that's dangerous and different from earth). The most important thing is that the character is a Mary Sue. We can oblivious tell that the writer wanted to make her perfect by how she focuses only on that character. The character mentions her mother a couple of times but doesn't go into detail about it. She also said she's going to search for her father but doesn't give any reason why she didn't go look for him sooner, especially if she knew where he was. The writer even added things that benefit the Mary Sue character such as making her clumsy and adding things into the fandom that isn't true.
There wasn't much thought put into this story or in developing the character. This had a bit of a plot, which was about Youko's daughter finding him and they develop feelings for each other (I don't mean the father-daughter kind). However, many things were twisted in order for this to happen. Such as, why didn't he question her about how much she was a female version of him? Or even asked her why she was out in the woods in the first place? So yeah, this wasn't entirely the best thing to read...at all.
A young woman was riding in the dessert on her black horse, dressed in all black with a long black cap behind her, whipping through the air. All anyone can see are her eyes which are a greenish brownish mixture, very rare in Egypt.
She was known as the Black Rider, the mysterious thief that dressed in black when attacking and had a black horse. People all over Egypt thought that The Black Rider was a male since it was not common for a woman to be a thief, yet alone a notorious thief like her, but underneath the black clothes was a young woman, cold and distant. Nakhti never liked to be proven wrong and never liked to show any signs of weakness. She always had her head up high, and on few occasions, letting her long raven dark hair tumble down her sculpted shoulders and down her scarred back. Souvenirs of her childhood. Nakhti was a beautiful girl, blossoming into the perfect lady body so many envied, but she would show no one her body. Sure her body had a nice hourglass figure, long lean legs, regular sized hips attached by a tight abdomen, followed up to a tight chest. All those years of training and battle molded the body into that form, but the hard ships that she endured, her pain, her sadness, her grief it had cut her soul, hitting, bruising, staining her with the world harsh reality, brutally taking away her innocence. Not only did the world's reality take her innoccence, her purity, but it scarred her. The proof was engraved onto her body. The marks lay on her back, shoulders, legs, and arms. So why did she hid? Why did she let the darkness surround her, letting it into her body mind and soul? That could be easily be explained with two words. Knowledge and truth.
Review - This of course, contains tense changes, fragments sentences, spelling issues, and some unnecessary information. However, let’s focus on the Mary Sue part. As you can see, the writer gave us all this information about her character. It's never a good thing to introduce your character like that. By doing that, the readers aren't able to form their own opinions about the character. It doesn't allow them to figure out or connect with the character at all. The ideal thing would be to allow us, to figure out what is going on (as in experience) instead of already telling us. When stories begin like this, many of them are Mary Sues and because of that readers tend to avoid them.
My suggestion would be to introduce the character in action. This would allow readers to visualize and experience the character completely, instead of describing the character's physical appearance. Telling us is boring but seeing it is more exciting. After all, what is better? Telling us about the character's body being in shape from "all those years of training and battle", or actually reading it? As in, how she was knocked down from her horse but was able to flip onto her feet with ease. And that she quickly slid out her hidden weapons and attack her assailant with grace. In doing this, the readers understand that she's a great fighter and is capable of defending herself and obliviously must have a decent body to perform moves like flipping and such.
Once upon a time there was this young woman named Yumi Raven Naruku. She had it all, perfect hour-glass body with big breast like Hinata, long wavy beautiful blonde hair, and breath-taking blue eyes that sparkle whenever she smile. All the men in Suna village wanted her, and women envied her. Not only was she the most beautiful creature anyone could lay their eyes on. She was also the most talented ninja anyone could ever meet. She was strong, very strong, that she could probably win against the Kazekage. In fact, one time she was even offered to be the kage of the village, but she refused.
But because she was powerful and perfect some people wanted her dead. They send assassins to kill her. But of course, she's strong and fast like a cheetah. She was able to run off into the night undetected. The following day, she arrived at Konoha village, a quiant little place. Yumi had entered the village in the hope for a new home. She met a man. A rather hansome man, with a mask hiding his mouth and half of his face, and silver hair. He was sitting on a bench when he saw her. It was love at first sight. Her beauty was so great that he wouldn't dare to look at another woman.
But she wasn't interested in him. She turned and looked the other way, when he turned his gaze on her. Every day, the man named Kakashi would ask her out on a date, but she would always refuse each and every time. But for a while, she started to notice how desperate he was. So finally she considered him for a minute. They went on a beautiful date, and she saw how great and amazing he was. So they kissed and made love, and then got married three years later. They had beautiful and skillful little children. Two twin boys and two younger girls. Even after she gave birth to four children, she still had that amazing body of her's.
In the end, they lived as a perfect family in Konoha, and lived happily ever after.
Review - This is a Mary Sue story. The story is all focus on the character and how perfect she is. It doesn't even have a plot and facts are completely ignored. This character has no flaw and is completely unrealistic. I don't think there's anything for me to point out because this is very oblivious.
Tips To Avoid Writing a Mary Sue Character:
1. Fictional characters are supposed to represent real people within the world you create. Readers need to be able to identify with your characters, sympathize with them, and really get to know them. If your character is a Mary Sue, readers might simply come to resent them. No one likes a perfect person who can do no wrong.
The best way to avoid writing a Mary Sue character is to keep yourself out of it. See your fiction characters as real people and not puppets in your made-up world.
2. Give them a flaw! However, even with a physical flaw, a woman with a wart on her nose will get annoying if she still gets the hot guy, saves the world, and gets a great deal on the cutest pink skirt.
The most important would be personality flaws. It is with them that will push your Mary Sue character into the realm of believability. Everyone has personality flaws, and your characters should too.
3. If your character has a special ability always makes sure they have a weakness. Such as if they use some sort of charka, chi, life force, spirit powers, demonic powers, psychic powers, (whatever you want to call it) they must have a limit. After all, with every fandom there's always a limit in how much you can use, especially with certain techniques/abilities. For example; in Naruto they train in order to increase their abilities and skills. It is over time (not in a short amount of time either) that they get stronger and are able to last longer in battle.
It's basically all about giving your character flaws that balances them out. So I suggest to always think of the pros and cons about their personality, abilities, appearance, etc. in how they'll be like in your story. That is how your character will come alive and be realistic.
4. Follow the rules! When writing in fandoms certain things have already been establish in them. Don't change or ignore those things just to fit your character(s) in it. It is important that you follow those things that are already canon. If there is something that hasn't been explain or seems possible to happen in it, than make sure you're able to make it believable. Don't put in things that are unlikely to ever happen or contradict what is already canon in it.
That is important because many Mary Sues always seems to bend the rules in order for them to be "perfect".
5. Don't focus on your character in every single scene. Even though your story is about your character, they can't always hog the spot light. In doing so, you are likely letting your other characters suffer, becoming two dimensional. They too, need to have attention and come alive because they also help develop your story.
1. 150 Years of Mary Sue, by Pat Pfliegar
2. The Official Mary Sue Manual, by TA Maxwell
3. The Mary Sue Guide and How Not to Create Them, by Ophelia Hyde
4. Mary-Sue Revisited, by Kathryn Andersen
5. Self-Insertion and Mary-Sue-ism, by Sebastian
6. Saving Mary Sue, by James Lyn
7. Creating and Developing an Original Character, by DamnBlackHeart
8. Writing What People Want To Read by Ellie M.
9. The RPG Mary Sue by X-Men: Deus Ex Machina
10. Mary Sue, How We Doth Loathe Thee Yet We Know Thee Not... by athersgeo
11. So You've Created a Mary Sue by Harleyquinn911
If there's something missing or if there's something you don't completely understand and would like for me to elaborate please let me know. I'll add it on and feel free to suggest any useful links that you know of. Or anything else you'll like to mention to me.