A Mary Sue in the Inbox
Getting a new original character app is always an enthralling experience. Not only was someone interested in their roleplay, but they were inspired enough to create their own character within the world you created. It’s flattering…until you start reading the bio and realize that this just might be a Mary Sue.
What is a Mary Sue? There are many different ways to define one, but it boils down to (1) the character is who you would want to be in the roleplay, (2) they are overwhelmingly powerful and good without solid reasoning, and (3) their flaws are simply quirks. What becomes important is how to identify a Mary Sue in an application as these are the character that end up power-playing and/or god-modding. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when deciding if the character is too much of a Mary Sue to be accepted.
1. Who Are They?
Many times, a Mary Sue has many different identities. I once received an app in which that character was (1) a rebel, (2) a painter, (3) a bookworm, (4) an orphan, (5) cold-hearted, (6) shy and awkward, (7) sarcastic and witty, (8) beautiful, (9) deceptive, (10) warm and friendly, (11) an assassin, and (12) an expert at parkour, among other things. While a character can be varied and show different faces to different people, they must have a true identity. Niklaus Mikaelson from The Vampire Diaries and The Originals (!) was first introduced as the main villain, but over the course of many seasons was rounded out to include his relationships with his family, his isolation from the rest of the world, and his thirst for power. However, his character never deviated from who he was at his core. The rest were simply details and character development. If you can not identify who a character is then the applicant was probably just packing them with many different traits to make them a perfect character. Usually, many of these traits end up contradicting themselves.
2. Does Their Story Rewrite Canon?
If you are administrating a fandom roleplay (let’s use the Hunger Games as an example), make sure that the applicant is not rewriting the rules of the universe to make their character more powerful. Within THG universe, Katniss is known as the best archer. If a character within D12 is described as “just as good as Katniss at archery” that should be a warning signal. Furthermore, if they actually know Katniss, who really isn’t keen on being social, you should look at the rest of the app very carefully.
3. Are Their Flaws Really Flaws?
I am always a fan of asking applicants to list strengths and weaknesses for their original character whether or not I actually list them in the bio. It should be a simple task and it helps figure out who a character is in your head. It also can show the admin if a character is a Mary Sue. Many times, I receive apps where their weaknesses are really not that bad at all. They simply make the character more badass or more quirky such as:
- She is very sarcastic and witty which makes some people not like her.
- Would risk her own life to save those she loves, very brave.
- She has a quick temper.
- Doesn’t think things through.
- Enjoys teasing others though she doesn’t really mean it.
While the above weaknesses are fine individually, when put together they create a character that really isn’t that bad. Sure, she is fiery and sarcastic, but who doesn’t love an outgoing person who isn’t truly mean? You aren’t creating a flawed individual, you are creating Han Solo/Buffy Summers/Veronica Mars without any flaws.
4. Are Their Strengths 2 COOL 4 SKOOL?
By this I mean, are they unbelievably wonderful? Obviously, a character’s strengths shouldn’t be bad, but they also shouldn’t be able to shoot rainbows out of their asses while being able to kill any adversary. Some key words to look out for:
- entrancing, mysterious, mystifying, alluring
- —-est. any time they are they smartest or fastest or best at anything.
- witty, sarcastic, clever
- beautiful, gorgeous, pretty
- one of the boys, tomboy yet girly
- —- expert. any sort of unique skill that lacks a background in the main bio.
5. WTF is Their Name?
This is the simplest of all. If their name has anything to do with ravens, music, colors, fantasy, or anything that is just not normal, they are probably a Mary Sue. Granted, people can have weird names, but there is always a reason. The more melodic and fantastical a name when the roleplay is set in modern times, the greater the chance of a Mary Sue. I highly doubt you can explain why a character would be named Harmonica Elesynia Auburn Ravenwood unless their parents were high off their asses. Generally, players that care to detail out middle names are also creators of Mary Sues as they just couldn’t decide which name would work best and so saddled their character with all of them.