Writing Advice!

A lot of this'll be reposting from my Amino Books and Writing account, but I figured I'd put it here so that everyone here could learn from it too. Basically, this is just a series of rants/advice stuff for anyone to better themselves from!


1. Character Creation

For me, characters are one of the joys of writing. As such, it saddens me to no end when I read stories with bad (poorly written, not evil) characters. So, I thought it'd be fun to provide a sort of guide in an effort to help others around the app.

The Dreaded Mary Sue

You may or may not have heard of them. The Mary Sue (Gary of Marty Stu for guys) is beautiful, morally upright, kind, powerful, smart, and well liked- well liked by everyone except the reader. Mary Sue's are as bad as a character gets, they are perfect and thus boring. Allow me to explain, perfect characters have no room for them to grow, they're incredible and praised from the start, they will never have any meaningful character arc.

While the Mary Sue is common if you know what genre of book to look through (looking at you, YA novels), it's especially common in the realm of fan creation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "don't write OCs," I'm saying write GOOD OCs! Your readers will thank you for it.

And don't worry if you do make one! It's a part of growing up as a writer- I for one wrote my fair share of Mary Sues years back as well. What's important is to improve!

Now comes the time list out some common traits and fixes for the Dreaded Mary Sue:

It's All About Mary Sue

The Mary Sue is a spotlight stealer by nature, she woos every love interest within a thousand miles, she shoves other characters out of the picture so she can go on about herself.

In original fiction this means we get very little information on anyone who isn't the Mary Sue, their love interest(s), or maybe the villain if you're lucky.

It's a lot more obvious when it happens in fanfiction. The lesser characters, ESPECIALLY the rival for the love interest's heart (if there is one), get ground into the dirt. Anyone who doesn't agree with Mary Sue is demonized, eventually converted to her way of thinking, or suffers horrible abuse at the hands of the writer. It's especially bad when it comes to CanonXOc fics, and special care must be taken to avoid this at every turn. Of course, it can be done, it's just rarely done well.

A good fix might be trying to write a little bit from the eyes of other characters, but not about the suspected Mary Sue. Talk about a day in their life, get a feel for how they act, or just give the suspect actual time to form a meaningful relationship, be it platonic, romantic, or even hateful. And by God, give someone else a second of importance please.

Golly Gosh, Mary Sue looks Perfect™

The Mary Sue is either dramatically beautiful in a manner that will be described gratuitously, or "awful" looking (but not really). It annoys me and just about everyone else on the planet to see Mary Sue's eyes described in the form of a 5 page essay. They look ethereal, their eyes are not in fact eyes, but orbs of whatever pretty sounding color you can think of. Their hair is perfection without trying, and ranges anywhere on the color scale from rainbow to black like the night sky to white like snow. They're slim but curvy and their skin is either tanned like a piece of fried chicken or pale as milk.

The fix is simple! Give them physical imperfections! Maybe they're on the heavy side or have horrid acne. Or if they look good, show they put effort into doing so! But seriously, if I have to hear about one more "glasses girl was pretty all along and DOESN'T actually have vision problems" story I'm gonna have a mental breakdown.

Wow Mary Sue is so Nice

The main thing that irks me about the Mary Sue is that they don't have any personality flaws that could be called anything besides quirks. Yes she might be clumsy, but otherwise she can do anything!!!!1111!

Again, just give her flaws that actually afflict her or change the story. Give them 3 things that you loathe to try and break the author attachment. As they say, murder your darlings.

The Tragic Backstory™

Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a good tragic backstory, but it gets ridiculous sometimes with Sues. The important thing when it comes to backstory is to keep things reasonable. Of course you can have your character brood, but don't let it cross the line into just whining.

In fanfiction it is essential that your character fits into the universe and backstory is a massive part of that. Just make sure you're doing your research on the universe and what effects the backstory would have.

In original fiction it's still important to make sure your character fits into their universe, but since you have control you have much more room to breathe. Still, if your setting is basically real life, make sure you research the sort of backstory they get.

Another super important thing is to not give mental illnesses to your character because they're "cool" anyone with an actual mental illness will tell you it's not like that. Of course you can write spectacular characters with mental illnesses, but just do your research I beg of you.

What's in a Name

Names are important. They say a lot about a character through their meanings and origins so it's good to have a name that fits. What I'm trying to say is make sure your name is reasonable! A character that's American probably shouldn't have a Japanese name unless you've got a damn good reason for it. Also, don't make your names too ridiculous, it breaks the suspension of disbelief immediately. Basically, don't name your character Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way.

Mary Sue Saves the Day! Again. And Again. And Again.

Mary Sues often are way too powerful for their universe. They've done it all, learnt all varieties of magic, killed kings (bad ones of course because Sues can't do bad things themselves), and manage to escape death with little effort. If you want to have a strong character as your lead that's great, but they must fit the world they're in. So this means you have to either scale down the hero or scale up the powers of everyone else. Show that the hero can lose, the worse they start out at things the better.

In fanfiction there's more of an excuse to start out with strong characters, but they still have to be at a similar level to those around them for it to be anything resembling interesting.

In Conclusion

Writing a good, balanced character is hard. However, it's 10 times more enjoyable to read about characters who can screw up and learn from it than it is to read about one who is already perfect.

These are only a few of the qualifiers for a Sue and I'd like to update this post as I remember more things, so feel free to list your own problems with Sues in the comments.

If you're interested in the art of character creation, I'd be glad to look them over for you and provide suggestions! Just ask! Or if you've got horror stories about your or another person's (the position of critical [but not hurtfully] friend is a tough one) Mary Sues I'd be happy to listen to those too.

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