Thursday, September 1, 2011

My very own Mary Sue

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am undertaking pretty large-scale revisions on An Unexpected Kingdom, based in large part on advice from my critique partner, Rena.  (Thank you, Rena!)  The critique point that required the most change was one that, while difficult to hear, confirmed a worry that was lingering at the back of my mind: namely, that Ava (my main character) is a bit of a Mary Sue.  In case it isn't clear- that is a bad thing.  A Mary Sue means slightly different things to different people but the basic definition is a character that is entirely too good (good at everything, liked by everyone, special beyond all measure, etc.).  It is generally acknowledged to be a common flaw with inexperienced writers and is often said to be a representation of the person the writer wishes he or she could be.  So, YIKES!  Now, Ava is not the worst of what a Mary Sue can be.  In fact, I took a test, The Original Fiction Mary-Sue Litmus Test, and only scored a 49 of which the test said: 36-55 points: Mary-Sue. Your character needs some work in order to be believable. But despair not; you should still be able to salvage her with a little effort. Don't give up. 
The thing is, and the reason I have been so resistant to altering Ava, is that she is based on an actual person who truly is that great (beautiful, sweet, incredibly smart, talented at everything she does).  Ava is not my cousin Annie, but that is where the inspiration came from and so it seems strange to now pull back and say, "no one is that wonderful", because occasionally people are; Annie is.  BUT, what Rena made me realize is that I can have Ava a generally wonderful kid (although some slight alterations are necessary), but realistically not everyone will like her- because that is truth.  No one is universally liked.  So: revise, revise, revise.  I am procrastinating like you wouldn't believe.  But I don't want to make rookie mistakes, so revise I must.


  1. Revising a character really would be hard. They become so much a part of us. But, I'm sure with the few tweaks Rena gave you, it will all be awesome!

  2. I had to off a character was...horrible actually.

    holly Black has a nice post on this subject:

    Thanks for visiting my blog! :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Let me clarify. Off them because they were SO perf, they were just empty space and dragging the plot...still...horrible. But we're just cynical people. Sometimes people are fucking NICE. I had two Mary Sue moments today. I found a phone in my cab and returned it to its rightful owner even though it woke me up 2 hours early..then..I saw a girl passed out on my street and called the cops to get her underage drunk ass HOME. I could've had a new iphone and let this girl dehydrate or have something horrible happen to her.

    But I'm always hoping for the best in people and it starts with you. You are an extension of your characters. So if it's important to the story, then let her be as amazing as she can be!

  5. As a writer who has survived many revisions, I know how tough it can be. Hang in there girl! It's worth it!

    Also, I’m a new follower—wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)


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