Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My MC isn't a Mary-Sue... I hope!

(if you don't know what a Mary-Sue is, click here or here)

My August Camp NaNoWriMo protagonist is a young woman named Siva Grey. She's an orphan, and currently the youngest living master mage, having attained the rank years earlier than most people do.

Most of the story happens while she is living in a land where her magic is forbidden, where she meets and falls in love with a man who's boss is the king who outlawed all the magic.

By the end of the story the kingdom's policy on magic has changed and she lives happily ever after.

This all sound very Sue-ish, doesn't it? As I was writing last night, I became quite nervous that Siva was a Sue, so I ran this test on her. Even before I got the results, reading through all the things that didn't apply reminded me that a story and a character are both more than the superficial details.

Sure, I can draw a bullseye around the Sue-ish traits, but in doing so I omit from consideration most everything that makes her a believable character.

She's an orphan, but not a special "chosen one" kind of orphan. She's the youngest Master mage in years only because she grew up at the school. And that isn't because she was special - she merely had nowhere else to go after she was kicked out by her adoptive family when she started making magic.

Siva is living in a foreign land because she ran away from the school when she found out that her best friend had only been using her to learn magic. Too scared to face everyone knowing, she fled far and fast without a plan or adequate preparation.
And the king's man she falls in love? He's barely got status at court, and that only as a tutor to the prince. He's not a hottie warrior, but someone she has to protect with her magic when his diplomacy fails.

Lastly, the kingdom's policy doesn't change because the king realizes how right she is... it changes because he dies.
After thinking through all of the above, I realized what a difference the details make. I don't think Siva's a Sue after all, despite some characteristic traits.
What do you think? Is my MC a Mary-Sue? Please warn me if I've been blinded by my own story!


  1. And better thought out than on Twitter

    The way I see it, a character in your own original world can't be a traditional Sue. The protagonist HAS to have some of those "special snowflake" traits or why are we following this person in the first place?

    Now if the world was somebody else's creation and Siva is stealing the spotlight and showing up the canon characters that people are actually reading the fanfic for, that's more Sue. If everybody worships the ground she walks on and she gets the canon character that you have a crush on, even more Sue.

  2. There's a good chance if you're worried she's a Sue, she's probably not. =)

  3. Thanks to you both for the feedback. I was very worried for a few minutes, but as I said, less so after really looking at the situation. Only then, of course, I wasn't quite willing to trust my own objectivity, so it's nice to have some help!

    It's true that both the story being original fiction & my worrying are good signs. Thanks!