Hieroglyphic Graffiti » Thoughts on a Mary Sue Flame War

Wednesday November, 26 2003

Thoughts on a Mary Sue Flame War

Filed under: General — site admin @ 11:00 am

A while ago I posted a rant of sorts about Mary Sues. Thanks to some recent events, I’m inspired to do another one.

I just finished reading a flame war over at pottersues the first and most well known of the “Sue a Day” journals that have sprung up like wild flowers.

Apparently a Mary Sue Author or a fan of a particular Mary Sue author got it into their heads to flame the board and demand that the journal be taken down. They claimed that they would sue not only pottersues but everyone who replied to the posts.
Now, this is a laugh. pottersues conforms to all of Live Journal’s terms, they cannot be sued for copyright infringement since they always give full credit to the authors not to mention that fan fic is a violation of copyright in the first place. Don’t these teeny boppers know that they don’t have a legal leg to stand on?

The Internet is a public forum. Fan Fiction.net is perhaps even more so. By posting on the Internet or at that site you give people the right to read, review, and yes, even flame your work.

Heads up writers, if you don’t want people to comment on your work, don’t post it where anyone can read it. If you can’t handle criticism, get off the Internet.

I don’t agree with flames. I don’t like flamers, but the truth should be told that 99.9 percent of the people who posted at pottersues never flamed. They went to these fics to leave constructive criticism. Some of it seemed a bit harsher than others, but it was all meant to help.

True to fashion, many of these authors simply can’t understand why people don’t like to read their stories. I present a challenge to those writers. Submit your work to your English, Literature, or Writing teacher and see what happens. Your bad spelling, lack of simple grammar, and giant blocks of text aren’t going to fly so well then.

Mary Sues and Marty Stu are all a natural part of the writing process. We’ve all written them and they can be fun to write. Who doesn’t want to leap into a story and play it out side by side with their favorite character?

The Mary Sues that are posted at pottersues or any of the other Sue Hunting Journals are posted because generally they are frankly just downright bad. Most of these authors tear apart the cannon to suit their needs, misspell names and places with horrendous results, change characters until their unrecognizable, and generally suffer from the same: “My character is the bestest ever!!” syndrome.

This is not Emmy winning writing here people and it never will be. Your perfect character is not original, it been done to death. No one except for you is impressed that he or she can suddenly do everything and make everybody love them. Give your character a flaw. Not being able to sing is not a flaw unless it’s in a world in which singing is so important that the character cannot function without the skill.

Try actually writing in the cannon. For example: the Lord of the Rings does not need another mysterious ring, they have plenty of those, or a “Tenth Walker” there were nine walkers, Tolkien didn’t forget one. Trust me on that. Plus there are plenty of places to go with original characters in a cannon setting. There are hundreds of years of Middle Earth history to enjoy. Go write about something else.

And if you still need to write your own personal Mary Sue create your own world where you Sue would fit. Just suddenly appearing and being able to do wandless magic doesn’t work in the Harry Potter world. Make your own world where your character can do wandless magic to their heart’s content. She may still be a Mary Sue but at least now you can do anything you want without worrying about a cannon.

As a bonus if you create the world and don’t borrow aspects from other cannons you can have a legal leg to stand on if someone copies or posts your work without your consent. If you create an original world with original characters then you do own it. You can’t own your fanfiction. All the characters that you are writing with belong to someone else and if that person decides that they want to sue you, they can. You, however, cannot sue someone else for complaining about or posting your work. That’s the way it goes.

It’s amazing how many Mary Sue authors proclaim their immaturity with bullhorns and then expect to be taken seriously. Not everyone is going to love you, and you’d better learn to deal with it. Try getting something published and see how harsh the criticism can get. If you think a mean review is: “This plot is bad and this whole story is in need of a beta reader. Bad spelling and bad grammar,” is too harsh to handle just wait until a publisher reviews what you’ve written. Try telling them that they’re a “meanie”.

If you don’t want reviews that might be a bit harsh, take your work down. No one is impressed by your hissy fits or your swearing. Not everyone is your loyal fan and that’s life. Deal with it.

There, I feel better now. If you have something to say about this, please feel free to comment.

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