Fix 17: Trust Your Instincts

I cannot say this enough, but you need to trust your instincts.

 

If you are writing a Mary Sue it’s very probable that you are doing so because you are having good instincts that went wrong. My Mary-Sue (let’s call her the unfixable Sue… or the one that I can’ make into a heroine no matter what I do) graduated college at the age of 15. Why? Because it was important to me that my character be able to have an education, but she went out and did so many things I know she couldn’t be both a full time student and the adventurer/dimension hopper she was.

 

In Inuyasha Kagome is shown constantly battling education vs adventure, but it never seemed realistic. She would have had to miss more than half her school work, and there are just some things you can’t miss half of, and school is one of those things. So I made my Sue have finished college, making her quiet smart. In order to make it not so… unbelievable I sent her to the equivalent of ITTech, so she was a computer teacher inJapan at 16…. Okay I know it didn’t make sense, even then I wasn’t happy with it, but I also knew I couldn’t make it any better with what I had then.

 

Surprisingly this was actually good. What is showed was that in middle school I was trying to apply logic to my fantasy, something I think is very important. It meant that I was thinking about my character in correlation to the world I’d created, and wasn’t just worried about having fun. I was considering cause and effect. I also knew that I couldn’t fix it at the time, and allowed myself to have that character run her course anyway, which I needed to do.

 

Every sin is a virtue pushed to far. Gambling is courage and risk-taking. Cowardice is caution. Pride is self confidence. The same thing with Sue-traits. Every Sue trait is a good idea pushed too far. Sues are created because a girl has realized that in order to create a female protagonist the character had to have good traits. The problem is that normally the Sue is just taken too far.

 

Here’s another one of my own examples. My sue character was at one point paired with the following character: Kaiba from Yugioh, Kai from Beyblade, Sesshomaru from Inuyasha, and Karasu from Yu Yu Hakusho. When I think about it now it’s less that I was attracted to those characters (though for some reason Karasu still makes me giggle like a school girl), it’s that I liked their character. In reality those types of characters are the types I like to write: Strong male character who are more than a little bit broken or screwed up. And yes, they are broken. For people to become stronger they must first be broken, but a strong person isn’t someone who locks themselves away from the world, that’s a sign of fear and weakness.

 

I like that kind of character. They are incredibly interesting, especially since they masquerade their weakness as strength and the world not only allows them but imagines that they are strong and unbreakable. I love that, it’s fascinating!

 

So my Sue was paired with those characters in the same way that a doctor does and autopsy on a cadaver: practice at the real thing. See, the general purpose of any Sue is actually to interact with a certain character, often to heal them. I’m someone who likes reading about the healing process, I’ll admit. (I’ll also admit to liking a character the most when they’re at they’re most broken because that is when they are most interesting.)

 

The purpose of my Sue was fix these broken characters. To do so she first had to diagnose them (meaning I had to create their back story, AKA the stereotypical Sue’s Love interest back story), and then fix them. In my own hackneyed way this was my way of studying the characters and figuring out how to construct that type of character.

 

Yes, sometimes the Sue-love-interest is someone the author is attracted to, and I was attracted to those characters. I even figured that out eventually when I was about to be ‘in love’ with Rio from the third Digimon series and thought that was too much. Same way I stopped myself from ‘falling’ for Kurama because I had a friend who liked him.

 

When I think about it I’m really not attracted to those characters. If anything I know that if I knew them in real life I would hate them. So much so that my Sue character and the Kaiba based character got a divorce because he wouldn’t let her write anymore. Kaiba is also my most enduring Anime Crush. He lasted about five years. I’m chalking that one up to opposites attract, because I both love and hate his derivative character.

 

The truth is that everything you’ve ever written has the seed of a good idea. Sometimes you have to strip down everything but that idea and start over, but everything comes from a good idea. Based things that you liked as a child are things you probably will still like as an adult. When writing your Sue you’re dealing with the things you like for the first time in the form of a person who actually can handle it (aka: the Sue). Often it’s not the Sue that we like, but the world we put her in, or the people she’s attracted to. And there’s a reason we like them.

 

I told you about the character I liked; truthfully I’m not much better at writing that type of character than any other. I’m branching out more, but almost all of my characters, male or female, have a touch of that brokenness, and those that don’t do not for a very specific reason and often have a person strength and freedom unmatched. I understand the broken type so well that now I can work with the truly free. And those free characters… man alive, it’s like write sunshine after writing raven feathers. That’s the only way I can explain it.

 

Let me also say that the instincts you have now, things about yourself that you can’t explain, they probably have a reason as well, and that will probably serve you in the future. I mentioned Karasu a number of times. He was the one name on that list that did not fit, and while I’d argue he’s the most broken of any of them he’s a minor character and a villain, on that is never shown to have a redeeming quality… and I freaking love him for all that he is, not for what I think I can make him. To date I have five, 5, five characters based on him. None of them are him but I keep searching and I feel like I might be getting closer. Somehow his character appeals to me instantly, for reasons I can’t explain or understand, and the only other character I can compare and attraction to is Iago from Othello, but even that doesn’t match because my love for Karasu was pretty instant.

 

I don’t yet understand why this is, and being a writer I can figure that it’s not because I’m a sociopath (that and I freaking hate seeing pain. Reading about it I okay, but actually see it, even a villain’s pain hurts my heart). What I know is that this is a character that effects me at such a base level, right in the bottom of my heart he as a character, for all his vicious broken devious strength and evil, for all that he is that appeals to me so badly that I wish I could contain him. He appeals to me in the same way shiny red things and yellow roses appeal to me. I like seeing it and having it so much I just want to bottle it up where no one else can see it.

 

Can I explain that little piece of insanity? Not really. I rather think that everyone has that thing that appeals to them that much, they’re just sane enough to not admit it, and clearly none of us should (or will) attempt to contain anything like that. But this character appeals to me so much, and I don’t know why. Because of that I feel like when I do figure it out it’ll be a huge epiphany, one that will push me toward the type of writing I’ve been pushing myself toward since I wrote my very first Sue.

 

You live long enough you start to realize that your instincts are instincts for a reason. They work. Why? No idea, but you shouldn’t just ignore them. You need to listen to them and see what they’re trying to tell you.

 

Anyway, I’ve ranted crazy up one side and down the other by now. If you’re still reading be aware that it’s totally okay to be insane in print as long as you act like a functioning human being in real life. (I’m of the opinion that writers are people who’ve found a way to channel multiple personality disorder onto paper.) Anyway, just enjoy. Write what you love, good things will follow, I swear. You’ll make mistakes, but good things will follow.

 

(Also, this post is my lucky number: 21. Go Devil Bats! YA~HA!)

Fix 0.5: Sue Authors Anonymous

I was going to write about naming your character today, but I found a more important thing to talk about. Today’s topic is entitled SAA- Sue Author’s Anonymous.

Hello, I’m Marysue Fixer, and I’m a recovering Sue Author.

I wrote my first sue when I was in 6th grade. I was 10, and she was the love interest of Seto Kaiba from Yugioh. She later moved on to being the love interest for Sesshomaru, and then the love interest for Karasu from Yu Yu Hakusho. She had a child by each. Then I moved on to the second generation.

It’s been about four years since I write my first Sue, but she continues to be a part of my original cannon, being the mother of character who’s the mother of a character who’s the love interest of one of my main characters.  My Sue was a self insert, with my name, who did things that I personally would never do. She was beautiful, and had a lot of magic. Her exact title was ‘The Light Maiden’. While I’ve personally modified the title to fit other more interesting characters and ideas, she is still the original.

Today this Sue is a flakey writer was in love with one man, had a child by him before getting married to a rich man, has a child by him and divorces him because he tries to make her stop writing. She married a second man who dies after she had another child. Then she proceeds to be a single mother/writer who has a decent income from alimony. She adopts two boys after that.  She meets her old sweetheart, who now is a porn photographer, and they marry and have twins. She’s blissfully unaware that her children, except for her new twins, have problems; that her eldest son had tried to kill his sister, that he’s also involved in illegal activities and dying of a genetic disease. The eldest son is her favorite. Her eldest daughter hates her for being flakey, but loves her dad and her two adopted brothers, and the boy she found and cares for as a son. The writer’s middle son depends on his sister for a mother figure, and only one of the adopted boys sees her as a mother figure.

She is not likeable to anyone, even me, which is why she’s a background character at best, or never sees the light of day at worst. She’s also not my first O/C, that title is built out by a princess named Rose and a Mouse named Suzy.

The princess never had a good name, so I finally decided on Rose. I have another character named Rose, but we shant speak of her at the moment. Princess Rose was a blonde-haired, blue eyed princess who wore pink dresses and lived in a tower that her evil step mother put her in. Her only companion is a grey mouse named Suzy who has a blonde bob, a green head-band and pants (which show off her Hartman Hips) and a pink shirt and flats.  Suzy has a crystal flower on her headband that has magic in it to protect her. Rose had a crystal red heart locket (that is powerful and therefore must hide from the wicked stepmother) that she can open up and go into when she wants to escape her tower room and go on adventures.

Rose has a prince, who has no name/face/origin, but is blonde and dresses like Eric from the little mermaid. The prince has a mouse that plays the prince role for Suzy, and also had no face/name/origin. Rose also has two friends, both of whom have mice and prince-love interests. Neither of the girls have names, but one is white with brown hair and wears periwinkle dresses, while the other is black and wears lime green dresses. Rose, the infinitely more interesting Suzy, and friends escapes the tower often to go on adventures, but always get Rose in home before her wicked step mother finds out, while the prince desperately tries to find a legal way to free Rose so he can marry her.

I came up with all of this when I was about 5, (about the same time I came up with the fantasy of having to survive in the arctic with only one blanket and no supplies). Until this moment I have never written down. Ironically, the adventures and characters from the original characters are way more interesting than my self-insert Mary-Sue. The reason for this is because when I hit about eleven I wanted to make darker edgier stories. Suddenly the light hearted Disney Princess/Alice in Wonderland innocent stories were replaced with tales of a girl who is struggling with her interest in different nonexistent males as I struggled through puberty.

Some people start later, but the Sue is, as I’ve said, a process of writing. I think that most people’s first characters are like Princess Rose and Suzy. For boys they’re more like the Ninja Turtles (which I was a big fan of as a kid, but I digress). Their stories are light hearted, over exaggerated, often plotless, and fun. Even looking back at them the creator can feel a sense of joy and fun that comes with the story. If I wrote Rose now, her adventures might all be in her locket that she keeps hidden as are all her friends, while she simply sits in her tower and waits for life to pass her by. Or I’d write about young girls sneaking in and out of the tower to have adventures, going between a fearful life and a life of fun. Ironically, my old children’s stories adapt better than my first ‘serious’ work.

The reason for this is that when you start creating characters they’re often you sticking yourself into a situation. When you’re a kid you may fantasize about going to magic worlds, but you’ll do so by the Harry Potter/chosen one route, or by stumbling across a magical item that takes you to a magical world where you can explore. Otherwise you create characters who aren’t you, but are characters you want to see have adventures. When you’re a teenager you often want desperately to be anywhere else than your boring life. It comes from a bizarre split between childhood and adulthood. You want to be seen as adult, but you also want badly to play. The Mary Sue is the answer.

Mary Sue is the author avatar in the story, yet unlike children, teenagers have become self conscious of their faults, and so try to mask it with creating a perfect character. The Sue is a perfectly natural way of expressing ones-self and should be accepted as such. Think of Sue as a way for the new writer to improve their writing style. They can fix character later, but the important part is practice writing.

A lot of people treat Sue as something to be reviled. This is a really bad way to think. Sue authors are normally new writers: people testing the waters of writing, expressing imagination on paper, testing their own limits. While it doesn’t seem like it sometimes: words mean something. Some people feel like Sues are toxic and must be flamed to death. This way of thinking is toxic. What you write matters, even on the internet. Let me give you a personal example. I’ve mentioned in passing that I Roleplay, just text-based post-by-post, one-on-one Roleplaying. I’ve done it for about as long as I’ve been writing fanfiction. The end result is ten years of near constant writing has improved my writing and my ability to form characters.  But you notice how I said I only do one-on-one roleplays?

I’m a naturally shy person. I’m very opinionated. With friends and teachers I can be loud and even a little pushy when it comes to my ideas. I’m a great public speaker. All that said I am very shy. I don’t make friends easily, and I over analyze mistakes I make. When I was new to RPing I friend requested a lot of people who had similar interests as me. Someone was offended by this and stalked me on a forum, flaming me and my newbie writing in every RP thread I was in. Since then I don’t RP in threads, and I don’t RP in groups. This person scared me. There is the possibility that I could have been more open on the internet than I am in real life, but in many ways I’m even shyer online than I am in real life.

This is a very real reason to not flame a Sue author, ever. I can’t say my group RP aversion is completely this person’s fault, but honestly she couldn’t have done much worse to affect me and my specific personality. Your words mean things, and if you say hurtful things you will hurt people. You can’t take your words back in real life, and it’s even more impossible on the internet. There is the edit button, but honestly you remember things said in text better because someone took the time and energy to type up a long ‘you suck’ tirade.

Mary Sue should be discouraged, but it needs to be done directly and carefully. One of the sites I’ve mentioned more than once is a Livejournal blog called Pottersues. The author of this blog reviews only Harry Potter Mary Sue fanfics. She writes funny things about these people, but when she sees a writer who’s clearly new she tells her fans to be kind to the writer.

The problem with a Mary-Sue comes when the writer refuses to fix their work. When you’re a new writer you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. When you figure out that you’re doing something wrong you either try to fix it, or refuse to fix it. The second option is like knowingly dumping toxic waste into a river. Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic, but knowingly writing Sues, insisting it’s your fic and you can do whatever is not good. Instead of trying to improve you’re hurt yourself, which does hurt others. People take inspiration from other people. Most people become inspired by good word. What happens if someone who stumbles upon your Mary Sue? Someone who could have been inspired by a good work from you? Will they start on that idea they’ve had floating in the back of their head?

I’m bizarre in getting inspired by bad writing. It’s only because I have a desperate need to prove fantasy (Twilight) or Fanfiction (My Immortal) can be well written.  That’s actually how I decided to start this blog. I don’t believe I’ve stated this before, but this blog is for people who know they have a Sue problem and want to try and fix their character. It’s also for seasoned writers like me who can use a reminder about writing good characters. Hopefully someone who’s being willfully ignorant will stumble across this one day and decide that they do want to improve. I believe in the power of words, and I believe that words can sway people, for good or bad.

So keep this in mind: hating on something is funnier and easier. It makes you feel superior. On the other hand, giving some constructive criticism is hard, but much more necessary. You can make fun of Twilight all day, but if you refuse to read the series you’ll never figure out that Stephanie Meyers has mastered the art of writing page turners, something you really want for your story. She’s also mastered the art of selling, since the books suck terribly and no one should want to read them, but lots of people do. You can learn things even from bad things. The quote from Edison is that he didn’t fail to invent the light bulb 300 times (or whatever the actual number is) he just learned 300 ways not to make a light bulb. Learn from your own mistakes, and from someone else.  But I will warn you that you can’t learn from anyone if you bash or flame them. In order to flame someone you do the internet equivalent of sticking our fingers in your ears and going “LALALALALALA” as loud as you can. You don’t gain anything, you may actually lose something, and you hurt someone who probably doesn’t deserve the hurt.

So here’s what I’m offering. SAA will be a part of this blog. If you submit a piece of work I will critique it for you. Please keep in mind that you can ask for a private critique, and once the work is posted on the internet it’s there forever, so if you want to keep your original work to yourself I don’t suggest letting me post it here.

I won’t say that I will read and critique your work, especially if I have a lot of entries. But one of the best ways to learn is through the hands on help. For whomever I’m doing the critique it will be a good, character driven critique of the things you can fix and possibilities for your text. For the reader, you can see how to dissect a work, and maybe use the same technique on your own work. I suggest some hands on practice of critiquing as well, so readers can comment on the work as well.

Please be aware that if you want help with grammar, I’m not your person. For my fiction I have people who edit for me. They range from my English major friends, to my parents who are real grammarians, to professional editors, even teachers. I also need these people because I’m not a great grammarian. If you really worried about grammar there are blogs for that and a helpful little book called Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

Back to more normal fixes tomorrow, but I felt everyone needed a chance to understand why I’m in the business of fixing, and not just poking fun.

Good night my lovelies,

Marysuefixer