Tool 1: Testing the Test

Question of the day: When taking a Mary-Sue litmus test, should you check off that  you characters has ‘unusual healing powers, capable of stopping death’ if the character has created drugs which slow death so she can enjoy torturing the people more?


I’m testing Litmus tests to see which ones are accurate. (This is the first of a new section about dealing with the tools for fixing a Sue.)


 I have a character who is sexy, with sea foam green hair, who is the best in three given fields: Botany (by magic), Chemistry (by work), and torture (by fun).  She views people, including her husband and her daughter merely as toys that she has yet to break. When she got tired of her toys dying too quickly she combined created drugs to extend life.  She doesn’t she is related to royalty, but her ‘superiors’ don’t try to control her because she scares them a lot. She’s terrifying because she doesn’t believe that the game is over until she’s won; and she doesn’t care if she gets hurt, brutally maimed, tortured, or killed so long as she’s not bored. Personality wise she has few redeeming qualities: she’s stubborn and a leader. She’s very good at the things she actually cares about, and is very protective of what is hers.  She’s not beautiful, but the best way to describe her is like seeing a green saber-tooth tiger, beautiful for the impossibility of it, especially since you will be dead only moments after seeing it. This test gave her a 35, ranking her as a complete Mary-Sue. This test gave her a 20, ranking her a Non-Sue, fully developed and well rounded character.


I prefer the test because it takes fantasy into account. The quiz is listed out more often. No matter what the test says, it is more biased against fantasy characters. It’s meant to cover original characters, fanfiction OCs, and RPG characters. Like a multi-symptom cold reliever it covers not enough of anything; and in fact judges characters if they’re ugly, over-weight, or handicapped as being less Mary-Sue.  I feel like it comes off as more opinionated than the test.


The Ponyland test doesn’t worry about which genre you’re writing in, but has general character points, points for if your character is human/immortal, and points for how you relate to the character (which is one part some people over look when “Calling Sue”.)  The Ponyland test has always seemed more accurate to me; it also focused on things like personality more than back story/accessories/skills (which is something the other test does).


To be clear, the character I put through the test I had taken through the Ponyland test before, back when I knew less about her. It ranked her as an anti-sue; that was a few years ago; maybe she would have been a normal character in the Springhole test back then.  The biggest difference between the Ponyland and Springhole test (though neither are perfect) is the intent of character. In the question I ask earlier I posed a question of intent. If a character who is very good at healing, but uses it so that she can cause pain, does that add to her Sue-Score, or not?


This was also to illustrate that these tests are not perfect. I do have characters that rank high on the Sue test that while not having a Sue-personality, and realistically reacting to their circumstances; have a highly Sue-stacked back story. I walk a tight rope when I write them. The test pointed this out to me so I am really careful. Others are sues that I don’t use except as back characters or by way of character study for male characters. They’re my “Cinderella Pair”.


If you read my blog on “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”, one of them is the female demon I talk about. She’s only marginally interesting to me in her quest to find love with humans after so many other husbands have died (I never said she was smart). The other is a half-demon girl who stupidly falls in love with her master. When the master starts to reciprocate she’s happy until she realizes that he wants to free her and marry her. She wants to be his slave (She has serious problem, including falling for a man who has mental issues and is more than mildly abusive).  They kind of sound interesting (honestly, the half-demon, Clair, is a character I love to write as, but I don’t because she is Cinderella). 


The “Cinderella Pair” pose an interesting question for me, as does the daughter of the character I ran through the test. The daughter reacts to her parents’ violent life styles with fear and a desperate wish to be a pacifist, though she feels drawn to violence. She acts as sweet as a pixie even if she doesn’t feel like that on the inside.  The question they pose it how to write a good female character. There’s a strong cultural reaction against a Cinderella, and a love of a Wonder Woman.


The interesting thing about Sues is that they actually lean more toward Wonder Woman. They are ‘badasses’ but they often need to be rescued by men.  Or they act like a tag-along Cinderella, one who goes beyond purity and happily jumps on her love interest. The problem is the hypocrisy of the Sue.  Cinderella is a Sue because of unrealistic reactions. She was a standard of beauty. Pure and hard working, and sweet literally beyond reason.  People who are abused like Cinderella are not sweet people. They are severely wounded and don’t connect to others that well. Often they will be passive-aggressive. They will eventually do what they are told, but they take their sweet time about it… it’s actually something of a slave mentality. If you separate the psychological problems from Cinderella then you have a Sue.


What about Wonder Woman? First off, DC will never be as interesting as Marvel. Outside of Batman, most of the DC superheroes are practically gods. It’s why Super Man has to be rebooted about ever 3-5 years. He gets too powerful.  Second, she was invented by a psychiatrist… no really. All the bondage and sex aspect was consciously built in. Of course Wonder Woman is a complete badass, but her weakness is when she’s tied up (which would be most people’s weakness when you really think about it). The rest of the fight is Wonder Woman trying to free herself (or someone else trying to free her). It’s bizarre twist on the damsel in distress story, where the damsel can take care of herself until she’s captured, then she needs help… which again: very few people can get out of a situation where they’ve been captured on their own. Their captors are either stupid/inattentive (this happens with rape victims), or the victim is trained to be able to escape (spies).


So is Wonder Woman a Sue? I’ll admit to not being able to say, but it probably depends on the version most often. She definitely leans hard on the Sue wall… but it’s Wonder Woman! Really, she may very well be a Sue, and Cinderella may very well not be a Sue (not by the traditional tests anyway). You can take them through the Litmus tests if you want.


The point I’ve been wandering around but not really making is that the tests are not perfect, as is human perception. Our ideals of Sue-dom may very well not really fit our actual definitions. This is the biggest problem with trying to define Sue. One Sue Litmus test I took pointed out that Bon Jovi fails the litmus test… and he’s a real human being.  I don’t tend to define Sue, more try to fix the varying parts. What I know from experience is that unlike an illness where you have to kill the source, the best way to fix a Sue is to fix the parts. In the process of fixing parts you’ll gain enough experience and enough changes in the character for him/her to stop being a Sue and start being a competently written character.