by Biljana Likic
Hi! My name is Felicitie Del’Ortollio. I have a great personality, and I’m generous, kind, helpful, and encouraging. I’m a great leader, too. I’m a straight A student, speak 23 languages fluently, and I work out a lot, so I have a great body. I also have very nice hair. It’s brown, which is a plain colour, but on me, it looks totally awesome. Mostly because I have such a gorgeous face. My eyes are blue, but sometimes they’re violet, depending on my mood. I have lots of friends that tell me I’m cool and want to be me, and most of the guys in school are secretly in love with me. But that doesn’t make me arrogant. I’m actually quite sweet.
I also have magical powers that you won’t know about until an impossible situation comes along and my creator has no idea how to fix it. Then, I’ll reveal that I’m the most powerful member of a super secret order of faeries that against all judgment chose me as their leader. Probably because I would never let the power corrupt me.
I’m just an overall amazing person.
I’m also completely unreal.
You knew that?
But how did you guess?!
Is it because my second name is Mary Sue?
Yes. Yes it is.
But the above is an exaggeration. Mary Sues can be a lot subtler than that. What they are in the extreme is the creation of a character that is exactly like the writer, or what the writer wants to be, with the good traits amped up and bad traits abolished. Certain things like insecurities and confidence issues become non-existent to the character, whose life is pretty much great, and whose problems melt away with really easy solutions.
The reason they exist, I believe, is simple. Once in a while, everybody wants to be perceived as funny and nice, or delightfully quirky, or devilishly sarcastic. Whatever the desire, Mary Sue waits around until you choose it, and she presents you with an irresistible opportunity: rewriting your life to be exactly how you want it to be.
It’s a way of immersing yourself into that universal dream of things going perfectly as planned, with everybody on your side.
Unfortunately, just because it offers you a fantastical escape that seems like sheer brilliance, critics may not agree.
From her humble beginnings in Star Trek fan fiction to her present day appearances in contemporary novels, (read a description of Bella Swan and compare it with a picture of Stephanie Meyer,) Mary Sue has become the whispered-about small-town disgrace that nobody wants to be associated with publicly but everybody wishes they could have. She has earned herself a reputation of being the fictional equivalent of a hooker, who tells you she loves you, tells you you’re beautiful, amazing, absolutely perfect, and who will pet and pamper your ego till your head’s too big to fit through the door.
And then she’ll jump into the proverbial bed of another, leaving you quite metaphorically screwed, and burdened with the heavy price of a whole manuscript of mental indulgence to rework.
But it’s not fair, because nobody really warns you. Nobody tells you when you’re young and writing your first story to be careful not to answer the siren song of a fake confidence boost. Or if they do, they don’t give you real reasons. They just say “It’s frowned upon” and expect you to listen without any facts. And to add to the frustration, they accidentally encourage it. When you’re just starting out as a writer, the common piece of advice that everybody hears is “Write what you know.”
Well of course an obvious answer would be a Mary Sue. What do you know better than yourself?
The problem isn’t having her in your writing. The problem is the small town. Mary Sue has become so shunned and ostracized that the town refuses to believe anything good can come out of her. The moment they see her around they boo and hiss and fail to realize that to get out of the Mary Sue relationship in a healthy way, all you really need to do as a writer is grow up.
Practice, mature into your writing, and slowly ease her away. Turn the torrid, injuring love affair into a comfortable friendship. She can be quite kind when you acknowledge her with respect. By having a friendship, you’ll accept the possibilities she offers without letting yourself fall in too deep.
Most importantly, you’ll lose the town’s mentality of Mary Sue as a destructive, leeching succubus. To cut her off completely would be impossible and stupid. You created her; she’ll be a permanent part of you for the rest of your life. You’ll remember her for all the wonderful ideals she inspired, and all the glorious emotions she made you feel when you wrote about flying to the moon with angel wings. She is the embodiment of all your fears, hopes, insecurities, and dreams of adventure, everything that still exists in your blood, all the stuff you think about daily, and to kill her off would be like killing a piece of your soul.
She’ll stalk the edges of all you future writing endeavours, looking in with clear eyes and grudging respect, no longer a jealous lover, and just for that, she is entitled to a word, a sentence, a mannerism, or personality trait of any character you create in the future, if she so chooses.
She is your muse. Treat her with dignity.
Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She just graduated high school and is on her way to university where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.