So Youve Created a Mary-Sue</u>
One day while browsing on deviant Art or even Fanfiction.net you get a really great idea to create your own Original Character (OC). So cool, right? You make him/her for your favorite fandom so you can draw or write them it, its like youre in the series. You can make your favorite sexy anime guy or beautiful girl fall head over heels in love. You quickly write everything you would like if you were in that fandom and upload away. Thats when you get your first comment or review. As soon as you open it the room catches fire and you are incinerated within the depths of a Flame. A flame is a type of review or comment that is left usually to bash one writing or drawing and hold little to no constructive criticism to help with improvements. Thats when you realized you have been infected by the dread disease of creating a Mary-Sue. Whats the first thing you should do, throw it out right? wrong!
Just like learning to write or draw, developing a character can and will be improved over time. Take the Sue character and change/fix/erase errors; it takes time to actually create a good sound character that you can be proud of. Lets take some time to learn how to fix this monstrosity. First thing is first.
What is a Mary-Sue?
A Mary-Sue is a character that is, for lack of a better word, Perfect. She has no major flaws or if she does its something that people like her better for, i.e. clumsiness. They are usually the Last of their kind so to speak or have had an insanely tragic past. Now its okay for your character to have a sad past as long as it builds on them currently. Also she has no enemies and everyone loves her or finds her attractive, including the bad guys who have never been shown being romantically interested in anyone. Other traits vary from series to series but usually revolve around the same idea that they character is perfect. There are male variations of a Mary Sue the name ranges from Gary-Stu or Marty-Sue to many others but they are harder to find.
Now that you know the basic background of what that type of character is its time to move onto how to fix it or create one from scratch. Here are the basics. Note, this is just one of many ways to create a character. It may not work for everyone.
The Way You Look Tonight
I generally start with how the character will look but I always keep in mind the basic personality of the character, you dont want a depressingly sad character to be wearing bright colors. Always dress for success and match the attitude! The two main traits people tend to focus on is hair and eyes. Make sure you have hair that matches the series you are creating it for; you cant have someone who has naturally bright blue hair in Harry Potter that just wouldnt make sense with the time period. Also stay away from color changing eyes, I cant tell you how many times I have seen characters with color changing eyes, it doesnt work so please avoid. Clothes can make or break a character, you need to have them dress accordingly with the time period and place. You cant have your character run around in jeans and a tee shirt when its set in the Renaissance. Now there are some fandoms that are like that, Inuysha for example, but if it is not you can not make a character like that.
Now lets say you already have a character and but it falls under this category of being out of place, this is a simple fix. Look through some pictures of the fandom or time period/place to get an idea of what was/is usually worn and you can adjust your characters looks and cloths to match but you can put your own twist to make then unique.
Tattoo's are Scars with Better Stories
Now that you have your characters looks put together you need to think about other physical marking if you wish to include them. Going with the same theme of keeping your character consistent with the time/place/fandom the markings need to be consistent as well. Some fandoms allow unusually marking on characters but their is usually a reason, for example Inuyasha has ears on his head because he is a demon so if you have a demon they can have ears but if you create a character to hang around with the boys of Ouran High School Host Club then animal ears are not acceptable and should not be included. Some exceptions would be if they are not real but your character likes to wear them. Other marking can include scars or tattoos, make sure those stay consistent especially facial markings. There are a few marking from characters that are unique to them and should not be copied, altered or reproduced in anyway, its a sure fire signal for a mary-sue and an uncreative artist. Some examples are Gaaras tattoo on his forehead, Kenshins scar on his cheek or even Sesshomarus demon markings.
If you already have a character that has any physical traits that dont belong or resemble something everyone knows, its an easy fix again. You can always erase anything that doesnt need to be there, get rid of the neko ears for Naruto. Things that are physical are the easiest thing to change, make sure your character fits well into the world you are creating it for.
Beauty is Only Skin Deep
This is the problem that most young girls or first time creators have, In order for the main guy to love your OC she must be attractive, really attractive, like everyone-fights-over-her-as-soon-as-she-smiles attractive! Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! Have you ever known someone in real life that just like that? I havent and dont enjoys stories like that. You can make the character attractive but dont make it way over board and have every guy in the story fall in love with her as soon as they see her. Its all up to you how you want your character to look, its really tricky thinking of the right way to describe them, especially if you are writing. For an example of how to change we will look at my character from the Naruto Series, her name is Katsura. When I first described her in my hand written draft of my story it was really Mary-Sue.
She smiled at Shikamaru, her soft brown eyes smiled more then her face. It was true that Katsura could any man to do anything. She was a very beautiful woman with short brown hair falling softly onto her shoulders, her eyes were the same color and she had a pale complexion
Even though I made sure her clothes, hair and eyes fit with the series she has many sue like qualities and after I read that I realized, I dont know anyone who could give strength to anyone with a smile, let alone to Shikamaru. Instead of throwing her out like most people would say to do I changed her and made her more realistic. That previous paragraph became this in the final draft.
She smiled way to brightly for Shikamarus taste. But that was Katsura for you always way to cheerful for anyone to be around. Perhaps she was even more cheerful the Rock Lee but at least she wouldn't ramble of about youth and such.
Not only did I change that scene I also introduced some personality into her, I went on to describe her physically in the next few paragraphs. But not with all those filler words. What I deem as a filler word when creating a character is things that are used to make the character sound more appealing but are not needed. For example I used soft brown eyes I could have easily gotten rid of the soft and the message would have come through all the same, she has brown eyes and they reveal a lot of emotion through them. Just try to create and think realistically, when in doubt if a character should have something remove it just in case.
Whats in a Name?
The name is an important part of the character, just like with everything else it must fit in with the series. Dont just pick some random japanese name you like for everything. It wouldnt make sense for someone who is named Haruki to be a state alchemist in Full Metal Alchemist when everyone else is named things like Ed, Roy, Al, Alexander, and Rose. If the name doesn't fit with the series then neither does your character.
If you have already created a character with a foreign name or one that doesnt fit in then once again its an easy change. There are plenty of websites that can help you find a great name that will fit and will sound good.
I Am What I Am
Lets say you want your character to be completely unique and strong so she is going to be part Sayian, Demon, Angel, Human, Cat and Mecha
that is all wrong. Its okay to have your character be part of another species but dont over pile it to the point where logically it wouldnt make sense, after all all the part of their lineage has to come from somewhere and beastly should never be involved.
If your character is already several different species rolled into one then you have to erase some. Try sticking with one or two species, you can pull off three but its not recommended and it will lead to more Mary-Sue like qualities in the future. If they are different species then make sure they dont have all the powers of each species, they can have some but if they have all then they will be powerful and unrealistic within the Fandom.
The Past is the Key to the Future
So you have the looks, clothes, and marking down. Its time for a background, every character has a past and their personality should reflect the past. So what is the first thing you do for a past? Kill the parents, have someone hunt down your character, maybe the are adopted and have no clue who their family is, right? No. Those things are cliched though sometimes they can be pulled off well but it really takes a talented and experienced person to make it work. You can have a tragic past but just like with the looks dont over do it. What happened to Vegeta in Dragonball Z with his entire planet being blown up and basically became a slave is something that mast characters should not go through since its very cliched and has been done several times. If you want your character to have some sadness in their past then thats fine, having one parent is very acceptable, after all Disney does it all the time. Or maybe some friends die. If you really want them to be an orphan it can be done but having them go through abuse at the same time is a bit over kill after all your OC is not Annie.
If your character has an overly tragic past then you can always change it, If we use Katsura as an example once more when I originally created her dad die then her mom was killed a few days later then a few weeks later her two teammates and sensei was killed on a mission
That is too much for one person to handle and their would be no way for her to cope and would probably have to go to therapy quite often. So I fixed it, her dad died (note her parents are cannon characters, though not major, and in the series her dad does die) her two teammates were killed but not her teacher, the reason I kept the team dyeing was for plot purposes. Its still tragic but these events shape who she becomes and what she does. Sad pasts are okay but dont to do overkill.
Humility is no substitute for a good personality
Now that your character has looks, clothes, marks and a past that fit will into the story its time for their big debut
well not quite. What good is a person without a personality? When creating a good personality keep the past in mind, think of certain events that happened what would lead to how your character will become later on. If your character had her parents die then would he be sad all the time or would she grow from that experience, would they become Tohru from Fruits Basket where they want to be independent. Remember that something extremely tragic takes time to heal and even if your character doesnt want to seem like a crybaby they can still be affected my the past.
When thinking of traits and quirks for your character to have, just like with everything else, dont over do it. Someone cant be smart, funny, charming, cute, badass, clumsy and kind all at once. That takes way to much energy and it will tiring to keep up with writing or drawing wise. Instead pick a few things, maybe you want a kind character you can make them; kind, caring and clumsy. Its simpler to remember and will be much more fun to make. Also remember that people arent always one demential and can have different sides so your character can be evil and vindictive around everyone but when they are alone they can like a scared child. It makes your character not only fun to make but also more realistic and people will like it better.
The next part to personality that is extremely important is flaws. No one can be without faults, it just doesnt happen. Think of a few realistic flaws, you can even think of some flaws that you have and incorporate it. Its all up to you.
The Pen is Mightier then the Sword
So now that you have created a character that you can be proud of and that other would like as well its time to get cracking. Well before you do that you need to make sure that your character is exactly how you want without being deemed as a Mary-Sue if you are unsure if your OC is one you can always try the Mary-Sue Test, there are several variations of this test online but a lot of times they are not accurate. Though it should give a basic idea of how others will see the character. Or you can have a friend check over your character to see if it passes the standards to be a stable character. BETA readers are another way to check. A Beta is someone who looks over your work before hand and helps you make any corrections needed to the story/character/ or just about anything. They will give you an honest opinion and help you with grammar or spelling problems. If you are posting on Fanfiction.net there is a search engine to help you find the right BETA.
When writing fanfiction remember one thing; your character was written for the fandom not the fandom for your character. You need to work extra hard to write your character into the world you want them to be in without changing the cannon story line. Of course there are plenty of great stories that rewrites a series with their character in it but if you dont need to change anything then dont, simple as that. A true creative author can create a great story within the cannon story of the series.
After you have created the character to your specifications while making sure to avoid creating a Mary-Sue then you can go right ahead and start producing fanart or fanfiction with him/her. Even if you have still found that you created a Mary Sue its okay, dont panic. All you have to do is go back and do some more fine tuning to get rid of most of the Sue qualities. Now remember just because your character has some qualities that is deemed as Sue behavior doesnt make it a Mary Sue. Just keep working at it and you will have a great character that fits well. Remember: Create to live, live to create.