The “Mary Sue” Litmus Test

Here’s a post for everyone who writes fiction.

It’s time to put your characters through The “Mary Sue” Litmus Test.

TV – Mary Sue

My newly-turned 18-year-old vampire protagonist J scored a whopping “3” .
0-10 points: The Anti-Sue. Your character is the very antithesis of a Mary-Sue. Why are you even taking this test?

My character D who owns a black 1960 Plymouth Fury coupe (as pictured above) is easily the most “Mary Sue” of my characters, scoring “30” .
21-35 points: Borderline-Sue. Your character is cutting it close, and you may want to work on the details a bit, but you’re well on your way to having a lovely original character. Good work.

Even better is when you test other writers’ characters. Such as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.

Bella got a “41” on a test taken from my “outside” perspective (and she may have scored a few points higher if Stephenie Meyer had taken the test herself and and answered honestly).
36-55 points: Mary-Sue. Your character needs some work in order to be believable. But despair not; you should still be able to salvage her with a little effort. Don’t give up.

And then there’s Edward Cullen. “71” , with the test answered from my point of view.
71 points or more: Irredeemable-Sue. You’re going to have to start over, my friend. I know you want to keep writing, but no. Just no.

If my ambition was to create an “anti-Twilight”, my character’s scores (relative to the main “Twilight” characters) are in line with my goals.

Why is the “Twilight” saga such a huge success, then? The answer: Bella Swan became the “Mary Sue” for several million adolescent females, not just the author.

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  1. Ha. That’s a riot. I always love a good Twilight bashing. I’ll have to run my characters through the “Mary Sue” Litmus test and see how they come out.

    Writing unique characters with real depth is one of the hardest things to do in writing. Creating a one-of-a-kind character with great depth is the key to a reader’s heart. Even novels with a “blah” storyline can soar if the characters are great.

    Wonderful post, Daven.

  2. One important point of this post is that judiciously applied bits of “Mary Sue” in your characters might actually help readers connect with them. Helping readers empathize with characters is important when you have fantasy stories set on another world…

    The “Twilight” saga is an (extreme) example of readers connecting with “Mary Sues”. A blatant “Mary Sue” (Bella) and a ridiculously over-the-top “Mary Sue” (Edward) are in that sense “bad writing”, but Stephenie Meyer forged a very powerful bond with a large audience (the hallmark of a “great writer”).

    By “Mary Sue” standards, Stephenie Meyer manages to be a “great” writer without being (technically) a “good” writer. A perfect contradiction!

    I always love a good Twilight bashing
    Check out the next post, “Motivational”

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