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Veronica Mars Fanfic Resource Journal
Articles on Writing
Mary Sues and Author Stand-Ins 
11th-Aug-2005 11:16 pm
by sinaddict and herowlness


Mary Sue is, without a doubt, one of the most hated universal characters in fan fiction. No matter what fandom you write for, she always ends up popping up somewhere along the line.

For those of you who aren't aware of what a Mary Sue is, she is the epitome of everything the author wishes he or she was in real life. Mary is beautiful, smart, multi-talented, and always ends up saving the day; she never goes through PMS or mood swings, either.

Her twin brother, Gary Stu, is often a handsome loner who broods about things he blames himself for, when he had no control over whatever situation occured. (For example, his girlfriend was struck by lightening and he blames himself for not walking around wearing an antennae strapped to his head.)

Here's a rundown of ways to identify Mary Sues, problems with using her, and ways to fix her.

A note: Throughout this article, I generally refer to Mary and 'her', but everything said also applies to Gary.

About Mary
If Mary is younger, she might be a new student at Neptune High. Or, maybe she's an old friend of Veronica's from her Pep Squad days who has been wronged by the 09'ers and wants revenge. If Mary is slightly older, she likely has some kind of a past history with one of the Neptune adults. (For example, Keith's last girlfriend before he met Lianne.) As such, the young Mary has automatic ties to the characters, which is a great way to introduce a new character. Of course, she's more often than not immediately loved by Veronica (or Logan, or Duncan, or Weevil, or … whoever the main character of the fanfic is) despite any external conflicts. (For example, Weevil has repeatedly shown an overwhelming disdain and distrust for the 09'ers, but all Madeline Cartier has to do is bat her eyelashes, and he's hers.)

Or it's quite possible that the author's favorite male character falls for her almost immediately after meeting her. For example, Lilya Kyle is the daughter of the Neptune DA prosecuting Aaron's case, and five minutes after meeting her, Logan is saying "Veronica who?" while locking lips with her. By the end of the story, Mary usually ends up sleeping with the author's favorite character too.

Also, given the mystery-based feel to Veronica Mars, it's quite possible that Mary's presence won't have have these more emotional or romantic effects on the fanfic. After all, I'm sure that Mary Sue was the only one to witness the murder of Lilly Kane. After being scared into silence after all these months, she finally tells Veronica the truth – it was Backup! Even if such a far-fetched situation doesn't take place, if the same character is continuously contributing the final piece needed to solve the mystery, if not solving the mystery for Veronica, her name is likely Mary Sue.

In original characters, Mary Sue's name is usually either very similar to or the same as her creator's. Often, Mary Sue's name becomes some exotic, extremely hard to pronounce variation of the author's name. For example, Kelly will become Kyelle, Jessica will become Jsikah, etc.

Obviously, when one of the characters on the show is used in place of Mary Sue (Veronica Sue or Lilly Sue), she keeps her name.

Mary's appearance is always of the utmost importance to the story. She's always extremely beautiful; her eyes are usually a very distinct color, and her hair is always flowing and shiny. Her outfits generally take up paragraphs of description in the story that serve no purpose other than trying to give the reader an abundantly clear picture of what she looks like.

If Mary isn't uniting the author's favorite couple, she's sleeping with the author's favorite character.

Why People Dislike Mary
The problem with Mary is that the only person who finds her fascinating is her creator. Since Mary is everything the author wants to be, she is completely perfect and is the author's gateway to get into the lives of everyone in Neptune. But to everyone except the author, Mary is the author's ego speaking; people see Mary as the author's way of saying, 'I'm perfect. Love me.'

Mary is fascinating to the author because she is living out all of the author's fantasies; to everyone else, she's just pushing the other characters out of the picture to wallow in her own excellence.

In fact, Mary is more often than not the focal point of the story. Everyone else in Neptune is just there to prop her up or seek her advice; the men all fall instantly in love with her and the women all want to be her.

Because Mary is the point of the story, she is in almost (if not every) scene. Veronica, Keith, and the other Neptune citizens only appear to praise her for her talent and intelligence, or ask for her help with something before they disappear into the background.

Mary's perfection means that she has no human flaws, or if she does, they are never things that affect her ability to be the savior of Neptune. Authors sometimes try to compensate for her lack of flaws by giving her an abundance of trauma and suffering to have to work through, making her the martyr of the story. Mary will end up sacrificing herself to thwart the bad guy's evil plan to kill Veronica, and will watch everyone mourn her as she dies a heroic death, while the author sniffles at the keyboard.

And all the readers cheer and say "It's about damn time!"

The problem with making Mary the sacrificial lamb or the ever-suffering martyr is that it only serves to make Mary even more perfect. We're so annoyed by how incredibly perky and cheerful she is throughout everything bad that happens to her, we just can't wait to see her die.

Veronica and Lilly Sues, along with Logan and Duncan Stus
Mary Sue doesn't necessarily need to be an original character. In Veronica Mars fan fiction, it's generally easier to spot a Veronica or Lilly Sue than a Mary Sue.

Beginning authors generally tend to live vicariously through either Veronica, Logan, or Duncan because they are the characters that the majority of the audience can identify with. Everyone at one point has had a goal that they felt they had to reach at any cost (like Veronica), or has lost someone they thought they loved (like Logan … twice), or has had troubles getting over an old flame (like Duncan).

The canonical Mary Sue is often considered worse to deal with than an original character Mary Sue because of the way the characters are altered to fit the writer's needs. For example, in Veronica Sue stories, Keith might be portrayed as so cartoonishly villainesque for keeping Veronica form finding Lilly's killer that the story can't be taken seriously. Or Celeste becomes an evil dictator telling blatant lies to keep Duncan from having being with Veronica just because she doesn't like Veronica.

Following are a list of common plot devices and cliches that are often found in canon character Mary Sue stories.

1. Poor Veronica. Her friends/family just don't understand her.

In these sorts of pieces, Veronica is vindicated and restored to her popularity after she discovers who murdered Lilly. All the boys want to date her, and all the girls want to be her best friend. And she lives happily ever after.

2. Poor Logan. His family doesn't care about him.

While this is true to some extent, there are some stories that take this to extreme. I think, more appropriately, his family cared about him but doesn't know how to show it. (Aaron was disciplining his son, Lynn was too weak to defend her son, Trina cared enough to come get him at the dance, etc.)

Still, in some fanfics, Logan is shown as being the moral center of the family – standing up to his father about the abuse, helping his mother get clean off her drugs/alcohol, helping Trina become a contributing member of society, etc. In still other pieces, Logan and Veronica run away together (as high schoolers) and just live together, apart from their families. Because, um, that's logical.

3. Poor Duncan. [Insert derogatory comment about Celeste here.]

Again, this is definitely true to some extent, but authors go so far as to say that Lianne's presence at the Camelot in the pilot was a complete misunderstanding, that she and Jake never slept together after their respective marriages, that Celeste knew that Veronica couldn't possibly be his sister, yet told him that anyhow. While arguments could be made about Celeste's thoughts about the validity of the story she told her son, the evidence is canon. To ignore it is to create a whole new universe.

4. As soon as the newly made-over Veronica got back from her Victoria's Secret modeling shoot with her rich, handsome new lover, Duncan realized exactly what he'd been missing after they broke up.

Often, in this type of story, Veronica is magically transformed from Kristen Bell into Jennifer Lopez. She's got the perfect figure, long flowing hair, and every girl in Neptune suddenly envies her.

Not to mention that Duncan finally realizes how much he still loves her, just in time for her to laugh in his face and tell him how stupid he was and run off with Weevil or Logan. This is the classic revenge moment that everybody wishes they had with an ex who dumped them.

5. Naturally, Madison was consumed with jealousy at the sight of Veronica in a stunning prom dress, especially since her own gown was so ugly and unflattering.

Obviously, Veronica Sue has to be the most beautiful of all the characters, and since Madison is one of her archrivals, Madison must conversely look horribly out of place in the social scene she was raised in.

6. Suddenly Logan had enough, and spouted off cutting observations about everyone in the room, which, had any other character done, would have been deemed obnoxious and self-centered, but because it was Logan, was perfectly justified.

Also known as the "these are the characters the author doesn't like" speech. Even though Logan Stu is the fount of all that's good and holy (hee hee), when he deigns to yell at the other characters for their faults, it's perfectly alright because the other characters are so cruel and selfish, and Logan is only pointing out what everyone (read: the author) is secretly thinking.

7. Even though Veronica and Duncan were both virgins, their first time together was absolutely perfect.

Now, I can't speak from personal experience about this one, but from everything I've read, if you and your partner are both virgins, your first time isn't going to be all magical doves flying and Julie Andrews bursting in song. If you're unsure how to write sex scenes, at the very least, do some research! If you don't, then people are just going to assume you're a teeny-bopper attempting to sound adult.

8. Out of nowhere, Logan kissed Veronica passionately. Seconds later, she responded with just as much passion. They were so lucky to have ended up in an isolated bathroom or vacant rooftop, alone.

This is the one Veronica Sue cliche that I see everywhere, especially in PWP stories. Veronica and Logan end up somewhere alone, and being the lusty, hormone-driven animals they are, can't keep their hands off of each other.

9. Poor Lilly. Good thing she isn’t really dead.

There is the occasional (yet rare) Lilly Sue, who is somehow able to escape death, have her murderer thrown into prison for the rest of eternity (after helping Veronica solve the case), and move back to Neptune with Logan (or Weevil), where they live a fabulous life spending all of the Kane money.

How to Avoid Mary Sue
First of all, give your heroine real human flaws that stand in the way of her ability to accomplish her goal. For example, if your heroine is Veronica and you want one of her flaws to cause problems in her search for Lilly's murderer, use her marshmallow insides to cause her to overlook an important suspect that's right under her nose.

Make sure there are things your heroine can't do, and make sure that they are things that affect your story in some way. Having your heroine unable to type with her toes or run while jumping rope aren't flaws that will make her seem more human. Having your heroine unable to be completely truthful about her thoughts and feelings might be better.

Need help writing an original character? Check out this resource!
12th-Aug-2005 06:27 am (UTC)
This should totally say, "Basic idea by SinAddict, All Actual Work on Examples by HerOwlness". ;-) Seriously, you deserve most, if not all, the credit on this one.
12th-Aug-2005 02:25 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks. However, I did pretty much just do some name switching on some of the examples. Because seriously, some of them can be found in almost every fandom. The first three and the last one are VM specific, but pretty much everything else involved me just going change that, edit that, etc. Still, this was heavily based off your original idea, so I figured I'd give you the bulk of the credit. After all, I probably wouldn't have even started to put this together myself. =) So, yeah, thanks.
12th-Aug-2005 10:55 pm (UTC)
Looks great. The examples are perfect and you guys make a great team.
13th-Aug-2005 01:40 am (UTC)
Thanks. There aren't that many extreme Mary Sues in VM fanfiction, but I have seen a couple - and many more than border on questionable characterization that could possibly be a Mary Sue. Glad you think that it's useful. =)
7th-Jan-2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
Oooh.. this.. this is the word of Gods. Was it written on stone tablet too?

Seriously though. You're all brilliant.
8th-Jan-2006 07:38 am (UTC)
LOL, I don't think it was quite that extreme. Still, I'm quite happy to hear that you enjoyed this piece and found it to be useful!
2nd-Apr-2006 01:58 am (UTC)
If you're unsure how to write sex scenes, at the very least, do some research! If you don't, then people are just going to assume you're a teeny-bopper attempting to sound adult.

I'm attempting (can't exaggerate that word 'nough here) to write such a fic. Are there any places that might have..any hints as to where there's a crashcourse in writing this? Or in good dialogue?
*Wasn't sure where to ask..so I thought I'd throw them both here, since the smut was mentioned.*

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