15 Ways Your Novel Might Be Mary-Sue Inflicted

There’s a post series over at link (awesome blog with lots of writing tips) that highlighted some of the biggest overused ploys in YA fiction. I thought I’d share that list with you guys, just for kicks 🙂 Original posts can be found here, here, and here (it’s a three-part series). Apparently the list was based off a book called Red Hair Is Not As Uncommon As You Think by Joelle Anthony. I find it interesting (and myself, guilty of a few).

1. Lab partners -where one person does all the work–often the geek who ends up being the love interest.

2. A poor girl who is a scholarship student in a fancy private school.

3. Main characters who are the only ones in the world without a cell phone.

4. Guys with gorgeous/stunning/flashing/jewel-like/piercing GREEN EYES (green is the new blue).

(Can anyone say Dylan from Maximum Ride, whose eyes are actually turquoise??)

5. Clumsy characters who can’t dance or play sports to save their lives.

(A literary version of myself.)

6. Characters that like retro music-generally of the era that the author was in high school.

7. Irresponsible parents, with main character who end up paying bills, cooking, cleaning etc.

8. Female characters obsessed with Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Bennet in general.

9. Main characters who hate math.

(If it’s YA fiction, and thus the characters are most likely teenagers… I don’t see how this one is the least bit unrealistic. If anything, I would think it would be ODD to have a protag that liked math, unless they were a rocket scientist or an abnormally nerdy nerd. Even I don’t like math!)

10. A main character with only one good friend. The plot almost always includes the compulsary argument scene, leaving her to eat lunch alone for weeks–usually in the library.

11. Really hot, young-looking moms-often portrayed as main character’s best friend.

(Um, I’ve never really read this before… Unless you could Percy Jackson? Sort-of?)

12. Book told in first person, and the description for the main character is given by having her examine herself in the mirror.

(Oh snap. I did this in my most recent novel– oops! *editing FTW*)

13. Gorgeous, popular younger sisters (used to be older sisters).

14. Tomboys who can’t sew or cook, and hate dresses (also very common in historical and MG novels).

(Again, YA lit apparently doesn’t like characters based off myself.)

15. Authors who work vocabulary words into the dialogue and then pass them off as knowledge the characters have because the words are on the SAT list.

That’s the list. I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with all of them, but maybe that’s my way of facing the guilt that I have some serious editing to do, XD.

On another note, is anyone else excited that The Guild has officially been renewed for Season 5? (Not that we had any doubts, with last season’s semi-cliffhanger =P). I’m really looking forward to it. Zaboo is probably my favorite character, but there’s much to be said for Codex and her last-ditch efforts to unite the roleplaying geeks IRL.

The new Maximum Ride installment, Angel, came out today. I started it after school and finished before dinner, but it was a massive disappointment. After book four the series started to go downhill, but this hit a new low. It was so repetitive of the other books and itself, that I just read as fast as possible to get it over with so I could keep reading Phantom of the Opera. Not going to give any spoilers, for those of you who love(d) the series, but I’m majorly disappointed in James Patterson. His original, kick-butt characters have been replaced by the cast of a Spanish soap opera.

There’s a sense of “JUST PICK ONE ALREADY” that I felt a little in The Hunger Games, and just from the Twilight craze, but this is ridiculous. Max is torn between her ex-boyfriend and the boy she’s shunned for months.

Why is this even a decision?? Dump them both and kick world-domination butt. *nods*

Pardon the rant. I’m starting a psychological thriller by Ted Dekker (heck yeah!), so I don’t think “boring” will be a problem.

About Aloha

A teen writer and future world ruler. Llamas make me happy.
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14 Responses to 15 Ways Your Novel Might Be Mary-Sue Inflicted

  1. Olivia says:

    From now on, just call me Mary-Sue. I fill enough of the requirements. O.o

    I agree with a lot of those, though. *hides*

  2. Tangy says:

    5, 6, and 9 really aren’t very Mary-Sueish because they reflect real life (I’m letting 14 go because it specified historical).

    Perhaps 6 is less common, but I know a lot of people around my age who like music from the 60’s/70’s/80’s.

  3. annanm says:

    Ah, I may be guilty of one or two of these. My characters have no friends, not one, a fact that typically doesn’t change, and maybe some irresponsible parents. But really, I prefer characters with dead parents. If you’re going to make the parent completely worthless, why have them at all?
    And then I saw you mentioned Phantom of the Opera and I was all like “YAY!” (I read it a few months ago.)

  4. kikiann11 says:

    Yep, I’ll try to avoid these. I haven’t been guilty of many yet, however I haven’t done that much writing… See, I hate these types of YA stereotypes, they drive me insane, so I actually make characters that break these stereotypes which usually makes them far more interesting. I guess that’s just me though…

  5. Honestly, I have not done a single one of those things. I feel kind of special. I have, however, killed off a main characters best friend which I don’t think is the same thing as having them have a huge fight. Then I killed off another characters parents which definitely doesn’t go underneath number 7.

    But then thinking about number 13 makes me realize that I have my characters have a lot of brothers… Like seriously, all my MC’s have a brother who they love. And then a little sister who doesn’t matter. O.o

    Maybe I better stretch my mind for that last bit…

  6. Tigers Eyes says:

    11) Maybe it could be applied to a Jaqueline Wilson book, like ‘My Sister Jodie.’

  7. KathrineROID says:

    When I got to number three I screamed, “But I am the only one in the world without a cell-phone!” (Yes, I am alone.)

    In defense of number nine: I think what this means is focusing on the math-disliking and subjecting the reader to the MC’s rants. And it’s still cliche. It may be cliche since it’s based off real life, but it is still an over-used ploy. Why can’t we have characters who would like to burn their history books?

    • Olivia says:

      You are not alone!

      …Because history is awesome? :O

      • Aloha says:

        INDEED. History is very awesome. Also, useful for writing historically-based novels.

      • KathrineROID says:

        XD Um, good?

        But that’s the point! We’re trying to be un-cliche. If cliche is burning math books, we should go for something different. . . and unexpected. And horrific. Burn the history books!

        OK, that sounds like the cry for a dictatorship. . .

      • Aloha says:

        Your comment made me laugh =D I don’t think burning the history books is such a good idea. XD
        However, I do agree with you. Not every student hates math, so every character probably shouldn’t, either.

  8. Nia says:

    11. Really hot, young-looking moms-often portrayed as main character’s best friend.

    I’m guilty of the first part. Alex is the hottest character I ever bothered to create. But she’s part of an effort to murder her daughter, so she’s not exactly the main character’s BFF.

    Um, at all.

    So I’m safe. 😀

  9. Myna says:

    11 was in Mean Girls! But that was more of a parody!version of the super hot mom who got breast implants and scares the crap out of her daughters friends. xDD
    I am guilty of some of these though o-o;;
    3… I’m gonna say 3 is justified for Ly, Wing and Kale because they also lack a HOME, not just a cell phone, soo… xD
    6 applies to Kale I guess, but I think Ly and Wing like more modern music. (In my other story, both Seth and Mina like older music though :/ Sorry, can’t see him beat-boxing to Waca Flaca. xP)
    7 In Mina’s case, her rents sort of just… disappeared. xD Okay, I should really fix that. xDDD

    As for Maximum Ride…. SDGJERDGFASFDUGGHHHHHH. That book series almost killed the mad science genre. (And I say this merely as a concerned citizen. >.>;; awkward coughing) The first few books were great, and Iggy is adorable, but by atmos! There were so many needless plot twists and all this circular theory stuff and “IT WAS ALL A DREAM” that started in–what, the third book? Fourth? It got too confusing and then you’re right, the plot got all repetitive and killed itself.

    It’s depressing.

    Say, are they still making a movie for it?

    • Aloha says:

      And I’m not even kidding, the seventh book started out with…. a dream sequence.
      Yeah, the movie’s set to come out in 2013. *sigh* A few more years we have to wait. And if the world ends in 2012, that screws my premiere plans.

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