Mary Sue’ism #2 – Weird Names ft. Cat Nip and Enoki Mushrooms

This is quite a genuine question – why do authors feel the need to have unnecessarily complicated names? While it is not immediately a hallmark of being a Mary Sue, the apparent need to draw attention to it seems to be an attempt to make the character sound interesting right off the bat.

For those who know me personally, you’ll know that I am one of those that have an unnecessarily complicated name. It phonetically doesn’t make any sense and 99% of the people I meet give me this queer little look as if to say “Are you sure that’s your name?” (Yep, I’m sure.). But rest assured, my parents did not name me oddly in attempts to be cool or to make me interesting. More likely than not, they spelt my name wrong on the birth certificate and just went with it.

Anyway, as I said before, having a different name doesn’t make a character a Mary Sue. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games may have a name that rhymes too much with Cat Nip (pretty sure this Harvard Lampoon parody called her that too) but I wouldn’t consider her to be a Mary Sue.

"The Hunger Pains" - A parody by The Harvard Lampoon

“The Hunger Pains” – A parody by The Harvard Lampoon

But once in a millennium (it’s more frequent than that – let’s be honest), writers take it way way too far.

For those who have lurked on the internet long enough, you might remember what is considered the absolute worst fanfiction in the history of the internet (and before then, probably fanzines too). “My Immortal”* by a user named Tara in the Harry Potter fandom (Surprise Fact: It had nothing to do with Harry Potter really) featured the most obvious self-inserted character I have ever seen. Besides the eyesore that was her spelling and everything else, her character’s name was Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way which she frequently misspelled as Enoby which then reminds me of Enoki mushrooms.

Let that sink in everyone.

Her name was Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way.

I get that the Ebony, darkness and raven bit adds to her character’s persona (I use that term lightly) but why the mention of brain disease? Normally I would insert a jab here about how the reader would probably be inflicted with some sort of illness from reading that story but I like to think I’m better than that (I’m not, clearly.)

So luckily, any name that crops up in YA fiction in comparison is really not that crazy. Sure you get names like “America Singer” (from “The Selection” for those wondering) or Renesmee (from “Twilight”) but I suppose at the end of the day, the name of characters doesn’t matter too much if you’ve got everything else going for you. But if you’re angling for that character to be exotic and “different” compared to the others just based on their namesake? Then nope, I’m not here for that**.

Till next time, #readoutsidethebox

Not Another Mary Sue

* The temptation to google this story to read may be strong, but do yourself a favour and just don’t.

**Obviously this is my opinion and I’m sure many people love interesting names and challenging ways of how to spell things in the most confusing way possible.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What is the most ridiculous name you’ve ever encountered in a book?

Marty Stu, I Don’t Want You

Dear Marty Stu,

I know what you’re thinking: “Who cares if you want me? You’re one in a billion girls! It’s no loss – there are still plenty of readers to fawn over my good looks and angsty past!”

"What do you mean you don't love me?" Source: cracked.com

“What do you mean you don’t love me?”
Source: cracked.com

Well, yes. You’re right Marty. There will always be readers who love you and your ridiculously handsome face but I for one am looking for someone different. Let’s just say it’s me, not you. You will find the perfect girl one day, but that girl is not me etc.

For those who don’t know, a Marty Stu is the generally agreed upon term for the male variant of the Mary Sue. He’s good looking, he might be mysterious and more often than not, he’s a bit of a noob who does things for the female protagonist because it’s “what’s best for her” (seriously, if you want to know what’s best for her – JUST ASK HER.).

Now, I don’t have anything against good looking people (not many people do, to be honest), but the astounding amount of cookie cutter male characters is starting to grate. Not only do they contribute to the unrealistic expectations of men in general, but it’s just getting so boring.

So Marty Stu, I want you to remember that you don’t always have to be heroic. Everyday people aren’t always heroic human beings and you can let yourself be vulnerable or dare I say it; realistic.

I also want you to know that you don’t have to be a human embodiment of perfection. People are flawed – both in character and in physical looks and that’s a beautiful thing.

And I want you to remember that you don’t need a tragic backstory to be interesting. You could be the most average Joe whose life’s blood comes from getting your morning coffee from the little café down the road. I don’t want you to get confused with the differences between character complexity and having angst for the sake of attracting readers, who then get roped in under the premise that another character can “save you from yourself” or set you on the road to redemption.

But perhaps most of all, I want you to be yourself. You can be a character with your own agency outside your love interest. You can be whatever you want to be without worrying whether you would sell books because there will always be at least one girl/boy out there who loves you for who you are.

So I suppose this is goodbye Marty. I’ve had a good time reading about your perfection but it is time to move on*.

Love,

Not Another Mary Sue

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: From all the books you’ve read, who do you classify as the biggest Marty Stu?

* By move on, I mean talk to me on my Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr! #readoutsidethebox

“Not Being Like Other Girls” & Milk Crate Rage

Many moons ago (it was probably only one), I referred to this Tumblr user who vehemently believes many things such as the idea that Batman is a Mary Sue (I digress), Mary Sue’s are often targeted towards female characters (I agree) and that female characters are often classed as Mary Sue’s because they are feminine and they get what they want (I digress again).

A segment I want to focus on today is the following from the original post:

“Why does someone falling in love with her make her a Mary Sue? Well, she hasn’t “earned” this awesome dude character’s love. What has she done to show she’s worthy of him?”

To be honest, I understand where she’s coming from. A few scrolls down my Tumblr dashboard reveal random spouts of hate/vitriol/condemnation for female characters that have a relationship with the main guy and very rarely do I ever see a post where someone says that he doesn’t deserve her (and not in an angsty/romantic way either).

It’s a problem for sure but being the professional fence sitter that I am, I don’t believe that Mary Sue’s are Mary Sue’s because they haven’t “earned” love or proved that they are “worthy”.

Frankly, I often consider them to be Mary Sue’s because there is absolutely no substantial lead up to these so called “relationships”. She doesn’t need to earn his love or show she’s worthy but some sort of hint as to why the characters are attracted to each other is good. For example, maybe she’s a professional hyena breeder and her stories remind him of that awesome time he had in Africa to celebrate his wisdom tooth removal anniversary?

Remember, it’s also important to note that this is a two way street. Too often, guys in books settle for the “I don’t know why, but there’s something about you that’s different to all the other girls” line which I hate with a fiery passion that can only be matched by my intense dislike for café’s that use milk crates as chairs.

My heart knows rage when I see one of these at a café. Source: Creative Commons/Flickr

My heart knows rage when I see one of these at a café.
Source: Creative Commons/Flickr

First of all, not only is it biologically impossible to actually be the same as other girls (unless human cloning happened and nobody told me) but for goodness sake, WHAT IS THAT SOMETHING? In any story, whether it be in a book, film or television show, character and plot is what drives it. People need to take the time and effort to develop characters that actually have a personality with their own motives, interests and backstory that are not in direct relevance with their love interest. Simply saying that magical love-at-first-sight happened is not good enough unless a love potion is involved. I need to know enough about these characters to see what makes them tick and why they behave the way they do.

Loki wants to know why fictional characters do what they do. Source: gif-central.blogspot.com

Loki wants to know why fictional characters do what they do.
Source: gif-central.blogspot.com

In summary: A character is not a Mary Sue/Marty Stu if they fall in love with each other, but it does make me raise my eyebrows if there is no basis as to why the characters like each other.

As always, thanks for sticking with me and please let me know what you think about my rage with this “Not being like other girls/guys” BS. Is this just me? Am I crazy? (Check yes and yes for both)

Till next time #readoutsidethebox,

Not Another Mary Sue

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What other Mary Sue’isms annoy the hell out of you? Or like the Tumblr user I mentioned above, do you not believe in the concept of a Mary Sue at all?

Defending Batman – What makes a Mary Sue #1

My friend posted a link to this Tumblr post onto my page the other day and it’s surprisingly given me a lot to think about. What exactly is a Mary Sue and is it necessarily a bad thing? Another issue she raises is the lack of vitriol that goes towards male versions of the Mary Sue – are female characters unfairly targeted?

As with a lot of things, the answer is not a simple ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. So, let’s talk.

Below is an excerpt from her post:

“So, there’s this girl. She’s tragically orphaned and richer than anyone on the planet. Every guy she meets falls in love with her, but in between torrid romances she rejects them all because she dedicated to what is Pure and Good. She has genius level intellect, Olympic-athelete level athletic ability and incredible good looks. She is consumed by terrible angst, but this only makes guys want her more. She has no superhuman abilities, yet she is more competent than her superhuman friends and defeats superhumans with ease. She has unshakably loyal friends and allies, despite the fact she treats them pretty badly.  They fear and respect her, and defer to her orders. Everyone is obsessed with her, even her enemies are attracted to her. She can plan ahead for anything and she’s generally right with any conclusion she makes. People who defy her are inevitably wrong.

 God, what a Mary Sue.

I just described Batman.”

I think it’s interesting that this blogger has used Batman as an example as a male Mary Sue. While I personally don’t like Batman much as a superhero (don’t attack me with your batarangs!), I don’t agree with the above assessment of his character. Before I go on further though, I have to say that there are obviously male versions of the Mary Sue (but for the purposes of this blog, “Not another Mary Sue, Marty Stu or other variations” would not be catchy or memorable). Badly written characters are not gender, racial or anything else exclusive. Male Mary Sue’s are out there and while I agree that they don’t get as much negative attention, they exist for reasons that I will probably touch upon another time.

Anyway, back to Batman (and yes I know this blog is meant to be about diverse YA books!). I know I’m being finicky, but Batman is not the richest guy on the planet – not in the world where Gotham exists or even where DC comics exist (isn’t Lex Luthor loaded?). He obviously doesn’t have genius level intellect or else there would be no comics or movies because it would hella boring if he were able to figure everything out on his own. He doesn’t defeat enemies with ease as displayed by that brutal display of ass kicking by Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman really doesn’t have unshakeable and loyal friends despite the fact that he’s not a terribly nice guy. Other than his trusty pal Alfred, who does he really have? People might be obsessed with him (or more likely, his sense of mystery and insanely low voice), but I think people use him more often than actually being attracted to him (i.e. Miranda Tate earning his trust in TDKR).

So what was the point of me responding to the Batman is a Mary Sue post? Was it just for the sake of being juvenile and pretty much saying “BATMAN ISN’T A MARY SUE, SO THERE YOU HATER!”

Nope, it wasn’t.

The point I’m trying to make is that it’s easy to label characters as a Mary Sue which is fairly understandable since the term isn’t an exact science. Here, the blogger has named Batman even though I think her claims are unsubstantiated in some areas. Other times, people throw any protagonist under the bus simply because they have a few “good qualities” that irritate people. To me, that’s not what makes a Mary Sue but since I feel like I’m fast  approaching TL;DR territory, I’ll save what else I have to say for future weeks.

“But NAMS!” you say as I leave, “I thought this was a blog about reading diversely, not just a chat about Mary Sues and superheroes!”

You are right. But as I briefly mentioned earlier, even diverse characters are not immune to being Mary Sues. In order to encourage and promote the reading of diverse characters from awesome books, I want to make sure that I am talking about good characters who are not Mary Sues (and what better way to find that out other than discussing it?). After all, isn’t it worse to have a superficially diverse character that ticks all the awfully offensive stereotypes than to not have diverse characters at all? Isn’t being represented inaccurately worse than not being represented full stop?

Anyway, if you have something to add or something to vehemently rebuff, comment below or through any of my other social media feeds.

Until next time,

Not Another Mary Sue.