By : Melyanna
Avoiding Mary Sues in Original Characters
There is one character in the Star Wars universe whom I fear above all others. This is not Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, or Exar Kun. This character has appeared in published Star Wars stories under various names, and this character has appeared in hundreds of fan fiction creations.
And her name is Mary Sue.
Occasionally she's the gorgeous, brilliant, Force-sensitive, long-lost second cousin of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Or maybe she's the child prodigy who's more powerful than Anakin Skywalker and saves not one, but eight planets from the hands of the evil Lord Ogawassi with a single well-aimed concussion missile. Or perhaps her twin brother, Gary Stu, might show up to best Qui-Gon Jinn in a lightsaber duel. Or maybe she manifests herself as the perfect villain, one who can best every force of good that opposes her, until, of course, another incarnation from the good side comes along.
But no matter how she reveals herself, her presence in a story can cause problems.
The term "Mary Sue" was first used in 1974, in a Star Trek fan fiction authored by Paula Smith. This character was a beautiful half-human, half-Vulcan who rescued Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy - for those of you who avoid Trek like the plague, that would be the equivalent of a beautiful humanoid rescuing Luke, Leia, and Han. In the decades of fan fiction since, the term has grown and evolved, to the point where it's sometimes difficult to see the distinction between a good original character and a Mary Sue. In fact, the fan fiction community is divided on the true definition of the problematic perfect girl. But every opinion has a common thread: something about her is over the top.
Probably the most common definition of Mary Sue is that she's pretty much perfect - for the purposes of Star Wars fan fiction, she's most often Force-sensitive, frequently the relative of a major canon character, and she's the love interest of another (well, hopefully another) major canon character. This character often saves the day against outrageous odds, and if she should happen to meet an unfortunate death, her death is lamented for many moons by those who were affected most by her courageous actions - in other words, the entire galaxy. The male form is stereotyped by a quicker wit than Han Solo's, a Rebel heart that exceeds that of Princess Leia, and the grudging, though totally deserved respect of all his superiors. Mary Sue and Gary Stu often both have some unique physical feature (like eyes that aren't the same color) or a special power (such as being able to use the Force to fly). And of course, neither of the evil twins are ever wrong.
The big problem with calling this definition a Mary Sue is that people like this actually do exist in real life - in fact, she sat in front of me in my high school calculus class. She was pretty, intelligent, athletic, and popular, and I liked her a lot. The problem was that she, like her fictional counterpart, was extraordinarily two-dimensional. This, of course, leads to some pretty boring stories - after all, it's very difficult to develop something that's two-dimensional. And a story without character development can be extremely difficult to maintain interest in.
Fortunately, fixing this kind of Mary Sue is almost as easy as identifying it. The problem lies in the fact that she has few flaws. The female kind is quite often unaware of her superfluous talents and ethereal beauty. Gary Stu usually knows that he's good at what he does and that he's irresistibly handsome, but while the other characters are disgusted by his arrogance, they are also in awe of him, since he can always back up his arrogance. The easiest way to fix this is to make the character less like a cardboard cutout and more like a real person, especially if he or she is the major character in the story. Fewer virtues and more vices make for a better character in the long run. In minor roles, this kind of character can even be enjoyable, as a Mary Sue in small doses can provide a few laughs. But for the purposes of a main character, it's best to have someone with slightly more potential for development than a Mary Sue can provide.
Another common version of Mary Sue is an autobiographical character. This is especially prevalent in first-person stories, simply due to the style of narration. The self-insertion trap is an easy one to fall into - after all, who wouldn't want to live vicariously through a character based on himself, who becomes a Jedi and mingles with the great characters we know and love? Yet, this trap, while deceptively safe and alluring, can be even more irritating than the aforementioned perfect Mary Sue.
(An interesting side note should be mentioned here - quite often the perfect Mary Sue and the autobiographical Mary Sue appear in conjunction. After all, who wouldn't want a character based on himself to be paired with such a perfect being?)
It's not so much that the characteristics of the character are annoying (though some would say that while a character based on you is interesting to you, it might not be so interesting to everyone else) - it's that these types often become the mouthpiece for the author's thematic meaning in the story. What results are long-winded speeches and flowery narrations in which the author expresses his philosophies and beliefs on an assortment of issues. While this can be a good way of developing themes, caution should be taken. Readers of fan fiction tend to be more interested in being entertained than being enlightened, and those who read only for enjoyment are likely to be turned off by a character who preaches on every other page. While it's perfectly acceptable to develop themes and express moral opinions in a story, it's often more effective and more powerful to do this through the plot and the characters' actions - speeches should be kept to a minimum.
A serious problem can arise from children playing major parts in a story. Some say that children under the age of twelve are more effective as plot devices than as true characters, and I'm inclined to agree. While making a child a major character can be done, too many authors who write children don't do it well. Like any other character, writing a child character takes a lot of work and research on the author's part.
There are two extremes when it comes to child characters, the child who acts too helpless for his age and the child who acts too independent for his age. The latter is probably the more prevalent, as a child who acts like he's twenty-five is considerably more interesting than a child who acts like a three-year-old. However, neither is desirable.
The problem with the child who acts younger than his age is obvious: he is essentially useless to the plot and other characters if he can't do anything for himself. However, the character who acts older than his age can often just be irritating. The best way to deal with this potential problem is to observe children of the age of your character. Even a Force-sensitive child still has to develop socially the same way normal children do, as gifted children in reality go through the same social development as other children. Kids should act like kids, not like short adults.
Of course, it's not always the fault of the character for being a Mary Sue, but sometimes we as authors don't give her much of a choice. If everything always works out for her with very little exertion on her part, your character has most likely become a Mary Sue, whether that was your intention or not. A character could be just like a normal person, with a normal person's flaws and no relationships with canon characters, but if everything is handed to him on a silver platter, Mary Sue is sure to appear.
This problem has a simple solution that can sometimes prove difficult to execute. The easiest way to avoid this is to, for lack of a better term, torture your characters. While too much pain and suffering gets old and cliché, so does too much happiness and joy. Problems are a must - otherwise, it's not life, and it's not Star Wars. After all, the saga is conflict-driven; therefore, conflicts must be present.
However, there's another side to the situational Mary Sue as well. Occasionally, every imaginable crisis is thrown at the character - and then she beats them down as easily as she bats an eyelash. Usually some kind of romantic situation arises as well, and this is conquered as easily as the conflict of the story. Even though there are conflicts in this and that is infinitely preferable to the version with no conflict whatsoever, it's still a problem. The character should have to do some kind of work to get out of trouble - after all, even Luke had to break a sweat.
This may quite possibly be the most difficult to identify of all the types of Mary Sue-isms. However, this leads to an interesting conclusion: this is the type of Mary Sue that is probably the most enjoyable to the reader. After all, this character's exaggerated villany can often be rather humorous. However, one should still be careful with this type of Mary Sue, even if use of it is intentional - after all, this one too can be riddled with clichés.
Often this character is cold and calculating, showing little emotion. He may have an unusual way of analyzing the enemy, and he rarely gives up before the ultimate loss. This type of Mary Sue can be very easily compared to the "perfect" type - after all, he is the ultimate villain, while the perfect Mary Sue is the ultimate good guy. And like the perfect Mary Sue, this villain is often paired with a major canon character; the catch is that this character turns him from his evil ways.
The villainous Mary Sue can be useful and entertaining, as well as frustrating to the reader. However, like any cliché, it takes a talented author to pull him off successfully. He's an easy target for criticism, so for the most part, it's best to create a slightly more complex character.
Another potential problem with Mary Sues is turning an established character into a Mary Sue. Because the essence of a Mary Sue is wish fulfillment on the part of the author, an author's desire to have a character do what he always wanted the character to do in canon can actually turn that character into the dreaded Mary Sue. In her article "Too Good to Be True: 150 Years of Mary Sue," author Pat Pflieger referred to this as "a portrait of that character so off-kilter as to be unrecognizable." While she noted that this happens most often in slash stories, the theory remains the same in more family-friendly fan fiction. A character like Padmé, who is the portrait of strength, may become the quintessential teenybopper, following Anakin around like a sick puppy needing attention (while ironically, reversing those roles would almost be in character), or Han Solo becomes a high-minded romantic when he's about to be frozen in carbonite.
While the focus of this article is on fan creations, I would be remiss if I did not note that this plagues the professional Expanded Universe as well. The New Jedi Order series probably has the most blatant examples of this problem in the professional Star Wars novels. Characters like Corran Horn have earned the nickname "Überman," and even the relatively popular Anakin Solo has suffered from Mary Sue syndrome in one form or the other. It's an easy trap to fall into, even for a professional.
As with anything in writing, problems are hard to fix once the story is complete. I have a manuscript in my possession that will most likely never be presented to the public because of its major Mary Sue issues. While it's a little disturbing to think that I spent so much time on a story and I won't even show it to anyone, it's equally disturbing to think of how much additional time it would take to attempt to fix all the problems now. To be honest, I doubt it can be fixed at all - patchwork never looks as good as a properly woven fabric. And always remember this: feature your original characters and let them have their time in the spotlight, but don't let them outshine the canon characters of the story. Canon characters are your link to Star Wars, and as such, they should retain their canon roles. Someone else shouldn't replace or upstage them.
The simplest definition of the Mary Sue is a character who is the fulfillment of wishes of the author who creates him. However, all fan fiction could be categorized this way - why else do we write it, save that we have a story we wish was told? The trick is to make a story that fits believably into the Star Wars saga. Since the saga is driven by the conflict between good and evil and the characters who represent both sides, the character has to fit into the story somehow. And in a universe where characters have flaws, make mistakes and have to overcome serious obstacles, the perfect character, in whatever form he appears, just doesn't fit.
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Date posted: 7/1/2002 8:47:37 PM
Oh, this is soooo true! It really bugs the heck out of me when I read some fanfiction with the 'long lost daughter of Qui-Gon' who runs in and saves the day against all odds! It's really a dull story, and not worth reading. Mary sues are easy to make, easy to write, but hard to read. This article is very right, and thank you for writing it!!!
Date posted: 7/2/2002 6:29:52 AM
Some of the comments you maid were hilarious, and all of them were so true!! I think all authors (especially new ones like me) have some trouble with this, and we have to keep reminding ourselves of it :). Keep up the good work!
Date posted: 7/2/2002 9:38:50 AM
Excellent article, Melyanna. Apparently, there are sites out there devoted to Mary Sue, so someone must like reading her stories. I am not one of those readers -- though I do have one character who came dangerously close to earning that label.
Author: Darth Umbra
Date posted: 7/2/2002 9:51:05 AM
Darth Umbra's Comments:
thanks for this article this will help a lot when i'm working on my current fic that has some characters that even though they aren't original little is known about them so i could turn one into a mary sue if i'm not careful. Thanks for the help.
Date posted: 7/3/2002 3:51:45 AM
This was a really good article, thank you for writing it. The problem with Mary Sues doesn't only appear in fanfic, as you said, but also in the 'professional' world. And they *really* aren't that much fun to watch/read... Great article, once again!
Author: Mcily Nochi
Date posted: 7/3/2002 8:46:40 PM
Mcily Nochi's Comments:
It's embarrassing how many of those comments came straight from things I've written and shown you, Master . . . *sheepish grin*
Wonderful article-- one of the best I've read here. It's witty and informative all at the same time. A fun and helpful read.
Author: Viari Skywalker
Date posted: 7/6/2002 9:21:53 AM
Viari Skywalker's Comments:
That was really a great article! I'm writing a story now that had mostly original characters, and I'm working hard to give them life-like personalities and flaws. This was very informative and helpful. Thank you!
Date posted: 7/16/2002 2:14:18 PM
I like it! I can never find enough Star Wars Mary Sue tests so this is really helpful. Everything bad tends to come from Star Trek, doesn't it? Thanks again!
Date posted: 7/19/2002 2:23:19 PM
One of the best articles on Mary Sueism I've ever read. Bravo. I'm going to go make several people read this now... Bwehehehheee.
Date posted: 8/6/2002 12:59:28 AM
Nicely written and organized article describing the Mary Sue. But I just had to laugh at this:
"Often this character is cold and calculating, showing little emotion. He may have an unusual way of analyzing the enemy, and he rarely gives up before the ultimate loss."
You mention that this character exists in the EU, and while Corran Horn is a good example, I think the above paragraph perfectly describes Grand Admiral Thrawn! <g> Thankfully Tim Zahn was more than skilled enough to make us love/hate him anyway.
Date posted: 8/20/2002 3:38:46 AM
Exactly what I believe can happen to all writers, this article does show people what a Mary Sue or Gary Stu is.
Learning how to stay out of the "Traps of Writing", including Mary Sues, is the challenge to any aspiring author. I am as guilty as anybody else, and I hope people take future criticism from people about Mary Sues with awareness. Most character types do include themselves in other author's works, and it is all too easy to be blamed for a Mary Sue today.
Author: Anna Skywalker
Date posted: 11/8/2002 1:22:36 PM
Anna Skywalker's Comments:
Wow, you just saved Sara Garnett. She's the OC in the fic that I'm re-writing. After getting flamed by the SAME person multiple times at fanfiction.net, I decided to re-write my fic and try to submit it here. I'm re-writing, becuase I admit, that fic could have been much better. I'm submitting here to get away from the flamer ¬_¬
A very well-written article. It helped a lot, Thank you so much *bows*
Date posted: 11/11/2002 3:35:00 PM
i have a big mary sue headache from reading the crystal star by vonda mcyntire...it was harry potter meets han, luke and leia. han with a beard just ruined it for me, and leia puts green dye in her hair for disguise...what happened to a hooded cloak! xavierri was a mary sue...she was so perfect it made me sick. and han sounded like a wounded puppy for her. luke was beyond out of proportion with his lack of existance. jacen and jaina were awful mary sues...its that whiney children syndrome. ok, lusa...centaurs belong in harry potter and in king arthur, NOT STAR WARS! rancors are in star wars, not dragons. if vader had two FAVORITE apprentices that have multicolored hair and pointy teeth...youd think youd have seen some multicolored haired people walking around on the death star if that was the case? stick with the human and star warsish alien varieties. however cool waru sounds, i dont think luke would be that anxious to commit suicide by jumping into him. i can see him trying to fight waru and that striped hair guy, but not jumping headfirst for suicide. luke jumps in, leia follows and then han...yeah right! mary sue syndrome...too much and too unlikely. trash compactors are different. they were actually hiding from something. not trying to get a wacko luke from killing himself. do ya think han would have given himself to the witches (harry potter syndrome) in the courtship of princess leia...no, he would hitail it out of there with luke, leia, chewie, c3p0 and r2d2. oh and that gaeriel was a bit of another mary sue. luke was a lovesick puppy with gaeriel! those girls in the expanded universe...particularly hans old girlfriends, they are total mary sues...id know, i made one in my mummy movie fanfic...jonathans girlfriends and o'connell's bellydancer girl right?! easy to make mary sues. i read in the back that vonda writes lots of trekkie books...plague trek, not the better star wars galaxy that has aliens with more than prosthetics slapped on their foreheads. oh yes, and leave harry potter out of star wars...that killed crystal star. oh yes, and then there is the reused scenario syndrome. "kiss my wookiee" is from courtship. sound a little like "id just as soon kiss a wookiee" from esb at hoth? and why does han dress up like a stormtrooper 60 times in the expanded universe? explain that syndrome. once is enough. the expanded universe constantly plagurizes what george lucas came up with and destroys it by reusing it. let it float out of the trash compactor, dont keep reeating the same material over and over and over again. i rely on fanfic to get the rest of han and leias relationship, not even the courtship of princess leia makes it good. oh yes...do you think that leia and han would suddenly split up and go right back to hoth ice cube relationship right after return of the jedi...that puts courtship as highly unlikely material. i see han moving right on in to leias life much more than the relationship they have in the beginning of courtship. they spent years saving each other all over the galaxy, and then leia saves han from jabba the hutt, but suddenly leia isnt outright saying she likes han...id think the entire rebel fleet and base would have that rumor flying around before you can say coruscant! remember wedge and the gang came to the ewok party too? do you really think it would be a secret romance that hapes has never heard about and leia acts like han is only her bodyguard...thats more likely chewbaccas role. oh yes...vonda, about crystal star...lukes lightsaber has been green ever since lukes hand went down cloud city with anakin skywalkers blue lightsaber that obi wan gave him. luke made his own between esb and rotj...and its green. i dont think that a green one would light up the hotel room blue. at least do a little research and maybe even ask a few fans before you write a book with that big of an error in it. thats another syndrome...the wrong information syndrome...at least know what color lukes lightsabers are and when he has each of them. the details make the story. youll be eaten if you make big mistakes when you write even fanfic...ive had flaming reviews before. ive learned that lesson. oh yes...and i dont recommend the lovesick puppy mary sue either...it never seems to work out. but dont give up a true love story because your afraid to risk. find the fine line.
Date posted: 12/13/2002 10:52:06 PM
A wonderful article - so well-written and true. ^_^
Actually, I find the Mary Sue/Gary Stu that bugs me most is the Jedi that constantly behaves in a way that would have had them thrown from the Order years ago... another trap one shouldn't fall into, if you ask me. ^_~
Date posted: 7/2/2003 8:49:06 PM
Hmmm... one good thing does come from star trek...
YOUNG WILLIAM SHATNER, WOO WOO!!!
Great Article, Pal! It'll certainly help me when I make up chars, so I won't make them into "Mary Sue".
Although... Zahn kinda did that with Thrawn... but he pulled it off... which gives me hope... Ah, heck... I'll just keep with the flawed-but-lovable good guys and villains!
Date posted: 7/8/2003 1:15:44 PM
Whoa, Mely. Scathing! I love it!
Date posted: 11/5/2003 6:39:27 PM
This article is one of several I've read on Mary Sues. I myself tend to make a character based on myself. When I do that, I tend to make him as like me as I can, mainly with the flaws. One thing that kind of hit home was the relationship with an established character. I can't get a girlfriend in real life, so when I started work on my fic, I decided that I'd pair up with Jaina. She is one of my favorite female characters. As I try to write a fic, I do everything I do to get what I want without being perfect. It isn't easy, I've discovered.
Date posted: 1/7/2004 1:13:38 PM
I have read a few Mary Sue articles before, and I'm glad to have found one that focuses on Star Wars! I found the section on child characters particularly useful, as one of the characters in my series is a kid. He (and the rest of the main characters) are based on a Star Wars roleplaying group I played/GM'ed in during college. On the one hand (or equivalent manipulatory appendage), he has "grown up" faster than many kids because stormtroopers murdered his family in front of him; loss frequently breeds some degree of maturity. He also hangs around the other (grownup) characters most of the time, so his opportunities to just be a kid are few. On the other hand, he is still...a kid, physically, mentally, emotionally. Combining his forced maturity and his still-childish nature make him the most difficult character to write, and this article has given me some new inspiration to go take another crack at it. While I will never delve deeply into the psychology of any character, I still have to make each one real and believable. I may never get it right, but as long as I have fun and the Force is with me, who cares? Thanks for the article!
Author: The Stormtrooper Shrink
Date posted: 2/11/2004 6:38:32 PM
The Stormtrooper Shrink's Comments:
I never could define exactly why Callista bugged the hell out of me. Now I know. Don't you all agree? She was pretty, perfect, Force-sensitive (almost, anyway), Luke's love-interest (thank the Force *that* stopped), and...
I think you get it.
At least Callista's gone now. I hope she stays there.
Thanks for so succinctly telling us what I wanted to know.
Date posted: 4/3/2004 8:12:19 PM
Very Insightful. I also enjoy the fact that you recognize and acknowledge the extremely rare "positive" Mary Sue.
Date posted: 5/2/2004 12:00:37 PM
Wow. Now I gota go through all of my stories so far. Thankx for the insight! Very helpful.
Date posted: 6/25/2004 11:00:51 AM
An excellent and often-needed reminder to purge the Mary Sues within us...thank you for this article, Melyanna. You listed many things to keep foremost in mind when writing.
Date posted: 3/23/2005 7:53:21 PM
That is a really helpful article. It's making me think twice about making my vampire OC take over the galaxy and enslave men.
Date posted: 7/6/2005 11:04:48 AM
I personally avoid Mary Sues by giving the character some sort of neural disorder, like Autism or Asperger's Syndrome. (in the case of Jedi, they're usually phyiscally adept) I also have little qualms about using an Internet Alias as a name, provided said name is decent.
I write characters who usually get annoyed by Mary Sues and end up taking lots of Painkillers for the headaches that spring up from dealing with them. And quite personally, the closest I've come to dealing with "Long-Lost Relatives" is writing Darth Revan from Knights of the Old Republic as the Ancestor of the Skywalker line.
Date posted: 8/4/2005 2:32:39 AM
I loved your article! I like how you wrote about Mary-Sues, and I have to say that I have an OC I use repeatedly. She even has my Pen-Name! But, I don't make her a perfect projection of me, I include all my fualts, and I make sure people know the OC is based on me.
I know that this is Mary Sue-ish, but I think that becuase I've avoided the other Mary-Sue character flaws you listed my chracter isn't a Mary Sue, or at least, not completely.
Thank you for writing this great article to help people (and me) recognise Mary-Sues, avoid writing them, and telling them how to fix them.
I especially loved how you said that an OC shouldn't be in the spotlight all the time!! I completely agree.
I think that this article should be read by everyone who plans on writing an OC. Your article was very informative and it was fun to read becaus of those touches of humor you added. Thanks again for the insight!
Author: Umm... Me...
Date posted: 1/29/2006 6:43:15 PM
Umm... Me...'s Comments:
[I personally avoid Mary Sues by giving the character some sort of neural disorder, like Autism or Asperger's Syndrome.]
/Look, just forgot what I was going to say about Asperger's Syndrome. I have it, and had a rant along those lines. Meh, I feel better even if nobody's going to read it... Maybe I should start a diary.../
And about the Mary Sues, the worst Star Wars Mary-Sue's can be found in KOTOR fan fiction. Even my Revans (DSF, LSF, DSM) and Exiles (DSF, LSF) had problems. They're /supposed/ to have problems... Not to say that there isn't good KOTOR fanfiction out there, it's just hard to find...
Date posted: 7/2/2006 7:48:18 PM
Hmm, Not to bad, i guess, but still i have to say, Han and Leia still beat this... Mary Sue. But, i have to admit, i still enjoy it.
Up !! :D
Date posted: 2/11/2007 5:56:08 PM
Mary Sues are VERY HARD to discern...depending on the level of advance in the author. If the author is amateur, it wouldn't be too terribly hard to discern. I personally have a problem with Mary Sues; I had to write one for a writing challenge on Yahoo.groups. Who could write a Mary Sue SW fic without making the character stupid/and/or a Mary Sue. I did it on ff.net. I started it when I was a teen, just for the fun of it. My problem is, is that it's evolved. There's not just one Mary Sue, there's a Gary Stu now as well. But, I've disguised him quite a bit. He's hidden under the shadow of the Chancellor Palpatine's wing, but my main character (my Mary Sue) has become popular at ff.net, I can't stop. I have to finish or else I'll have a raving MOB after me.
The writing's gotten better, I admit. It's helped me adapt, but the Mary Sue thing is starting to get to me. I'm making her have more mistakes and paying the price for them. Stuff like that...Thanx for the info!!
Date posted: 4/4/2008 10:59:42 AM
BTW a 'perfect' character that isn't annoying isn't a Mary Sue.
You can still like them, but they'll still be annoying.
Date posted: 8/30/2008 11:54:27 AM
The Mary Sue syndrome is a tough thing to avoid. A lead character needs to either doing or around interesting things to make a story worthwhile.
A famous "mary sue" was Wesley Crusher from Star Trek TNG. Written in by Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry, this character was the child who solved all the problems, piloted the flagship of the federation, was the cool kid in the edgy flight group at school, and then developed psychic powers. However, this Mary Sue is not that much more special than Luke Skywalker. Luke was a farmboy who dreamed of going to the imperial acadamy (while secretly hating the empire), luckily the droids from a princess found luke of all people, who learned that his neighbor was a secret Jedi who had fought with luke's father who was also a Jedi (meaning luke is a superjedi), Luke then fought his way onto and off the death star, then Luke is told that because he can pilot a space gokart he is going to lead a flight of starfighters against the death star, Luke of course easily destroys it, Luke then has some more adventures, finds another more powerful teacher to make him an even more superjedi, and then he finds out that the his superjedi father is actually darth vader, and then luke launches some complex (meaning crasier than "home alone") plan to free Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, and then luke goes and redeems is father from the dark side and his father kills the emperor for him...oh yeah and THEN we found out that Luke was a prince of Naboo. Luke could easily be the biggest Mary Sue of them all, but somehow he is usually well recieved.
So my advice, watch for things become to special or gifted about your characters. One of the best avoiders of Mary Sueism is to think about what you would do in that situation. Not what you would do with the knowledge of the story and where you want the story to go, but what you would do given the character's knowledge and resources. I find that I would do a lot more running and ducking, than pulling out a blaster I'm carrying for some reason (I don't carry a gun in real life) and shooting at the 15 trained and armored soldiers coming down the street.
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