Rana Bob's Field Guide to Mary Sues

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Title: Rana Bob's Field Guide to Mary Sues
Creator: Rana Eros
Date(s): September 7, 2003
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction, Mary Sue
External Links: Rana Bob's Field Guide to Mary Sues, Archived version
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Rana Bob's Field Guide to Mary Sues is an essay by Rana Eros .

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

It discusses and describes:

  • 1. The Romantic Lead Sue
  • 2. The Cousin Sue
  • 3. The Yenta Sue
  • 4. The Rival Sue
  • 5. The Fucked Up Sue
  • 6. The Canon Character Sue
  • 7. The Villain Sue

Some topics:

    • Think Royalties, Baby
    • This is Your Canon on Mary Sue
    • Knowledge is the First Step
    • We're, Like, Soul-Twins
    • One of Everything, and Supersize It


Recently, on one of the lists to which I belong, discussion arose regarding the definition of a Mary Sue. I've been in fandom long enough to have witnessed several permutations of this discussion, and what always amuses me is the contortions authors will go through in order to exempt their own original characters from the Mary Sue label. "A Mary Sue is always romantically involved with one of the canon characters, so my OFC isn't a Mary Sue." "My character is romantically involved with one of the canon characters, but she's not related to any of the other canon characters, so she's not a Mary Sue." "My character isn't related to anyone, isn't involved with anyone, and isn't friends with anyone, so she's definitely not a Mary Sue. She's just better at (pick your ability) than any of the canon characters." "My character can't be a Mary Sue, she helps guy A and guy B get together!" In my experience, there are different models of the Mary Sue. Below I will list several of the most common and the distinct markings that allow you, the intrepid MS hunter, to spot them.
There are a lot of characteristics that set the genus of Mary Sue apart from a standard OFC/OMC. The most important thing to watch for, in my mind, is whether your character is taking over the story. If so, and if you like it that way, then I suggest you do yourself and your fellow fans a favor and stop pretending you're writing fanfic. Take your character, put her in an original setting with original backup characters, write your story, and then find a more suitable venue for it than fandom. Why? Because you will be mocked, and your character will be hunted. I'm not being mean, I'm being honest. Fans have very little tolerance for the old bait and switch, and that's what Mary Sue stories are. They lure you in with the promise of being about your fandom, then turn out to be nothing more than the fantastic adventures of a character only the author and her close friends give a damn about. My advice? See if you can sell her. Hey, it worked for Laurell Hamilton. If, on the other hand, you really want to write fanfic, but you have this plotline that requires a certain type of character in a certain position and none of the canon characters would work in that position without warping them out of recognition, then perhaps you should consider changing your plotline. Seriously, the less you need to use OCs, especially in major roles, the better in terms of fanfic. If you're really attached to your plotline, then there are a few things to watch for. First, make sure the focus of your story is still the canon characters. I know it's hard when you've put all this time and effort into creating your OFC/OMC and you really think they've turned out well, but if you don't want the Mary Sue label slapped on your hard work, it's best to keep the character in the background.