Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Goldilocks Character

I’ve learned a new writing term lately. Have you heard of a “Mary Sue” heroine? Well, I finally have.

If your star female protagonist is overly-perfect and lacking any flaws, she is a Mary Sue character. And that’s a bad thing. People just want to gag or roll their eyes when they come across perfection in the human race.

Now, I can honestly say I’ve never been accused of creating a Mary Sue character. I’ve written heroines people have called so rude she’s unlikeable. I’ve written heroines people have called so bendable she’s weak. I’ve written characters people have called TSTL (too stupid to live). But a Mary Sue is a new one for me.

So this causes me apprehension. Now, apparently, I can make a woman too good to be true as well as one who’s too hard or too soft to be likeable. Yeesh. How the heck do I find that happy medium, that Goldilocks who has it just right?

From my research, I’d say the key is give her some acceptable flaws. Is she living in the middle of a third-world country, working volunteer in a missionary to bring medicine to starving babies? (Major Mary Sueage going on with that!) Maybe you could make her driven and determined to the point she--gasps—lies or even steals something to achieve her big goal. Sounds like a happy, acceptable medium to me.

Which brings me to my single writing tip for the day (which can work for heroes too, of course). When creating a new character think: Weakness. Flaws. And at least one redeeming quality that will override both!

Good luck making that Goldilocks main character in YOUR story!


Unknown said...

It's the first time I've heard of a Mary Sue. Because I usually use a piece of reality, my heroes and heroines kend to have flaws or weakness.

Marie Rose Dufour said...

I love the too stupid to live character!!! Too funny. Hopefully my characters are believable and have some flaws that make them so!

Linda Kage said...

I've read books by both of you, Amber and Marie, and I think you've captured a good Goldilocks if I do say so myself!!

January Bain said...

I found that really interesting! Funny and educational at the same time, you should be teaching!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Because we are writing unreality, or at best truncated reality, we are vulnerable to the Mary Sue syndrome.

Thanks for reminding us of that. it's easy to fall into it. Great writers have done it -- and lived. The most interestings have foibles, flaws and warts, but always are redeamed, hopefully not by the Too-wonderful-to-be-true hero.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I was just saying the same think in a workshop I give called, "So you want to write a novel?" Characters must have flaws, vulnerability, nicks in their armor. Plus, they must evolve over the story. Otherwise the reader goes yuck.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Jessica Nelson said...

Hahaahaa, yes, I've heard of Mary Sues. Not sure I've written one before though.

Ciara Gold said...

Wow, I learned something new, too. I've never heard that term before. But you're right, it's hard to find that perfect balance between flawed and loveable. Thanks big time for the tip.

Jude Johnson said...

LOL Had to chuckle at "Mary Sueage" - made me think of "Merry Sewage"!

An excellent post, Linda, and something we all have to watch.