3 Ways to Make Sure Your Character is Not a Mary Sue

We all know of these characters, the ones that barely encounter any obstacles during their journey while winning the hearts of all their potential love interests. I could name several extremely popular books that are focused on a Mary Sue or John Doe. Unfortunately it is also extremely easy to accidentally write your main characters as a Mary Sue, especially if you are in the writing groove and really cranking out that novel. Have no fear, I am here to help guide you along your literary journey and help keep you from straying off the path of a well-developed character and being sucked into the land of absolutely perfect characters that can do no wrong.
Before I can help you I must give you a in-depth guide to the mysterious Mary Sue. The Mary Sue/ John Doe character is one that can probably climb Mt. Everest on their first try with little to no issues. These characters learn fighting quickly and can do things that a normal character would not be able to do as accurately . They are also known for having no enemies, there have even been some instances where even the villain falls for them. This leads to the story becoming dull rather quickly because the main character is completely unrealistic. I know you love your characters and you want what is best for them but they need to be realistic. A reader needs a character to relate to not a character that shoot rainbows of friendship from their fingertips while gliding to the finish line.
What are some ways that I can avoid this from happening? I am glad you asked!

Here are 3 Ways to Make Sure Your Character is Not A Mary Sue:

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1. When you are developing your characters for your novel you need to create a list. For the protagonists list 3 positive traits and 1 negative trait to help balance them out.

Ex. My Protagonist:

  • Optimistic
  • Intelligent
  • Adventurous
  • Anxious

Now when you are creating your balanced antagonist you need to also create a list but this time it needs to be 3 negative traits and 1 positive trait.

Ex. My Antagonist:

  • Manipulative
  • Cold
  • Sadistic
  • Intelligent

By creating these lists you are getting to know your characters and allowing them to become more dynamic and realistic.

2. Create a realistic back story. As much as you want your character to come from a perfect home and perfect life with amazing friends and no issues pre-novel you need to understand that a back story like that is boring. No one has a perfect life and in order for you character to evolve over the course of your novel you need to give them some form of obstacle or issue in their back story that needs to be addressed during the events of the novel.

Ex. My main character has to overcome her anxiety she gained after a frightening near death experience before the events of the novel. She learns to accept her faults and how to be a stronger person so her anxiety  can no longer define her.

Having something like this allows the character to be more relatable to the reader and it is a lot more enjoyable to write these characters and really watch them grow.
3. Make sure they fail. Yes, you read that right. Failure is a part of life and so it is important that failure is present at some point during your character’s story. You can make it something as minor as losing her car keys or something as major as running from the monster instead of facing them.

Ex. My character has problems mastering her bow and ends up missing a major target during the first altercation, this causes her to have a full-blown anxiety attack.

When you are writing about failure you are allowing the hero to travel along a journey where they can evolve and face their failures head on.

Creating characters for your novel may seem like an easy process but it is important to remember to make them human while you are actually writing your novel. It is easy to get swept away and dive into your story but you need to remember that a realistic and relatable character is one that a reader will love more and it will also allow you to grow along with your character as you write their journey to adventure, success, and freedom.

Have A Wonderfully Literary Day,
Caitlin

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Published by

The Curious Novelist

Hello there! My name is Caitlin and I am an aspiring author with a intense love for all things literary.

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