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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Forget Mary Sue

By now most writers know what a Mary Sue is and why Mary Sue should be avoid like the plague. The main reason being that Merc will hunt you down and kill you for having an MC who is Mary Sue (Run Mary, run! You're too perfect to die!).

But here are some other tests you might want to run your manuscript through before you think you're done with edits.

Benchdel's Test: You must include at least two women. They must have a conversation. It can not be about men.
- Most TV shows fail this test
- If you are writing chic lit or romance and fail this test you probably have a Pink Book, revise immediatley.
- If you are writing any other genere proceed to the next test.

The Smurfette Test
: Do you have one lone female surrounded by big strong males i.e. the cast of SG-1. The original Star Treks, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the Smurfs?
- That's a bad thing.
- Why on Earth do you have so many freaking males?
- What kind of sexist throwback are you that you can't write females in?
- Do you know that every major war has had females fighting, usually dressed as males? If the military can get girls in on the game so can you.
- I can't think of a genre where this can be excused.
- To see how bad you are, move to the next test.

Positive Discrimination Test: You have a token minority character (male, female, green skinned, nonmagical) who can do no wrong. The character is smarter, sexier, more skilled, and morally superior to everyone around them. Or, sometimes, they are the best villain.
- Okay, look, this one is easy to avoid. You do not *need* Uhura to repeat the computer. You do not need to make your lone female super cool.
- It's bad enough that you have a Token Character, but now you've overdone it. Go rewrite.

I ran several of my manuscripts through these tests. I seem to have a lot of Token Males, or Token Baby Brother who is quiet, smart, and stays out of the way. I need to rewrite TBB.

I could argue Skippy has a Token Female, a princess who was in the dungeon Skippy takes over... considering the whole story though I'm not sure I can add another female. There are 3 main characters: Skippy, Nanoc the Civilized, and FMC whose name is either Serena or Alexandria, I haven't decided since she doesn't show up for a few more chapters. There is also a warrior priestess (Calista) who makes a valiant Last Stand during the big final battle. But that's such a bad fantasy cliche I'm almost afraid to admit I will be abusing it.

How did you score?


  1. Loved this--thanks for the "tests"!

  2. Hmmm, a few things to think about. Thank you, Lei.

    Let's see . . . I gulped as I read through the Mary Sue info. Is Naomi a Mary Sue?

    Yikes, I don't think so.

    The Smurfette Test: Ugh. This one is hard. I do have Naomi surrounded by a male cast, but there's another female, too. Yay!

    No Token Minority characters. Nope. None of those.

    Hmmm, seems like Breakaway could teeter on the edge here - at first glance.

    But it passes.

    Either way, even if I did fail one of the tests, I wouldn't go rewrite this whole story. Because to pass these tests with ultimate flying colors, I'd have to rewrite the entire story. In fact, the story wouldn't work at all. It would be a different story. Period.

    So we'll keep it the way it is and trust the 30+ readers who have enjoyed it and told me its publishable.

  3. I think, if you have a reason, this might work. But with Smurfette the original reason was that the creator didn't want to deal with a female... that's a problem.

  4. You have a problem with all male cast books? (Can that possibly be sexist too, anti-all-male-work?) *cackles* :P

    Fun series of tests. I've not tried them out yet, but I already know all mine will fail and I DANCE WITH GLEE! Bwhahahaha! I don't care if I have no females. %-)

    *hearts TMNT just for the record*

    LOL, in all seriousness... wait, I was being serious. :P I really, honestly do not care if I have all-male casts, and prefer it that way.

    If people want to complain, they can talk to Mr. Flamthrower here. *evil grin*

    Token characters? Not sure. Anyone too perfect no matter what color or gender, uh, ends up dead? O:) Or maimed or tortured or corrupted and twisted by the time I'm done with them...

    Oh, and yes, I do tend to be homicidal about Mary Sues (or Gary Stus--admit it, they exist). Someone help you if your MS is also a Chosen One...


    ~Merc (who really is female, yes, and not awake yet)

  5. But we all know Merc has issues %-)

    Hmm. I think mine all pass. Phew. :)

  6. Merc, you could go all the wrong way and have all female characters. And there are times when all male books works.

    But, for preference and balance, I prefer an odd number of character divided almost evenly between genders. Females and males have different view points, they see the world differently. And I like to be able to see the situation from a man's mind as much as I do from the woman's mind.

    I think that an all one gendered cast runs a serious risk of being flat. A good author can get away with it and give the layering it needs. But it takes a lot of work.

  7. Not as much work for me as trying to write a FMC I don't loathe. ;)

    I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this subject. :P

  8. Possibly. What's so wrong with a FMC?

  9. I can rant on it later if you want. ;) There's nothing "wrong" with FMCs. Personally I can't stand 90% of them. :P I'll never be a FMC writer.


  10. I like my FMC's, they tend to blow things up, be snarky, and some of them live to flummox the males. But some people don't like writing one gender or another... that's a topic for another day.