Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More LTUE Notes: Mary Sue and Gary Stu: Common Mistakes Writers Make

1. Many writers’ main characters are idealized versions of themselves. They can do no wrong. They are the biggest, most important person. This is considered Mary Sue or Gary Stu. There’s a difference between using aspects of self and your whole self as a character. No one wants to read about the most kingly king, most knightly knight. How to make characters interesting but not obnoxious: Don’t make character too vanilla. You want them to stand out in a way that makes us smile. When planning characters there needs to be something likeable about them, even in villains. For example: He/she sends a mothers day card to their mom on Mother’s Day or pets a dog. The Operative is best Villina ever!

2. Having your character be “The Chosen One” or “The prophesy.”

3. Having your character wake up from a dream or the first chapter is a dream.

4. A lot of exposition or back story history of the character or kingdom or world in the beginning of story when something starts to change.

5. Too many character points of view. Use only 1-2 characters as main POVs and skip to others less frequently.

6. Showing too much. Showing less is showing more

7.  Being too nice to your main character. You need to balance having good and bad things happen to your character. Use equal amounts of both. There needs to be tension and release, more tension than release. It’s a reward system for reader. Build up tension, release, feel better. For example, when you bang your head against a wall it feels really good when you stop. A reaction goes on in the reader to some extent when they read.

8. Your character doesn’t have to save the world. There need to be personal stakes in order for readers to make a connection with your character. Make the thing that’s most important to your characters be in jeopardy. A good example is the Dresden Files.

9. There’s been a rash of YA books where the MC gets raped. It’s become a dangerously sexist cliché.

10. A guide character who won’t tell the MC everything they need to know. Writers may think it’s a mystery when they know and won’t tell you things, but withholding important information is not mysterious, it’s just annoying.

11. There needs to be something in the main character that the readers can relate to. A shortcoming needs to be in way of their task or goal. They need to have a flaw to overcome.

12. In dystopian novels it has become cliché to have the government trying to stop you from falling in love.

13. Any trope can be enlivened if you put enough of a spin on it. Get off your stereotypical stuff. Don’t be lazy. It’s your book you can do it your way. You can’t avoid all tropes. Just be careful not to overdo them. Take tropes and make fun of them. Do it in a unique way.


  1. These were really interesting! I always do the dream thing haha! Maybe I need to be careful of how often I have my characters wake up from dreams. Having your character be "the chosen one" is hard not to do too. It's easy to fall for that cliche so that the character stands out. So many good things to think about. Thanks for taking such good notes!

  2. Yeah, me too. In one of my books my mc is the chosen one and in the other one I started out with a dream in the first chapter but moved it to another chapter later on, which is less cliche than having the first chapter be a dream.