Wednesday, December 16, 2015

There is No War in Mary Sue Land

The following is the fourth in a series discussing the Mary Sue character type.

Conflict is key to any good story.  Conflict is what gives a story’s characters a reason to act and a goal to work toward.  Conflicts can be external or internal, immediate or looming in the future, but they have to exist for the story to have internal momentum and a way to hook readers.  Conflict pushes characters outside the familiar and requires them to change and grow, to sometimes be broken down and then pull themselves back up.  Conflict exposes weaknesses and, if faced head-on, tempers them into new strength or simply experience.
Unfortunately, conflict in all its nuanced forms is antithetical to most forms of Little Miss Mary Sue.  Mary Sue is already perfect, with no glaring weaknesses, and does not have any room to grow - at least according to her author.  Conflicts threaten to pull attention away from Mary Sue or interfere with her own personal goals, and that cannot be allowed.  The only “conflicts” permitted in Mary Sue’s world are problems that she can resolve with a wave of her hand or impossibly perfect foreknowledge of what the antagonists will do.  Low-risk conflicts related directly to Mary Sue getting together with her chosen lover are also permitted, especially if they allow Mary Sue opportunities to wax eloquent about how her heart aches to be with Frodo Baggins or Malcom Reynolds.
There are a couple of Mary Sue sub-types that exist to eliminate a series’ major conflicts to make room for their own selfish pursuits.  The Black Hole Sue I discussed last week is one of the sub-types; she simply reshapes reality so that whatever conflicts the canon characters were dealing with before she showed up no longer exist or aren’t seen as so important anymore.  The second Sue type is the God-mode Sue: a character so overwhelmingly powerful she has but to point and the Big Bad Evil Guy who’s been threatening the world for the last three seasons keels over dead.  God-mode Sue might also possess weapons or abilities that are supposed to be unique to certain canon characters and superior skill in using those weapons or abilities, to essentially the same effect as the “pointer finger of death.”  The third type of conflict-defuser Sue is known by TV Tropes as Mary Tzu, someone with such incredible military and tactical ability - often far beyond what is reasonable for someone their age - that they can predict enemy actions with perfection and devise foolproof counter-strategies.  Mary Tzu might appear to put more work into resolving conflicts than the other sub-types, but she’s no less flawless in her execution than any Mary Sue, and that extends to any troops she commands to the point of suffering zero casualties no matter how difficult or dangerous their assignment is.
         Where Little Miss Mary Sue walks, conflict ceases to be, and where there is no conflict, stories become boring and unreadable drivel.

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