The Writer's Mary Sue Test

Have you ever wondered if your character was a Mary Sue? Now you can find out with this simple test! And it's free!

Done with the advertisement. But in all seriousness, this test was pretty fun to take. I had a blast with it. Found it on r/writing and thought I would share.

Here's the link for it:

It was a pretty amusing test, but I think it makes the same mistake a lot of people discussing "Mary Sue" make, which is to confuse general wish fulfilment in a character with the specific form of wish fulfilment that the Mary Sue takes.

An author basing a character on a person they wish they were isn't Mary Sue. An author making the character such a vehicle for his or her wish fulfilment that there's no room in the story for the READER, that there is a Mary Sue.

I always liked the notion that a Mary Sue isn't necessarily special or a self-insert. Rather, a Mary Sue is a character who, like a black hole distorts the appearance of light, distorts the narrative. People who've lurked me on Reddit have seen me go on at length about this.

If you've defined rules of the setting and your character is an exception to those rules (Men are Sorcerers and Women are Witches. This character is a girl but has Sorcerer and Witch powers!), then that is a problem.

If you've established personality for a character and a meeting with your potential Mary Sue makes that personality take a noticeable shift ("I hate children. I don't want them in my workplace or my life, they're intolerable. Except my colleague's kid Timmy. Timmy, would you like to ride the tractor with me?"), then that is a problem.

If you've set out a narrative with a distinct plotline, and a particular character shows up & sidequests/side-narratives immediately start spooling out, then that is a problem.

And if your writing style is minimal when it comes to description of characters and their features, but you wax eloquent at a specific individual's features, then that is a problem too.

A character can be lame, plain, ugly and hated, and still be a Mary Sue. It might take the appearance of people immediately becoming more spiteful and vindictive at the Mary Sue's (Misery Sue's?) expense, just to give the character an excuse to angst or to be an attempted woobie (Look at this character, so pitiful! Don't you want to jump into the story and give them a hug!?), or it might be the fact that the character is representative of a pet cause of the author and is a walking plot derail, allowing the author to soapbox or highlight an issue, but at the expense of the story.

Self-inserts, fanfiction characters, and overpowered characters can all become Mary Sues far more easily. But it's not the defining aspect. Have to look deeper, at the problems in the work that that character creates.

That actually kind of helps me. For a a while, I was worried about how hyper-competent a few of my characters are. Plus, one of them is blatantly self-insert, or at least starts off that way. But, the thing is, very few of my characters actually radically shape the plot. Yeah, Nate's a good point man, but every situation he's been in so far hasn't been radically shaped by him. In fact, you could argue he's made no difference. Kind of ironic since he signed up at NIU to make a difference.

Psycho Gecko is quite a bit Sue-ish, but he's also a narrator and narcissistic. Kinda hard to have a supervillain who doesn't shape the story, too:

Though, appearance-wise, PG can pretty much be anyone. Anytime. Anywhere. Even, possibly, right behind you now. But then, who is typing this? WHO WAS PHONE?

So, while I was sitting here typing this, I've taken the test. I have a few thoughts on some of the questions below.

I think I actually said something about villains being good for evil wish fulfillment that works with the question: "I have fantasized about him showing up and besting someone who's just pissed me off, or I put people who piss me off into the story and let him beat up on them."

And I think the question "has psychic abilities, exceptional strength, magical powers, a healing touch, or any other power that we would consider superhuman." is a bit loaded for anyone doing a story about superheroes. Or sci fi. Or fantasy. Really, any story other than straight-up fiction.

Honestly, I think it's actually pretty normal for a serial killer/mass murderer to be "persecuted by an authority figure -- parent, superior officer, et cetera." Can anyone think of a single character in any story that doesn't fit that question, by the way? The only one I'm coming up with is God from the various holy books he shows up in.

"He has been falsely accused of a crime." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Well, almost certainly, but I don't think that's a driving force in a story where he freely and openly admits to killing people.

The appearance questions are also one of those sections that throws out an exceptionally wide net. If the character looks like you, that's a paddlin'. If the character looks good, that's a paddlin'. If the character doesn't look like a baseline human, that's a paddlin'. If the character looks nothing like you, that usually involves clothes or fashion choices...and a paddlin'.

Maybe I'll pull a Lord Raglan and see how heroes from other stories and real life people stack up to the Sue test. Perhaps Abraham Lincoln's middle name was Mary.

Yeah. I had to click the "dies but comes back... repeatedly" option. Because that's actually the character's power. Near instantaneous serial-immortality. Turns out, as far as powers go, it's surprisingly not very good at defeating other superhumans.

Also... does it count as "has a destiny" if it's a fairly commonplace event in the setting... and he fails horribly before someone else helps him achieve it?

Oh, and the only person who actually cares about said destiny is his supervillain stalker?

On the other hand... he only scored a 40 total, so apparently not high on the list.

I tried Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and FDR. Sues, the lot of them. Utterly unbelievable as characters, I tell ya. Except Washington. He was merely almost a Sue, despite having a higher score than FDR, who is Sue-licious.

Really? I'd have thought you'd need to write them from the perspective of their "maker", and thus not yourself. So by default, there's no physical or political traits shared. Because humans are not God and/or Evolution. Most of them had parents who were alive to see them get to the presidency. They sure as hell weren't supernatural creatures. I'm so not seeing how they can get many "Sue points" out of this test.

Yeah, lots of other people talk about how great they were, so they get that one marked off... but that's almost the ONLY thing. Well, Lincoln was tall and FDR had Polio... but that's about it...

PS- just did the villain... and she's bordering on Sue territory. But I did click the "others talk about how great she is"- not because anyone likes her *at all*... but because she's basically a living ball of pointy death... much like her namesake...

Blacknail the goblin is not a Mary Sue.

I think this test is in response to most of the YA novels that have come out. A lot of those characteristics, and I mean a majority of them, can be applied to the main character in those books. Seriously, read a young adult novel, some of them are ridiculous with the Mary Sue-ness of their character. I'm reading a book right now where I could probably click almost all of those buttons. More if I bothered to look up what the author looked like. I'm sure there are adult novels like that as well, I just haven't come across any to my memory, which isn't something reliable.

I just thought this was a fun test and wanted to share. It's also something you should look for as well. A lot of people get turned off by Mary Sue/wish fulfillment. I know I do, especially when every other book I pick up for a light read are like this.

Neither of my main characters were, but some questions like how psychology gecko said the powers one, or are the powers unique, are pretty commonplace in non sues

I thought the test was fun. It assumes too many similarities between the Mary Sue character and his / her writer, though.

It's still a good idea to maybe double check your character if nearly 50% of the boxes are being checked.

That being said, some genre's lend themselves to more check boxes than others. Super hero series or high fantasy being one of them - from what I can tell.

I took the test using Harry Potter, guess how that turned out?

Oh hey FrustratedEgo, imagine seeing you here discussing Mary Sues. :)

I think the male lead from Sword Art Online would trigger enough alarms to blow up the test.

TanaNari, some of the criteria is about having a character who is exceptional in any way, and some of it is just about if a character has some similarity to you in any way.

He is of my gender, and we share the same skin and hair colors. He has been the same general age as me. Same sexuality. Had either the same job as me or a job I would like to have (president, lawyer, businessman, there's a few to pick from). We share a hobby (he was an avid reader). And I do think people who read a biography of Abraham Lincoln will like and empathize with him. I also have fantasized about him beating people I don't like, seeing as I don't like the Confederate States of America. It also counts if you don't like vampires.

He has a remarkable body type, being tall and slender to the extent that some think he had some unusual medical condition. He had a wart and scar over his face, though you don't really notice them. He has a unique possession on his person, his iconic hat. He looked older than he was, a trait all U.S. presidents share after spending time in office. Technically, he never has to worry about money now, but I didn't give him that one because of various issues with poverty, failing business, the formation of the Secret Service to combat Confederate counterfeiting, and audits of his spending in the White House. Often depicted in black clothing. As a world leader, had to spend a lot of time at parties.

When it comes to unusual stories about his infancy, he spent six months alone on the frontier caring for himself and his sister after his mother died and his father left to go find a new wife. Plus, his nickname "The Rail Splitter" came from his being raised on the frontier in a one room log cabin and learning to use an ax at an early age. I didn't include it the first time around, but he was raised by a parent who wasn't his biological parent when his dad finally got back with the new wife and her kids. His being from the frontier is also why he's from a different region/world than others he dealt with in Washington D.C. The U.S. in his time was unusual as a democracy, but in some ways was technologically backwards.

Was abandoned by a parent. Raised in extreme poverty. Was a member of a despised political group. Suffered terrible guilt about a lot of things, including the Civil War, which wasn't his fault, and any sensible person could see it wasn't. Was persecuted by his father for preferring reading and education. Was falsely accused of crimes by the South and the Copperheads during the Civil War. Multiple family members died tragically, including a younger brother, his sister, his sister's baby, his mother, and two of his sons, so a regular kiss of death. And he did indeed feel responsible for the death of loves ones, friends, and so on of his that died in the Civil War, though not his fault.

Everyone admires Lincoln (except the bad guys). Sometimes, other people did talk about how great Lincoln was. Characters who disagree with Lincoln over issues like slavery do indeed suffer horrible ends that prove Lincoln was right, to the extent that they might as well stock up on body casts. Lots of dead Southerners. Also known as pretty darn good at debate, winning many a verbal battle. Older and wiser heads did not want Lincoln fighting out the Civil War. The previous president made it a point to do nothing, since he felt the federal government shouldn't stop secessionists seizing federal land and armories, and the Copperheads often pushed for peace instead of victory in the Civil War. Not only did Lincoln not get pulverized, but he's gone down in history for saving the day and not facing consequences from them for disobedience to their advice. Probably because a Southern sympathizer assassinated him first, but not from the politicians. Plus, Lincoln was known for being good with animals and kids.

You're doing a lot of reaching there. Plus it isn't your demographics that matter here, it's the force that created the universe. So probably not human.