Convincing Characters: The Trouble with Mary Sues

Hey, people, and thanks for reading this Tween Fiction Girl post!  As we writers [and maybe a few readers] know, the plot of a story doesn’t just happen.  It doesn’t just magically manifest itself.  You need characters within the plot to carry out the action that makes the story happen.  The thing is, writing said characters is often a whole lot more difficult than it seems.

One mistake that’s made often occurs when the plot is planned out before the characters.  If you already know what’s going to happen in the story and you develop your characters later, your characters can end up as meaningless tools that carry out whatever actions are necessary for the plot to go on.

This just doesn’t work.  As with in real life, the circumstances are made by the person, not vice versa.  His or her own actions need to further the plot.  That’s a good start to giving each character their own unique personality – if you make it so they only do what they do to keep the plot going, they’ll seem like gears and pulleys in a machine:  you pull the strings, they pull the weight.  This’ll make every character seem the exact same, and they’ll all be equally boring.

On the other hand, it’s possible to get too into the development of a character.  You may have heard the term Mary Sue before.  A Mary Sue is a character that’s too perfect.  The author liked him or her too much, so they turned them into the most annoyingly immaculate person ever.

They’re flawlessly attractive, have an amazing personality, and everyone loves them; except for the villain, who’s almost always featured in said Mary Sue’s traumatic backstory, who hates him or her with a burning passion.  There are several different breeds of Mary Sues:  the charismatic, innocent charmer; the tough, brave, noble, honorable warrior; the tragic, likely orphaned/abandoned hero, and many more.  If you want to protect your characters from Mary-Sue-hood, try running them through this Mary Sue test I discovered on NaNoWriMo last year.

The problem with Mary Sues is, they’re hard to connect with.  You may love the impeccable character you made, but no one else can identify with them.  No one is that perfect.

Why is it so important that your characters follow these guidelines, you ask?  It’s certainly easier to write characters that you love, or make your plot easier to write.  The truth is, readers will hate them.  People like characters that they can understand; characters they can truly identify with.  If your characters are lifeless puppets that are only used to give your plot the push it needs, they aren’t understandable.  If we don’t know enough about them, it’s like trying to get to know a block of wood.

Alternatively, no one can really relate to a character without flaws.  Real people aren’t gods – we all have problems.  It’s what makes us human.  On the other hand, a Mary Sue will seem inhuman, unreachable, too good for this world.  We just can’t sympathize with someone so unrealistic.

The truly perfect character isn’t “perfect” in the Mary Sue sense of the word.  A perfectly written character is realistic.  He or she seems human.  They have problems, but they mean well [some of them, at least].  They have real, varied personalities; every one is different, and they all seem believable.  Follow these steps, and you’re well on your way to writing a book full of the greatest characters imaginable!

Remember, feedback is always appreciated!  Rate my posts with the stars at the top of the page, comment your thoughts, and even give this a like if you really loved it.  If you want to see a post about a specific subject, you can always suggest one here.

Thanks for reading!  I hope this was helpful!

Summer T

Character Development Sheet

Hey, people! I don’t know if anyone else has had this problem, but I’ve had a lot of trouble finding a suitable character dev sheet for writing down their information and stuff. They’re all either too short and too cryptic (e.g., name, age, personality, appearance) or wayyyy too long (seriously, who cares about their social security number?)
So I decided to write my own. It’s not perfect, but it works for me. If there’s anything you want to change on it, you can remove parts and/or add your own fields. Copy the whole post and paste it wherever you want it (notebook, microsoft word, etc).


– name, book

Personal Info

Full name:
Type of being:
Name origin:
Name meaning:
Astrological sign:

Physical Characteristics

Skin color:
Eye color:
Hair color/style:
Facial features:
Striking/unique features:
Tattoos, piercings, etc:
Characteristic gestures:


How others would describe him/her:
Describe in three words:
Sense of humor:
Positive traits:
Negative traits:
Things that make him/her happy:
MBTI personality:

Romantic Life

Current significant other:
First love:
Current love interest:

Death (Optional)

Time of death:
Age at time of death:
Cause of death:
Place of death:
Last words:
Resting place:

Personal Life

Describe his/her house’s exterior:
Describe his/her yard:
Describe his/her house’s interior:
Describe his/her bedroom:
Favorite memory:
Worst memory:
Most important thing in his/her life:


Biological parents:
Adoptive parents, if any:
Siblings, if any:
Step-parents/siblings, if any:
Children, if any:

Supernatural (if any for all questions)

Supernatural powers:
Strange or supernatural physical attributes:
Supernatural affiliations (can talk to dragons, raised by werewolves, etc.):
Supernatural beliefs:


Infancy (1-3):
Childhood (1-9):
Preteen years (10-12):
Teen years (13-16):
Young adulthood (17-26):
Adulthood (27-36):
Late adulthood (37-49):
Seniority (50+):


Others’ opinions of him/her:

In His/Her Mind

Dominant brain (left or right):
Dominant hand:
Reason he/she kept his/her secret/s for so long:
Religion/life philosophy:
Favorite quote:

Universal Profile

Desired actor/actress or voice actor/actress:
Theme song:
Character inspirations:

Other Info

Character Names: Why Are They Important?

Hey, guys! Tomorrow chapter 3 of the AJ Story is coming out, and it brought this post to mind. Since every character is a real name from a real Animal Jam player, I didn’t get a choice in the names except a few. This works out fine for the story, since I can choose what role everyone plays to suit their name, but what if it’s the other way around?
What if you already have a genius story about a warrior of a magic land who goes on a quest to save the world? You probably don’t want to name him Barney.
Names are a big part of the story. In the book Dragon’s Milk, the names reflect the place. They sound like they’re really from another world. In the Hunger Games, the names sound like they’re from another time. In both examples, the names help to outline the plot, and the stories wouldn’t be as good if it were about a guy named Ricky who rode his dragon to Chicago.
But why are they so important? It’s partially just for the sake of sounding cool. I know that sounds funny, but it’s true. Having a whole dictionary or selection of names for a story makes it sound totally different and well thought-out. Another reason is that it tends to help with character development. Look at Juniper from the AJ Story. Being named after a coniferous, blue-berried tree helps to portray her as a healer and someone who enjoys making potions and things.
Names are also how that character would be remembered. If there’s someone important mentioned at the beginning, but then he comes up later in the story secretly, he’d have to be under a different name or it would be totally given away. I’m thinking of Divergent here.

Anyway, thanks for reading!! I appreciate it a lot!!

Summer 🙂