Hi BDH, howl you doing? Mod R here, creeping it real. Happy Halloween to everyone celebrating!
If you take a peak at the poll results from last Friday, we will start the new Ilona Andrews character series with Arabella and follow up with Roman (always the banshee, never the bride with him hehe). As your resident Transylvanian, I thought today we could do a quick trick or treat of jargon terms around genres, tropes and character types, to ensure no one is left out of the conversation once it starts going.
If you have further insights or questions please add them in the comments, I’ll be here goblin’ on candy and trying to rein in the puns! (Only one of those things is true)
Romance (genre)– fiction which focuses on 2 crucial aspects, a primary focus on the love story between 2 (or more) people, and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
In translation, this means that it’s a romance if the story would fall apart without the protagonists having romantic interest in each other. Clean Sweep in the Innkeeper Chronicles universe- not a romance. Although there is certainly chemistry between Dina and her male suitors, with or without that she would have fought against the enemies and provided help to the vampires. Sweep of the Blade in the same series- a romance. None of it would happen if it weren’t for Maud and Arland’s love for each other, even though one of the main aspects of the plot is Maud finding a place for herself and Helen within House Krahr independent of Arland’s status.
The other sine qua non element of the romance genre is the HEA (Happy Ever After)- our protagonists ending up together despite all obstacles. Without it, what you have is a book with romantic elements. Romeo and Juliet, Nicholas Sparks tearjerkers, even though they focus on romantic relationships, are not romances.
HFN– happy for now. A variation of HEA, it means the couple’s romantic arc is not quite done “cooking” and their relationship may still encounter trials before they walk off into the sunset of Happy Ever After.
White Hot in the Hidden Legacy novels is the perfect example of that. At the end, Neva and Rogan are together, but they have all the challenges of Wildfire ahead of them, including what it means to their relationship to have Neva become a Head of House in her own right, the discussion about their children potentially not having magic (haha) putting an end to both Houses, and of course a ready and willing ex throwing herself in Rogan’s arms etc.
HFNs are usually not considered enough for a genre romance ending- as we aren’t sure the protagonists have found their “forever” partner and closure- which is why they will be generally encountered part-way through a series.
Cliffhanger– speaking of endings hehe. A cliffhanger is a plot device by which a narrative ends with the main character(s) in a precarious or dangerous position, an injured state where fatality may incur, an abrupt and shocking revelation or another life-or-death dramatic event involving the protagonist on which the reader doesn’t get closure.
Cliffhangers are used to create suspense and encourage the reader to return to the next installment in the narrative or to discuss it, but -and I cannot emphasise this enough- not ALL unsolved arcs or suspense elements are cliffhangers. Sometimes it’s just that the series hasn’t ended yet.
Guess what doesn’t constitute a cliffhanger, despite the cries of a certain Horde I won’t mention here by name? The protagonist’s brother showing up for a chat at the end of the book, when the protagonist is safe, healing and loved, planning her wedding after she successfully defeated the Big Threat. ::blows raspberry:: (This is about Sweep of the Blade btw, Klaus coming to see Maud at the end- since I got accused in the comments of spoiling Sweep of the Heart.)
Competence porn– a trope term referring to narratives that focus on capable and efficient characters collaborating to solve complicated problems, using hard work and smarts as opposed to Deus ex machina interventions (unexpected and unlikely solutions that just magically show up).
Although both the narrative and challenges are realistic, and the effort and intelligence used is commensurate to the problem, competence porn is Wish Fulfilment fiction because it has a happy resolution aimed at giving reader satisfaction (problems will be solved, crimes discovered, patient cured, fight won etc). Life is not fair, but fiction can be! The term was invented by John Rogers, a TV writer for the show Leverage.
Mary Sue– is a general fiction term applied (dismissively and liberally) to female characters who show competence.
Its origins are in fanfic, from a satirical Star Trek zine published by Paula Smith in 1973. Starfleet Lieutenant Mary Sue, a 15-year-old prodigy who is beautiful, perfect in all things and nice to everyone, has both Captain Kirk and Spock instantly fall inlove with her. She takes over the ship and receives “the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vulcan Order of Gallantry and the Tralfamadorian Order of Good Guyhood.”
Despite the caricatural self-insert proportions of Lt. Mary Sue, a slew of female characters from popular culture who show skills deemed “outsized”, knowledge in various fields and become romantic interests have been painted with the same brush. There is a male equivalent (the Mary Stu or Gary Stu), but very few male characters ever get called out for overall competence, and the term Mary Sue continues to carry a lot of gender bias.
Thanks for that – I had never heard of some of those terms before!
Judy Schultheis says
I could be accused of quite a bit of Mary Sue in the writing I’ve done in my life. I’ve never been able to see quite why. The competent females I’ve written aren’t good at everything – they’re just very good at what they can do and aren’t bothered by how competent other people are. One of the things I appreciate about IA characters.
Moderator R says
The Mary Sue also gets thrown at self-insert characters by female writers, even if they’re objectively not *perfect in every way*. Because we all know male authors never ever self insert 😀
Thank you for this! Competence Porn and Mary Sue are both phrases / concepts I’m very very intrigued by and I’m trying to figure out if what I love can be classified as that/them (?).
I have a deep deep love for Kate Daniels. I like her because she’s not overly young (in life experiences) and therefore is extremely self aware and mature. Her stories have growth but plots do not move along or twist and turn on account of angst or lack of communication or unavoidable tragedies and disasters. Also she saves her own damn day (be it with her sword, her magics or the allies she forms). I consider her to be Highly competent and that’s why I love reading her. Julie also has the same characteristics and so I love her. I also need to call out how much I love reading Kate and Julie’s 1st person thoughts and narratives!
So would Kate or Julie be considered as Mary Sues??
Moderator R says
Mary Sues, not so much. Although both Kate and Julie are skilled in their very particular ways, they both have limitations that are obvious and are far from perfect. Kate is a trained killer and she’s extremely good at it but she is the very incarnation of has a hammer and solves every problem by it. That’s why those who love her sometimes need to intervene and keep things from her, so she doesn’t grab her sword and jump in.
As much as we don’t like it, because we see things from her perspective, where her thought processes makes perfect sense, as readers we can split our awareness and see that she’s far from infallible.
You’re so right! I do see them from their own lens and perhaps my own biased lens and so their strengths outweigh their flaws. I think for me, their Infallibility is overshadowed by their personalities which I find so appealing.
I haven’t necessarily thought of Kate as perfect, but when I take stock of the female protagonists I’ve read, she has always come out far and ahead, imperfectly perfect 🙂
Judy Schultheis says
Great post and very helpful! I had not heard of the Mary Sue/Gary Stu terms before and their origins. Interesting!
I had heard of the term Mary Sue before, but thought it was coined to cover someone without any skills being overwritten as the skilled hero.
I’ve always thought of Mary Sue as someone who breezes through the story, never being stumped or challenged. A locked door? Luckily I found this key while washing clothes this morning! Talk to a suspect? Of course he’s going to give me all the answers, truthful and completely! Mary Sue was also beautiful, but humble, super rich but one of the people, and EVERYONE wants to be her friend or get her into bed. I never saw it as a super competent, more like unrealistically perfect.
Ignore my comment. I read further down the comment field.
On a side note, I dressed up like Kate for Halloween (celebrated yesterday). Braided my hair, had a sword and even carried around a plush lion (hanging out of a backpack). People thought I was the chick from Resident Evil. 🙂
Other Barbara says
Sigh. Sweet to see another blog post. An addict!
Donna A says
Very interesting stuff. I knew all the terms but I’d not thought about Mary Sue overmuch other than a sort of assumption that it was a 1940’s or ’50’s term – it just feels to me like it should be from that era. I’m surprised it’s so late. And if course men have to use it dismissively and derisively – if they don’t then we might bedazzle them with our brilliance and how would they survive ????
Other Barbara says
Each time I try to post it says I already posted. Never did see my comment on the votes for next subject. Or my yes! A new post.
Moderator R says
Comment by Other Barbara 2022/10/31 at 11:14 am
“Sigh. Sweet to see another blog post. An addict!”
Comment by Other Barbara 2022/10/31 at 11:16 am
“Each time I try to post it says I already posted. Never did see my comment on the votes for next subject. Or my yes! A new post.
I have them both 🙂 Sometimes your browser caches, you need to refresh to see the new comments. If you try to submit similar comments in a short amount of time, you will get the repeat warning as your first one is already posted.
Thank you for confirming that the term “Mary Sue” originated as a satire. I suggested that to someone once and was assured it was dead serious.
While I agree the term can be abused, I have absolutely seen characters that totally deserve it – male and female – generally from pre-pub or self-pub authors. A competent editor can take care of things like that.
I didn’t realize it originated as satire and am glad to know.
I’ve noticed the prevalence of Mary/Gary Sue’s in pre-pub and self-pub writers too. Would you agree that it seems to be part of learning to become a better writer? It makes me wonder if it’s a stage all writers must go through. I wrote “Mary Sue” all the time as a kid, and I attribute learning how to build empathy between the reader and the protagonist and learning how my fictional “body” might move and interact in a fictional world as foundation stones for writing more sophisticated characters later.
I suspect most writers do go through it, especially if they start very young. Some never outgrow the formerly age-appropriate narcissism though.
Mary Sue is overused as a pejorative, but it’s a real thing.
I think what really defines the Mary Sue/Marty Stu is the reactions of other characters and the world itself. People focus on the character’s eye or hair color, or being hyper competent, but that isn’t actually the problem.
The issue is when the other characters’ personalities warp around Mary/Marty. So, Mary/Marty can be lauded or picked on, but the reactions don’t make sense with how the other characters have been developed or how the world as written exists. Mary/Marty can be obnoxious to the point where you want to beat the character to death reading the story, but every other character treats Mary/Marty as if they’re brilliant and charming. Or, although the character has all the most wonderful traits, every single other character (no matter how nice) loathes Mary/Marty and picks on them for no apparent (or world-relevant) reason [if you tell me the world is super racist and Mary/Marty is of a different race, then the cruelty is explained– wouldn’t want to read the book of unending misery, mind you– but this is not indicative of Mary/Marty].
If the whole world warps around someone, then why the whole world warps around them needs to be the point of the story. When it happens and this is treated as totally normal and never examined– that’s when you’re actually looking at Mary/Marty.
This is also my understanding of the term(s) Mary Sue/Marty Stu
Interesting. I had heard of “Mary Sue” applied only to stories where the female protagonist magically and unrealistically had expert skills in everything. She overcame every obstacle with ease and dazzled the dashing hero(es) while maintaining perfect beauty and charm. In other words, “Mary Sue” is any vanity story written by naive female writers, heh. I had not realized the term could also be aimed at realistic female protagonists who are competent and whom males find threatening, but I should have guessed.
Moderator R says
In its pejorative, dismissive usage, it is. The fact that it originated from fanfic (which is mostly female written), doesn’t help.
The term Mary Sue used in a derogatory manner will probably now fade and be replaced by „Galadriel“ – due to the complete failure of some utterly incompetent male writers…
Anyway, thank you Mod R for the explanation; I did not know the origin story though I knew the meaning.
So…”Matilda” (Roald Dahl) is a Mary Sue?
Moderator R says
To reiterate, not every female character with a gift or a skill is a Mary Sue, and the term is meant as a quality insult 🙂
Matilda is a character of children fantasy fiction, who is therefore developed in the limits of children fiction characters- but even so has nuances that allow us to see she is far from flawless, best beloved, instantly successful with no boundaries in everything she tries. Once her potential is fulfilled to the level of her needs, her supernatural gifts disappears. It was there to make a point 🙂
I have to disagree with you about a Mary Sue being a competent female character. Mary Sues are perfect right out of the box. There’s no room for character development, no flaws to overcome, no lessons learned, no struggle (hence, no drama), nothing. Nothing is both unreal and boring. Competent female characters can be written that have something they need to work on – the competence should be limited, like it is for most real people. There are many things I am not competent in, but a few that I am.
Moderator R says
I did not say a Mary Sue is a competent female character ????.
I said the term, despite of its original intended meaning (which you have illustrated), has become malignantly applied wide-brush in pop culture to skilled female characters. My point was that NOT every competent or gifted female character is one, and the popular usage implies gender bias.
For further reading, please see https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2015/12/28/10672628/star-wars-force-awakens-rey-mary-sue , https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/what-is-a-mary-sue-meaning/
Interesting to me that “Mary Sue” is applied specifically to female characters as if you need to divide male from female and judge them separately. If you remove gender as a consideration, the problem with these characters becomes bad writing and boring characters.
But that is about what we expect from our modern stories. If you go back in culture and mythology heroes were often invincible and uncomplicated. The stories were more about lessons for the listener, not exciting or engaging characters. Times and needs change.
Patricia Schlorke says
Hmmm…an interesting post you gave us Mod R. Try not to scream too much tonight as the comments come in. You might choke on the candy you’re eating which would not be good for the BDH tamer. 😀
I’ve heard of a lot of the terminology you have up above. No comment from me except have a safe Halloween everyone.
As for Roman…always the groomsman, never the groom (unless that changes in future books). 😉
Diane E Wilson says
Thank you! “Competence porn” is a lovely term, and I’d love to see more of it in the news each day!
Hmm, I think the romance glossary is missing the explanation of „shipping“… 😉
Moderator R says
That’s because we explained shipping on the blog before ???? https://ilona-andrews.com/2022/the-bdh-flotilla/
Didn’t know that Mary Sue started in Star Trek Fanfic! Thanks for that nugget of information…I foresee that coming out in the next School Fundraising Quiz Night!
For me personally, the only overly competent female protagonists I have ever had issues with were written by men. Certain male authors don’t seem able to write female characters unless they are self-deprecatingly perfect at everything, or else somewhere on the opposite end of the spectrum.
As it happens, I read far more non-male authored fiction these days than male authored.
Fascinating new terms for me. From the description of Mary Sue, it seems that Karen is similar from a derogatory political view where Mary Sue is from a derogatory literary view. I heard of Karen just a few months ago and Mary Sue today.
You can combine both now and the result is „Galadriel“ … 🙁
A Korbel says
I have long understood a Mary Sue to be the a character that is the (sometimes overly) idealized version of the author, providing thinly veiled wish fulfillment. I.e. Mary Sue is beautiful, brilliant, and possesses all the talents the author doesn’t but wishes they did.
I do like this version as well.
Moderator R says
Yes, especially in its fanfic origins, the Mary Sue characters were self-inserts of the author, who engaged in wish fulfilment.
Whilst true, caricatural Mary Sues do exist, the point of my blog post was to underline that the way the term is applied now in pop culture is dismissive and misogynistic whenever a female character shows skill: see Hermione in Harry Potter, Rey in Star Wars, Kate Daniels etc.
I have never seen Hermione labeled as Mary Sue; I have seen Ginny Weasly called a Mary Sue (I disagree).
Rey – now that is debatable. Mary Sues are made by bad storytelling, and Disney‘s Star Wars storytelling went from mediocre to abysmal to utterly laughable.
Kate? Who called Kate a Mary Sue? *seeing red* Karsaran! I’d!
Grr. autocorrupt! Ud! I wanted to say Ud!
What drives me crazy is that I read a lot of reviews both good and bad and I HATE it when posters throw in terms like “Mary Sue” or “Deus ex machina ” as if everyone knows what they are just like that and don’t have to stop reading the review and search on Google for the definitions. But I do hear a lot of distain in the reviewers voice when they mention that the character is a “Mary Sue”. Why can’t female characters be smart, confident, and competent? It’s like a “real” female is not like that and only in books or films can a female be competent and then it spoils the storyline. Arrgh!
Moderator R says
That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to explain a few of the terms. Judging by the comments, I may have failed, but it’s ok ????
Is seems to me that the complains about your definition of Mary Sue feels more political than it is to me. Something which you touch on, but I think it is more relevant than you seem to, is that it is most common in fanfic, which is known for bad writing.
From what I remember, most of the best examples of Mary Sues in writing have come from fanfic where the author puts in a self insert to romance the various characters from the original material.
Nowadays, I have seen it a fair bit in some films and TV shows, but, while I haven’t seen most of them despite trying, they seem pretty justified. These shows and films end up having a massive disconnect between non-critics and the critics with the latter giving a glowing review and claim all of the bad reviews are because of racism/sexism/other bigotry.
Moderator R says
Well, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion ????.
Since we will not be discussing fanfic but published works by established authors, I didn’t focus on the fanfic dimensions of the character trope, except for establishing its origins. It isn’t suitable for our purpose ????, which I thought was self evident.
I wanted to establish that the common usage in mass culture atm is one intended to be offensive, so if people do want to apply it or read it about any of the characters, they know what the context is.
I had never heard the term “competence porn” before. It sounds like stories I generally enjoy, like Leverage. Those are the fun stories where the answer isn’t always obvious.
Thanks for the definitions!
Totally not about writing –
1) How are the winters in Transylvania?
2) Which seasons would you recommend travel in that part of Europe?
Moderator R says
1) Long. And snowy.
2) I think autumn is really beautiful ????. The Carpathian forests with autumn leaves are spectacular, and the harvest foods are yummy. So I’d say September/October, before the cold and snow hits ????.
I think that the key feature in a Mary/Gary Sue is that their powers and accolades are unearned.
I agree with those commentators who assert that the key feature in a MarySue/ Gary Stu character is that their powers and accolades are unearned and often seem to be the outcome of poor/ lazy writing. It is easier to give a character sone magical talent/ insight/ skill than show them developing that skill.
I believe that one of the reasons the original Star Wars trilogy is so loved is that the story showed Luke undertaking the “ hero’s journey” whereby he trained and learnt and was mentored and developed his Jedi skills.
I enjoyed the latest trilogy as entertainment but was left feeling disappointed because I felt the writers and film makers missed an opportunity to have Rey develop from a scavenger eking out a living on a “backwoods” planet into a truly awesome protagonist by showing her developing skills and learning from and being mentored by characters such as Han, Leila, Luke whom she encountered eg how to pilot a spacecraft, how to fight with a light sabre etc, as she undertook her journey. It would have also been a respectful gesture to those characters and the struggle they had been through fighting the Empire during the intervening years.
I’m not sure if the stories equate to “hero’s journey” stories but two of my favourite female hero sci fi films are Alien (and Aliens) and Rogue One. Both female protagonist are more reluctant heroines who do what they have to to survive and protect others. To be fair to the commentators who criticise Rey as a Mary Sue, most hold up Ripley as an example of a strong female character.
No one could ever accuse Kate Daniels or Dina or Maud or any other IA characters of being Mary Sues. They practiced and developed their skills and competence but all of them still have lessons to learn and accept this as the price for continuing to grow as a person. The authors imbue these characters with brains and physical/ magical potential but they studied and practiced to reach the skill level and competence they achieved. Maud didn’t survive on Karhari and become Maven for the Krahrs by accident. She is smart, determined, ethical and skilled with her sword. Dina was right when she predicted ( towards the end of One Fell Sweep) when Maud was saying it would take a lot of work to win over another Vampire House, that “ You will roll over them like a bulldozer. By the end of this year they will be eating out of your hand.” If Dina, Maud and Klaus hadn’t listened to their parents and absorbed the knowledge about different galactic species and developed their skills none of them would have had the success they now enjoy.
Ripely in the original Alien film was written as a man’s part. When Sigourney Weaver was cast, they kept the script the same (or so I heard). I think that’s why Ripley is the fist competent and believe-able female character I ever saw in a movie. Her character isn’t defined by her relationship to a male, she doesn’t have a love interest, she’s not portrayed as a babe. Just a gal doing her job…
Yes Pat I’ve read that Ripley was written as a male character originally.
What a happy circumstance that they cast Sigourney Weaver who gave us one of the best characters in a sci fi film: just a gal doing her job…..
I’m glad they recognised what an iconic character Ripley is and made some sequels . One of my favourite lines is in Aliens when she confronts the alien monster and wants to save Newt (the little girl) and says “ Get away from her you b**ch!”
The answer seems to be write good characters who, whether male or female, engage the audience. I guess the challenge is for writers to create female characters who, as you observed above, are not defined by their relationship to a male or are TSTL or any of the other usual female character tropes.
Thanks Mod R!
I was wondering what the heck competence porn was lol
Also I always thought a Mary Sue was a female character who was not competent but who wanted to be saved by hero and not do anything for herself… interesting!
Moderator R says
That sounds more like a Damsel in Distress trope ????
I, too, thought Mary Sue was an overly lauded character with no actual skills who gets saved but somehow gets all the credit.
Wait that means we wont have a new pool? I need another pool. There were 2 characters that I couldnt vote and are in bad position. We should get a new pool after every new friinday. Also it would be more interesting this way.
Moderator R says
There will be new polls, but maybe not every Friday if characters prove to be very popular (Roman came really close in votes to number 1).
Occasionally romances have a female main character who can be described as TSTL–too stupid to live. She meets the evil master criminal/blackmailer/whatever in the abandoned monastery alone at midnight instead of enlisting the help of her lover/family/friends, etc. I generally put the author responsible on my “one and done” list.
Or the TSTL character that continually makes the same mistake again and again. I cringe when the “wash, rinse, repeat” TSTL character appears.
I love competence porn! I think that Sweep of the Blade counts. Would love recommendations from others.
Moderator R says
We will be keeping book recommendations from other authors to the special book recommendation posts, but I can give you one of Ilona’s recent recs that fits in the category https://ilona-andrews.com/2022/only-bad-options-by-jennifer-estep/
Somehow, the Horde seems to have missed this:
Guess what doesn’t constitute a cliffhanger, despite the cries of a certain Horde I won’t mention here by name? The protagonist’s brother showing up for a chat at the end of the book, when the protagonist is safe, healing and loved, planning her wedding after she successfully defeated the Big Threat. ::blows raspberry::
if it is what I believe it to be, December 13th cannot come fast enough!
Moderator R says
I have a feeling it may not be: I’m referring to the ending of Sweep of the Blade which is oft called a cliffhanger, and it isn’t.
Oh. I’m sorry,that makes sense now that you mentioned it. Thanks for redirecting my enthusiasm!
Scott D Patlin says
To the extent that “Mary Sue” has retained some meeting, if it hasn’t been completely wiped out by bias, I think it suggests a degree of competence that fails to be explained by the character’s background. An experienced star fleet officer brought on board to solve a problem she was the leading expert on, rather than a newbie who was inexplicably good at everything, would not be a Mary Sue as the term was originally understood.
Note that this is not suggesting in any way that Mod R is incorrect. Whatever useful aspects of the term “Mary Sue” may have had (and it is useful to be aware that your characters should have a background that explains their skills) the meaning becomes lost in the sexist application.
I would like to publicly acknowledge Mod R. They are doing a great job. 🙂
thank you mod R
love your posts
found this interesting and useful
Yes!! Mod R = legend!! Onya Mod R!! ❤️❤️❤️
Anna L says
love the blog post. I celebrated halloween by listening to first inkeeper book with graphic audio adaptation and was backing out of my driveway with the dakhata fight playing at full blast, and was really tempted to roll down my windows and scare teenagers. I was confused though why in sweep in peace they removed the scene with normal people trying to check in to the inn unless im misremembering the books
Moderator R says
The Graphic Audio are adaptations, they are “scriptified” and sometimes small scenes get removed for better flow, as long as they don’t change the story ????
Great post Mod R! Thank you! ????
Being a fan of Leverage, I love “competence porn”!
“Mary Sue” makes me think of MacGyver…????????♀️
I’ve mostly seen the Mary Sue/ Gary Stu term in context with the more unrealistic plots and endings vs actual competence. Like along the lines of, “Timmy fell in the well!? Thank goodness Lassie just happened to have a rope & we taught her to tie knots with her teeth yesterday!”
That said, I’m not against a little convenient plotting…it is fiction after all and along with a happy-ish ending I don’t wanna wade thru pages of extraneous detail just to say they finally gotten done.
So. Keep the competence porn coming, pls, House Andrews!! (sigh, Happy, happy)
Elizabeth Crandall says
The podcast “Intentionally Blank” with Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells has a great episode: I think called Is Gandalf a Mary Sue? Funny and great discussion at the same time!
Interesting, I’ve never heard of a Mary Sue before. I don’t think I’ve actually run across such a character in anything I’ve read either.
I never considered Klaus showing up as a cliff hanger, there’s no drama there. More like foreshadowing (we hope! hehe).
Say no to gender bias! Although I am not a fan of any character,
suddenly and without a satisfying story explanation, being amazing at something that requires skill and practice.
Not that this would ever apply to Ilona Andrews (sacrilege!) but TSTL – too stupid to live and DNF – did not finish. I DNF when the lead is TSTL or a mysogenist.
Great post – thank you. Didn’t know the Mary Sue reference, but makes sense. Have come across these kind of characters before but just thought of them as rather boring and avoided the author afterwards.
There is another type – I am not sure if it is a type or more like a female idea/view/stereotype – that I absolutely abhor, it makes my skin break out in a rash everytime – it is this woman who is a trained killer/coldblooded assassin but at the same time a flirting bunny who wriggles around pouting and throwing herself at every male character while having the emotional depth of a teacup. Don’t know if it is a male fantasy going bananas or whatever makes writers believe in this, but argh.
While writing this I am thinking of male characters who more or less fit the same scheme (with less wriggling perhaps) and they don’t strain my patience the same way, I just accept them as shallow and boring. Might be my own bias or just that I have less acceptance of reading a female “hero” like this.
My perfect heroines, with all their imperfections, are women like Kate Daniels, Andrea, Dali, Catalina.
Mod R, you didn’t have Andrea in the list of possibilities but please add her to the list. Gunmetal Magic is my favourite book in the “ world of Kate Daniels” oeuvre so I would love some insight into the events when she returned and took out the boudas who tortured her and her mum. I assume she released the prisoners that were chained up.
I would also enjoy finding out how Ascanio matures ( or will we find out more in Blood Heir 2 ?)
I’m only sad that Leon’s name wasn’t on the list. His would be the stories I want most.
But I am so glad we will be having stories!
My favorite example of a Gary Stu is Batman. Think about it – Bruce Wayne is the smartest guy ever, just a human, but can beat literally almost any hero or villain out there. Amazing martial artist, “world’s greatest detective,” blah blah blah. Especially in older stories before he developed much of a personality.
yo I really wish you hadn’t put that spoiler in about Sweep of the Heart. Some of us are waiting for it all to be released and that is a huge spoiler in 2 different ways.
Moderator R says
There is no spoiler for Sweep of the Heart in any way ????.
The cliffhanger reference is obviously about Sweep of the Blade, Klaus showing up to talk to Maud.
Lynda Manning-Schwartz says
While we are explaining designations, how about “Urban Fantasy” versus “Contemporary Fantasy” and why are the Innkeeper series Urban Fantasy/Paranormal books?
Sorry I disagree with your description of Mary Sue because it makes it sound like anti female prejudice. It’s not. “It is when skills and abilities of a character that go beyond the realm of believability in to wish fulfillment & fantasy. Often these characters have the same abilities as other characters but 100x better. Fan fic is notorious for these errors but they can be seen in TV film and novels to.” In the fantasy book realm it is often called the power up or God syndrome where characters become so over powered in a game of one-up-manship that all that is left for them is to become God’s. Thieves World being a notorious example . Thankfully The Andrew’s don’t make either of these mistakes
Lisa Lenox says
I hadn’t thought of the Mary Sue character in the way you mentioned. I confess I’ve been dismissive of some heroines because of this. Some of them were simply heroine-type characters that were painted too broadly in clumsy hands, usually pulling a deus ex machina to get her out of a pickle rather than any real competence. But when good writers do it, that is, write a “Mary Sue “, they have depth and usually a pretty big personal flaw that hinders them in some way.
But I hadn’t thought of it in terms of what it is, which is a subtle form of sexism. Even when applied by a woman, you can bet on her opinion being influenced by the (white male patriarchy). I know mine was. Part of that is being an aging boomer. I’m learning better though. Thank you.
Thank you Mod R for teaching me something today! I, like many others in the comments, always thought a Mary Sue was someone who randomly was good at everything with no backstory explaining how they developed their skills. However I never knew where the term came from or considered the gendered bias in the term.
Also, the tidbit about Klaus got me hoping that in a future vote/story/FrInnday/novel he shows up again!
Thank you for giving Paula Smith her due. 1973 was really the early days of Trek fandom and there were way too many very young writers seeing print (or memeograph) that were all just too too too perfect in every way, especially for Kirk or Spock. Although to be honest, I encountered the term in a Leslie Fish filksong.
I have resented the misappropriation for the term for competence.
I think it applies to anyone who just happens to find a new, previously not available, talent when circumstances call for it. part of the reason I quit reading Anita Blake and Sookie Stackhouse.
love the competence porn term. There is something so satisfying about a character that can and does.
Ships Cat says
I once wrote a Mary Sue story, only the Mary Sue was my cat. She pulled it off successfully, but that is cats for you.
I get that Clean Sweep is not a romance. I get that Sweep of the Blade is. I completely understand the difference between the 2. But that got me thinking… What about Sweep In Peace?
Theres very little that makes it seem like a romance novel, almost nothing. And yet the storyline wouldn’t really exist as is if it wasn’t for the (fledgling) relationship between Dina and Sean. The ending would have obviously been different, because Dina wouldn’t have gone to such great lengths to save him if she didn’t care about him. But George admits to knowing that the 2 had history and that he manipulated things to take advantage of that history.
So without that ‘love’ interest the entire story would be different. Which seems to be the definition of a romance. So is Sweep in Peace a romance?
Moderator R says
I would say no, because the Arbitrators hosting the Nexus negotiations at the inn would have happened with or without Sean and Dina romantic feelings. As you say the details would have been different, but the story wouldn’t fall apart 🙂 . Once there are romantic elements in a book, the storyline will be influenced by them, that’s just writing a cohesive story.
I would also argue it’s not a definite HEA, and that Dina & Sean are only cemented in One Fell Sweep Chapter 14, when Sean says:
“I’ll never leave you,” Sean said. “If you want to stay an innkeeper, I will be one with you. If you want to do something else, I will do that with you. Whatever comes next, I’ll be there,”
What Sean says there makes me tear up every time I read it. It’s the best.
Thank you Mod R. To coin a phrase and eyebrow lift ‘ Fascinating!’
A side note for those who love HEA stories. When my daughter was about 4 or 5, we were reading one of her favorite bedtime stories. It happened to be a sort of fairytale that ended as HEA. When we finished the story and talked about the characters, we talked about what if Mommy and Daddy were in a story like that. Would our house be a castle, etc. Then I asked her if she thought Mommy and Daddy would live happily ever after. She answered very adamantly, ‘No!”. It took me back a bit, like whaaatt?? I asked why we couldn’t live happily ever after. She very solemnly explained, “Because you have kids!”. We shared this story recently at her wedding and it got a pretty good chuckle from all the parents.
I’ve never heard the term “Competence Porn” before, but I’m definitely a fan. also, as an aside, every time I see “BDH” my brain fills it in as “Big Damn Heroes” because of Firefly.
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, mod R for the post.
Educational. I will have to think about your definitions as I really don’t read “romance”. However I read Christine Feehan because she is one of my sibling’s favorite authors. Another only reads Highlander books. The things on does for family. ????