A way with worlds: 46 - Dark Mary Sue
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 2 of 2
We can miss creating Dark
Mary Sues for the simple reason that we treat the villains, the
antagonists, as plot devices. They're like the Big Bosses in
videogames - hulking images with a high (whatever) count. This
need to make the villain something almost outside of your
setting, to contrive a villain, is a gateway for Mary and Gary to
happily prance into your story world.
In short, if your villain
filled out a resume, and his last job would be listed as
"villain", then you have a Mary Sue Gateway waiting to
Dark Mary Sue's actually
irritate me more than regular Mary Sues - they seem to lean more
towards wish fulfillment, provoke even more excuses, and drag the
story down - especially if the hero is just someone for the
villain to push around.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT
Having seen some Dark Mary Sues, I can advise you to be
on the lookout for:
- Is the hero constantly
outsmarted by the villain? Does he succeed only by luck -
and you aren't writing a comedy? Is the hero basically a
- Is the villain so
charming, suave, debonair, and likable that you wonder
why they need an Army of Evil to take over the world when
most people probably like them better than whoever is in
- Does the villain have
inexhaustible resources? Can their bank account be mixed
up with the GNP of major world powers, yet they have no
reason to have such wealth?
- Does the villain have a
tragic story that grips everyone and makes them really
sympathetic despite the fact they commit genocide daily
to keep in practice?
- Does the villain's luck
run so much in his or her favor you figure they could
just WIN the world in a game of Poker and be done with
- Do you hate the
villain, but only because he or she is too perfect - is
their perfection more annoying than the fact that they
use Nuclear Death Rays to decimate cities?
If you see any of these
traits, put on your Mary Sue detector and aim it at your villain.
Villains can be Mary Sues, and are often more difficult
to diagnose as such. Writing realistic antagonists and keeping
the signs of Mary Sue-ism in mind can help.
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Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.