Earning Your Unicorn

Not much of a blog post today – got caught up staying home with a sick little girl (and trying to work from home as well, including after hour server migration stuff). Not very conducive to writing or blogging. Or anything else, really – unless you count hopping around on your hands and knees pretending to be Bolt while your daughter is either:

1) Penny
2) Dr. Calico
3) The Last Unicorn.

(yeah, I didn’t get it either – but it makes her happy, so whatever)

Anyway, I was thinking at some point today about Mary Sues. (or Gary Stu, whichever you prefer).  I seem to remember writing some awful piece of tripe when I was in about 6th grade. I was unicorn crazy then (and gee, I’m beginning to see a bit of a pattern with ms Lucy, go figure), and I wanted to write a story about one. But not just about a unicorn – about a young girl who had one.  (erm, yes – the beginning of the Sue).  So I think I was about a page into it – the girl was 12 and horribly good – cleaned the house, minded her parents and all that fun stuff. And on Christmas day, this winged unicorn shows up and declares he’s a gift from Heaven because she’s been so full of teh awesome.

The End.

And I remember sitting there going…hmmm.  Wow. That’s really boring. And not just because nothing happened. I mean – winged unicorns ranked pretty high on the coolness scale for me back then. But really – *nothing* happened. The girl’s dream was fulfilled, end of story.  And worst of all, she didn’t really have to do anything for it – no magical quest, no heartbreaking loss. She pulled a few dust bunnies out from under the bed.  Boggles the mind, eh? Then again, judging from the size of the dust bunnies currently beneath my bed, I’d grant a knighthood to whoever ventured under there, so maybe a winged unicorn isn’t too far off?

I’m still not sure why I remember it at all, honestly – except I think I sketched out a picture to go with it. But clearly, even at that age, I recognized a fake character when I saw it. And that’s not to say I don’t have Mary Sue elements kicking around my current work, though I try not to. There’s probably a fine line between incorporating things about your life into your work and going completely overboard.

Everyone loves the Mary Sue.  She can do no wrong and she *always* has all the answers. She could fart fire and the rest of the characters would sit around her ass and roast marshmallows..


So then what’s the point? On the other hand, I think in my effort to not have a Mary Sue, I tend to go the other way. Maybe give my characters a little *too* much tragic background. One pbp character I had was sold into slavery at the age of 12, raped, crippled and then abducted by pirates.  And then had her memory erased so she didn’t remember her kids or her husband.

Rolling your eyes yet?  Yeah, me too.  At the time, it was just useless backstory that I was trying to develop the character with, but looking back it, I pretty much want to slam my head into the keyboard.  I’ve since attempted to redefine the character, and the majority of that backstory is gone. Not to say there won’t be tragic elements in her life, but I’ve attempted to pull them back into the realm of “remotely realistic.”

Which brings me to Abby. Anyone who’s read SotI (beta readers and the like), will probably recognize that there’s a great deal of me in her. That’s not to say she’s a Sue – at least I hope not. She certainly isn’t perfect and I tried to make a decent balance as far as how other characters react to her – i.e. they’re not all falling at her feet *or* full of loathing right off the bat either. She’s jaded, has lost her mom and has a bum leg, among other thing – which is very much like me, although my mother died from cancer and not a car crash. I suppose you could make the argument that I’m using the story as some big catharsis. After all, Abby is in denial for the majority of the book, but to be honest, even when she starts down the path of acceptance, I never really get into too much detail about it. Maybe it’s too painful for me, even at this point.

But most of Abby’s flaws are self-inflicted. She could fix them, if she really wanted to (or at least keep them in control). That she chooses not to is indicative of several things, but hopefully not impending Suehood. In the end, though – she does move forward, grows out of the slump, hopefully becomes a better character for it.

This is something that Mary Sues never do, because they’re perfect, riding around on their big winged unicorns.

I suppose it’s saying something that I gave Abby a unicorn too. A small, cantankerous one that rolls around in her underwear drawer and bites people on the ass.

Perfect? No.

But I think she’s earned him.

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