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World's Finest Workshops Kalina: Mary Sue or Not? (Spoiler Warning!)

Discussion in 'The Story Board' started by KPTitan, Nov 22, 2008.

  1. KPTitan

    KPTitan The Doc is in...

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    Okay...I'm working on a fanfiction series called Teen Titans: Neo-Generation, and the Original Character for this is Kalina. I think I might need some help on the Mary-Sue issue, after reading this closed thread:

    http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?t=165066

    Kalina is kind of based on me, which I guess is what's called a self-insertion character. When I was in school, I had trouble making friends because I was considered "different" because I'm incredibly shy, and up to a certain point a little anti-social due to getting bullied in the past. Kalina almost has the same scenario, because she was always getting picked on and nobody didn't want to be friends with her because her hydrokinetic and cryokinetic powers made her "weird" compared to other people. So, in my fanfic she has a tough time developing friendships with the Teen Titans and other characters in my fic. But she seems to develope a friendship with Raven faster than with everybody else because they both have anti-social personalities, and Raven helps Kalina in controlling her powers better (since hydro and cryo-kinetic abilites are controlled with the mind, and Raven has kinetic abilities), when Kalina's powers were only limited to creating waves for recreational purposes and levitating small streams and/or spheres of water.

    The Basics:

    The ties between these shows is something that I am VERY HARD at work on, trust me on that.

    Second Basics:

    Third Basics:

    I know it sounds all confusing, but that's why I seek your guy's help on this, while at the same time try to sort things out on my own. All I want to do right now is make sure she is NOT a Mary Sue. Is she?:confused: I really want some of you mods to help me out, especially since there's not that many members here coming here anymore. Honest to god my brain's gonna explode...
     
  2. Dr. Shore

    Dr. Shore Forever a N00b

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    Normally I don't have a problem with Mary Sues, but I can see why many people dislike them. The term "Mary Sue" is ever-evolving, depending on what young contemporary readers find as cliche, contrived, or cheesy. For example, in all fairness, there's nothing wrong with the colors purple, pink, or emerald, but because those colors are so often associated with the "exotic beauty" of someone fantastic or related to fantasy, people place them in the very large category that makes up all kinds of "Mary Sues". I used to think that Mary Sues were just one thing, but in fact they can be just about anything.

    The first level of a Mary Sue is its relationship to the author. At the risk of sounding horribly blunt, opponents of Mary Sue writing will immediately call out any character that is "based" off its author. There's no one reason why Mary Sue critics (hereafter referred to as MSCs) dislike author surrogates or self-insertions. Some MSCs say that it's simply an amateur way of writing: the author can't think up a character that can stand on its own, so the author creates one that based of himself or herself and thus easier to write. Others say that author surrogates in fanfiction are no more than a pathetic attempt at wish fulfillment: the author has a daydream about spending time or saving the world with his or her favorite cartoon characters and decides to write up a story about it. People who've read a lot of fanfiction feel that such an author's story isn't worth their energy (or, in some cases, their time), since they've read so many similar stories before. And this is why MSCs tell those authors to trash the story and start over.

    The second level of a Mary Sue is its relationship to the other characters. This level really only applies to fanfiction, but to some it's the most important. MSCs read fanfiction because they most likely want to read about their favorite characters, and so many such readers get upset when they read fanfiction that instead becomes a story about one author-created character that comes in and upstages all the rest. In an action-cartoon, said upstaging often occurs in a fight or tactical maneuver, resulting in the canon characters appearing less spectacular than usual, and the author's character is smarter and/or cooler than they are. Mary Sues are designed to do one thing: steal the spotlight. It's difficult for a MSC to label a character as a Mary Sue if all that character does is add depth to the canon characters, since it's their story in the first place. More appropriately, it's their universe. And that's why this second level only applies to fanfiction.

    One solution for the author who loves their character is to take them out of the fanfiction context and put them in the original fiction context. This allows near-free reign on what you do with the character, to a point. If you indeed decide to go that route, you'll have a whole new batch of critics to contend with—namely those who want to keep original fiction "original."

    But if you want to stay with fanfiction, MSCs would say that you have to tone down the role of your character, enough to where the character isn't stealing the spotlight. The character can still be central to a certain extent, but in fanfiction the canon characters have to run the show. Consider a character like Andrea Beaumont in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. She played a very important part of the story, but the whole time she was ultimately a supporting character to Batman/Bruce Wayne. The movie delved into her past at certain points, and it even showed a romantic relationship between her and Bruce. The writers go so far as to imply that she is, in an odd way, the reason Bruce decided to become Batman. So, why is she not considered a Mary Sue? Well, for one, the writers never made Bruce's story take the back seat. They made Andrea's story important but it didn't surpass Bruce's. Another character that stays on the fence of Mary Sue-ness is Chloe Sullivan from the CW's Smallville. The reason I find that Chloe isn't condemned as a Mary Sue is because she never at any point upstages the main character, Clark Kent. If she is getting bashed and called a Mary Sue, I haven't seen it. At times Chloe desires a relationship with Clark, is skilled at hacking, and is a genuinely good person, but she isn't someone who makes Clark look like someone who isn't Superman. The story stays his. Now, the debate whether or not Clark is a Mary Sue is a whole nuther deal, one that I don't really want to get into.

    By the way, the many writers of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Smallville are not the original authors; so, in a way, their work is fanfiction too!

    Anyway, back to the second level of a Mary Sue. I already described that upstaging canon characters is something to be avoided if you don't want your character to be labeled a Mary Sue, but there's another part of the second level, and I think I already hinted at it. Original Characters Romances with Canon Characters. This in itself isn't a bad thing, but the reason why it gets lobbed into the same basket of Mary Sueism is because, if the fan-author-created romance is a central part of the story, MSCs and readers in general question the author's motives for writing this story in the first place. They might draw the conclusion that your character hooking up with a canon character is an act of wish fulfillment. And although friendships are less scrutinized than romances, the rule still applies to them too. So with character relationships you have to tread carefully around the MSCs. Ask yourself: since this is fanfiction, as my character's relationship adding depth to the canon character(s), or is it adding depth to my own character instead? Who really makes out in the relationship? You described your character as having a friendship with Raven, and they hit it off because they can relate to each other. That, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. Raven isn't an entirely unique character, so it shouldn't surprise readers that there's someone else out there that's remotely like her. I'm talking, of course, in terms of personality, not in terms of background, origin, or powers. Those three things, in fanfiction, you really want to stay away from—not because they're bad, but because sight of them attracts MSCs.

    Probably the most important thing to remember or aspire to when writing relationships between characters is not to have the canon character do anything that they wouldn't normally do. Of course this is difficult when the show's authors can't keep their own characters consistent. And the emotional depth of any canon character is never fully explored or explained, so that's a grey area too.

    I guess a method you could consider referring to would be this: original character's actions cause an appropriate effect with the canon characters. You described your character has having a "tough time" developing friendships with the Titans except Raven. Yet when Raven met the Titans they accepted her. So it can't just be a "they don't like my personality" thing; there must an action (cause) provided by your character and a reaction (effect) by the canon character. For example, if your character were to accidentally let a villain escape, she would have problems with Robin, who even hurt Starfire's arm when he thought she incompetently let Slade escape. For your character, this would be especially effective if she repeatedly let the villain escape, but not necessarily on purpose. Starfire, Cyborg, and Beastboy are generally nice to everyone, so it could be difficult showing them having a tough time with your character. The only exception is to do something that seriously causes a rift, such as the racism example utilized in "Troq". A less effective measure would be to do the reverse: have the canon characters do something regular that grossly offends the new girl. Beastboy tells jokes; maybe one time he goes too far and tells a sexist joke. That puts your character at odds with him in a logical way that fits his character. In my opinion it's less effective but it could work all the same.

    Trying to keep with the information you provided, you described a character that is horribly shy. I suppose she could have a tough time with the other Titans if they tried to reach out to her. Robin, however, would probably just leave her alone and give her space, as he does with Raven. Cyborg and Beastboy would occupy themselves with pizza and videogames, but Starfire would really be the only one who's persistent to be friends with the new girl. If your character denies Starfire the chance repeatedly, and then lashes out with an offense action, that could put her at odds with Starfire. If memory serves, Starfire was none too pleased with Beastboy when he pulled a prank on her that went too far, such as in "Forces of Nature." Again, you have to consider how all the characters would logically react to your character: if she's shy and unpopular because she's a prankster, she might be better suited to hanging out with Beastboy, but he tells an offensive joke, that could distance her from him and she could end up alone—I'm not sure if that's what you want. You never actually said she was a prankster, but from experience I know that that's a reason why people are bullied: they're considered annoying. So it could work in the story.

    An issue that is often forgotten but often reiterated is how the character becomes friends with the canon characters. For the Teen Titans, they don't just take in anybody, especially since the incident with Terra, but they do hand out communicators to anyone who seems relatively superheroic. So the possibility of an original character becoming an "honorary Titan" isn't all that strange or illogical, but as to actually becoming one of the five... whoa, I don't know about that. I don't know if there's a way to do that and not have some reader get upset about it, especially the MSCs. Most successful appearances by original characters that negate them being classified as Mary sues are what I'd call "one time team ups", where the characters meet yours, have an adventure, and then go their separate ways. Other than that suggestion, I can't really help you there. If your character didn't appear on the show, then it's going to be hard to convince MSCs that your character is not only now one of the canon, but that it's not a Mary Sue. Again, sorry I can't help there. What I can say is that how your character meets the Titans should be logical. From what I've seen, the Titans aren't a bunch to turn away someone who's shivering in the cold, begging pathetically to be let in, and showing powers that are a danger to the community. In my opinion, they'd have to take that person in. I'd question their status as heroes if they didn't.

    The third level of a Mary Sue is its relationship to the environment, society, or universe of the canon characters. I might have already touched on this bit earlier. MSCs hate characters who not only upstage the canon characters but upstage in entire setting of the canon characters, such as being an all-important "chosen one." The reason for this, again, is because it makes the story about the original character instead of the canon characters. If a character is really that important, all the others seem completely insignificant. Our beloved characters take the back seat to someone we don't even know. Sure, the author knows the original character, and that's why he or she loves that character so much, but readers will be left wondering why they should care about that character—or, at this point, the story itself. However, this doesn't mean you have to make your character uninteresting. Characters who have depth are fine. What they shouldn't do is dominate the plot. The universe wasn't created for them, so the author of the character should write appropriately. Otherwise, write original fiction that's not connected to anything.

    Sure there are other levels to having a Mary Sue. For some reason angst is a big one that MSCs slap the Sue label on, but it's really more of a cliche than a Mary Sue goof. The material you've provided describes a series of encounters that span across many canon universes—a daunting task, to be sure. I can't tell you how to write those. What I can tell you is that, to avoid the Mary Sue Critics, try to not have the universes and characters within them become secondary to your own.

    Remember, Mary Sues are designed to do one thing: steal the spotlight. While that isn't inherently a bad thing, it's how much of the spotlight they steal that the MSCs judge the character by.

    Good luck and happy writing!
     
  3. Radical Raven

    Radical Raven Bow bow bow, bow bow bow...

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    I don't know who Kalina is, but you deserve a cee-gar.:)
     
  4. KPTitan

    KPTitan The Doc is in...

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    Who, me or Dr. Shore? I don't smoke, lol.

    I kinda had a change in plans...but that's a really interesting (yet long;) ) post. I'll keep looking back at it as a reference.
     
  5. Radical Raven

    Radical Raven Bow bow bow, bow bow bow...

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    Shore. I would offer you one, though. Cyber-cee-gars are non-deadly.
     
  6. KPTitan

    KPTitan The Doc is in...

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    Unless it malfunctions and explodes in my mouth due to saliva contact.:p

    Anyways....I'm kinda having a little bit of trouble planning. My original idea was to have each "season" or saga laid out in "episodes", but after doing some thinking, it's gonna be too hard for me to handle. So, I'm gonna write two seperate stories. The first one is going to be a Teen Titans/Code Lyoko crossover. A cliffhanger at the end would then carry on to the next story, which deals with Malina's (yeah, I changed her name 'cause it sounds prettier and more Polynesian to me:shrug: ) past about her mother's disapearance and whatnot. This one would be a Teen Titans story crossing over with Pokemon (please, PLEASE don't laugh at me) and something else. Said something else is where I'm stuck. I just recently got hooked into Ben 10: Alien Force and now I can't decide whether to stick with Static Shock or replace it with Alien Force. I'm kinda leaning towards Alien Force, since the characters in Static are hard for me to "stay in character with", and seeing that Alien Force's characters are well more developed for me to understand better.

    And....I have added a new character which would be in the first story: Adrian. He's another OC of mine, and he's evil....just so ya know.

    *takes deep breath* Now that I'm done babbling about what I've got for the basics, my REAL problem that I'm having is how to organize my ideas. Any suggestions?
     
  7. Dr. Shore

    Dr. Shore Forever a N00b

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    Sad to say I've never written a cartoon crossover, so I don't know if there's really anything I can help you with there. It sounds like you're more confident talking about Ben 10 Alien Force, so if I were you I'd go there. It's always easier to write what you know or to write what you like. If you're in the mood for a challenge, writing-wise, go for Static Shock.

    What I think the biggest plot challenge you'll face is finding a way to mesh all the continuities together. Both Ben 10 and Pokemon have universes that almost exist outside of any other: for example, Ben Tennyson is considered to be a living legend and the only real protector of Earth by whomever he meets, which would present a logical error if he existed on the same planet as the Teen Titans, who also act as heroes and are relatively well-known. I suppose you could spin Pokemon in such a way that the little creatures are actually aliens and the "trainers" simply have level 4 technology--namely, the Poke-balls--but that would be weird because anything above level 2 is illegal on Earth in Ben 10's continuity. (As for Code Lyoko, I don't watch the show. Don't ask me why.)

    Static Shock, on the other hand, is a great space for crossovers, as long as they stay within the DC Animated Universe, which is why Static was able to team up with Superman, Batman, and the Justice League. Oddly enough, Teen Titans is a show that also can work relatively well as a crossover locale, but it's not strictly in the DCAU. Nevertheless it could work better with Static Shock, for instance, than with Pokemon. Why? Unlike Static Shock, the thing about Code Lyoko, Pokemon, and Ben 10 Alien Force is that there aren't superheroes in them, as far as I know anyway.

    I guess it all comes down to what you're trying to accomplish. If you're looking to write a crossover story where all of the shows' continuities can fit together... well, that will prove difficult. If you're just writing a story for the fun of it, then there's no real reason to ask for advice, IMHO.

    Hmm... then again... if you're trying to write something in the same ballpark genre as the "Jimmy-Timmy Power Hour", then please disregard all of the above. Those two shows couldn't possibly fit together, yet the writers simply made them "alternate dimensions" or something. I guess that could work too. Not quite as clever, but it could work.

    Anyway, if you've got any more questions on Malina's character, the original topic of this thread, I'll see if I can answer them.
     
  8. Atoragon

    Atoragon *random sound effects*

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    *raises hand* I has an idea. 'Twas actually inspired by a story where I loaned out my idea of the ESUN to a certain someone... Although I do despise "portal guns" or whatever, 'tis was gave me this idea...

    Since obviously these worlds cannot coexist in the same dimension and there is no Jimmy Neutron (or at least I hope...), say during prototypical testing a new version of the Fold Booster by the New U.N. Spacy (or the ESUN if ya want), a miscalculation in the complex algorithms that guide the Fold Booster's operation causes the Fold Booster to implode, creating a rift which in turn causes many parallel Fold signatures to collide. Where the collision of parallel Fold signatures occured (Earth), the normally seperate Fold signatures fuse, thus fusing the dimensions that are imprinted on those Fold signatures.

    *stares at above idea* I used the phrase "Fold signature" too many times... and in terms of the science behind it, I stump even myself... But, yeah... That was my two cents... If ya want to use it, I can assist... I can just imagine you now sending me an IM that says "WTF?" and how I lost you... *shrug*
     
  9. KPTitan

    KPTitan The Doc is in...

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    Hmm....now you got me thinkin', lol. That's good though.

    As far as crossing over Pokemon, it was gonna be just a few human characters is all. I've decided to replace Code Lyoko with Alien Force, simply that the main characters in CL don't have their weapons and abilities on Earth, as they do on Lyoko. But before I even start, I'm gonna have to watch Alien Force some more, I just recently got into it.:sweat: And studying the animation carefully, Alien Force almost looks like the animation of Teen Titans and Static Shock meshed in together, as far as how the characters look and whatnot (minus the anime-like expressions that TT has).

    If I remember correctly, Ben, Gwen, and Kevin officially become Plumbers in "Darkstar Rising", right? If so, I was going to use that as a way for it to crossover with TT:


    I thought of doing that since investigating crimes and conspiracies involving aliens on Earth would fall under the 'jurisdiction' of the Plumbers.
     
  10. Kid Carrion

    Kid Carrion Guest

    I'm sorry, but I have to say it, you lost me after two lines of your Mary Sue's description. Then I googled the term "Mary Sue" and figured out why.

    I don't think a Mary Sue could ever get the respect of the original fans, who always want to see familiar faces in about 70% of the stories.
     
  11. Plague Rat

    Plague Rat Disease-ridden rodent

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    I hate how Mary Sue is so broad of a term. I never considered a self-insert to be a Mary Sue, I just found it to be unoriginal. I think that everyone's characters though make up personalities of themselves, but completely basing them off yourself for EVERY SINGLE FANDOM (My ex-friend used to do that... and ironically thought I was unoriginal.) is just ridiculous in my opinion.

    Mary Sue, in my own view, is usually a character that is made for the single and only purpose of getting the main canon character's attention or being their love interest, with no flaws, absolute beauty, and attracts other characters as well. There's also the Mary Sue type where your character is all powerful and capable of defeating the other characters and winning every battle.

    A generic character background to avoid is the 'tragic melodramatic past' sort of cheesy, dramatic and unnecessary info which usually never helps in the characterization whatsoever.


    She doesn't sound really like a Mary Sue honestly, I think her background doesn't sound like too dramatic or traumatizing to be annoying or anything of that sort, and she doesn't seem to be going after any canon characters. And she certainly has flaws with controlling her powers.

    If you give her some differences between you and her, like with simple things like interests or specialties, that might help. At least with people comparing you and the character. It's also a big help if the character is designed to look nothing like you, because it at least shows that you have enough creativity to create a character with some of your personality traits, without making an entire clone of yourself.

    Hope that helps~
     
  12. Dr. Shore

    Dr. Shore Forever a N00b

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    Here's where primarily Mary Sues abound as I have seen them. Authors of the Mary Sue tend to forego giving the character really difficult challenges and instead use the time to show the character's level of awesomeness--whether it be defeating a canon foe or solving a problem, it's done with remarkable ease. The scale of difficulty is of course relative to the context of the story.


    It's hard to suggest, then, what exactly do to when you have a non-canon character who literally is "just that good" at what he or she does, and admittedly it would be asking too much to make the character any less skilled: we wouldn't ask Batman to cease being the world's greatest detective, would we? The only remedy I can think of is to have a situation that would of course be no problem for any of the characters (canon or sue) to fix, but things continue to get worse (namely, the problem either gets bigger, or more and more problems surface.) This provides an appropriate challenge that, while yes it does put the non-canon character on par with the canon characters, it doesn't make him/her seem greater than the canon characters or all of them combined.

    As for Malina*, I haven't yet seen the context in which she interacts with the other characters, nor have I seen and thus been able to determine her level of "awesomeness." So it goes without saying that I can't make any solemn jugdement on her in that regard.

    Yeah, I've seen this too, but it doesn't make quite as much sense in critiquing the character. Stuff like this usually makes the alleged Mary Sue seem more like a cliche--yet another character who suffered something so horrible that the audience must weep. But as for the device of a 'tragic melodramatic past' being unnecessary, that doesn't seem accurate in my opinion. A character's past is what shapes his/her present. An interesting backstory is necessary. Often what's most interesting is so because it comes from raw emotion (tragedy, for instance). So I guess my suggestion here is not to avoid tragic pasts, but to consider the reason for making the past in question tragic. Is the author simply trying to make the reader feel sorry for the character? Of course it's not an especially good idea to make a backstory sad simply for the sake of making it sad, and if there's no substantive reasoning behind the melodrama, then I don't think it should be there. But tragic pasts themselves are not characteristic of Mary Sues, so they shouldn't be a part of the critique.


    Then again, I just looked up the defintion of "melodrama." According to dictionary.com, it is "a dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect and that exaggerates emotion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization."

    So I guess I'll admit that's something to avoid. When I'm talking about tragic pasts, I'm talking about ones that follow in a nice cause-effect system where everything happens for a reason (plot-wise) and things make sense. However, I do believe that plot should be equally as important as characterization, but this is where I'll come into much debate with experienced writers who might say the opposite. I guess I would ask TripleS what he/she means by "never helps the characterization whatsoever", and providing an example would be cool too (if you've got the time, TripleS.)

    *Her name still is Malina, right? I change character names so often I can't keep up myself, but I try anyway.
     
  13. Plague Rat

    Plague Rat Disease-ridden rodent

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    I'm not saying that tragic pasts are ALWAYS unnecessary, what I meant is that some people will make a character have a tragic past of... say, a rape and yet the character seems to have no psychological damage or any effect on their sexuality. Most characters that go through that aren't the first person to jump into bed with someone, for starters.

    I guess my point is that some people make characters have tragic pasts for sympathy, but lack the ability to know how that tragedy really inflicts the character.
     
  14. KPTitan

    KPTitan The Doc is in...

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    I get what you're saying on that, I've seen plenty of examples of those on Fanfiction.net.

    I forgot who, but somebody mentioned something about being careful of self-inserts and basing everything of you on a character. I thought about that too, but I'm making sure not to overdo it. As far as I know, the only thing that me and Malina have in common is the anti-social sort of personality. Yeah, it's kinda hard for people to imagine me being anti-social after reading all my past posts.;)

    But basically right now, I'm a little more stuck than I was previously. I'm affraid of not including the characters in an equal amount throughout the story. And, I'd like to include Alien Force in it, but I'd kinda like to see how season 3 turns out, ya dig?

    EDIT: I'm still working on Malina's character design believe it or not....when I'm done, I MIGHT post a couple drawings of her later.
     

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