Harley Quinn hyenaholic

Why Mary Sue Litmus Tests Suck

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Yeah, most Mary Sue Litmus Tests do suck. No, not because I failed - even though I have, once or twice - but for better reasons than that.

I'll start with a Litmus Test made for universal testing. There are several of them, and this one uses tick-boxes.

First of all, it asks if my character is the same gender as me. That's stupid. There are only two genders to pick from - male or female. So to avoid ticking that box, you need to DELIBERATELY make your character the opposite gender. Seems kinda unfair when there's so little to choose from.

Then it asks if we're in the same general age group. Teenager, or Twenty-something. Another unfair question. I'd say most people here are teenagers, or mid twenties. Therefore you'll probably be fans of teen fiction. Therefore to fit in with the characters you're hanging with, you need to be a teenager. Besides, why shouldn't we write characters for our age group? Writing what we know, the character will be more believable.

Then it asks if we share a sexual identity. There are three main sexual identities - straight, gay and bi. Again, a limited choice. Again, we're writing what we know. Besides, if we're fucking a canon who's straight, that's sticking with canon. That's not fair at all.

Another question asks if I think readers will like and empathise with my character. Why shouldn't I want readers to like my character? If she's gonna be a villain that might change things, but why should I have to write a character who will be deliberately disliked by readers to avoid that point?

Oh yeah, and why can't I pretend to myself that I am my character? It's not something that takes place in the story; why do my private fantasies come into it?

Further on, the quiz asks about names. Whether they chose her name, or whether their name is a verb. Well, some fandoms involve such names. If the character doesn't have a verb for a name they might stand out. There's quite a few questions that don't take into account that I might be doing it because that's the way the fandom goes, and I'm not talking about all of them. But one question asks if my character is persecuted by an authority figure. Yeah, she is. It's Starscream. He's an ASSHOLE. It'd be more Sueish if she was insulting him and didn't get some persecution for it.

It asks if the character is a teenager. What the hell is wrong with that? Besides, there's already been a question about age. If I answered yes to that one, being a teenager, I'll get another point here.

It asks if she has a drug habit or similar. But it's not until a further question that it asks if she doesn't suffer consequences. The test has many questions like that, asking about consequences in a later question when they should be pooled.

In other words, this character I have invented to take part in an adventure must be completely different to me, right down to gender and sexual preferences, and not stand out in any way. In other words, totally boring. Now I know Mary Sue often stands out a mile and is everything you want to be, but she may well be taking part in an adventure that would technically REQUIRE her to have a special ability or two to SURVIVE. Too many skills make her unrealistic, but one or two make her interesting. The occasional coincidental similarity - gender, or sexual identity - is pretty irrellevant. And this test adds points for features that would normally make her more normal, not asking about consequences until later on.

I'll go on to a different test - for Transformer fiction, but regarding negative points.

First, it asks if the character has wings on her butt. First of all, that's stupid. Second of all, it knocks twenty points off the score and excuses you from the rest of the test.

Secondly, if the character becomes a Transformer because she wanted revenge on an ex, that's negative 100 points.

Thirdly, if the character comes about in the ordinary way, so ordinary that you don't even talk about it, thats'd negative thirty points. I'd have thought having an interesting (if not crazy) backstory was better for the character and the story, but no, it looks like you need to be perfectly normal and boring.

Fourth, it says that if the character swaps factions, and gets shot for it, that's negative fifty points. This is one I got to tick off.

Fifth, it asks if she suffers from a pathological phobia of clowns. That's negative twenty.

Sixth, it asks if she sings Don't Cry For Me Argentina in a loud, bellowing voice, which is negative ten. Does that mean to knock off a few points, my character HAS to sing, badly? And they have to sing that song? Why that song?

Seventh, it says that if your character comes lurching out of their coffin you can knock off twenty points, because the writer of the test would like to see that.

And that right there says why this test sucks ASS. It's not about Mary Sue. It's about what the writer would like to see. Furthermore, your character can have all sorts of Sueish powers and events, but a couple of the above factors - like getting a perfectly normal repercussion from Megatron for defecting, or mentioning a fear of clowns, or wings on your ass - knocks off a shitload of those points. Why? Why does doing stupid things in your story get points taken off? It doesn't make your character less of a Sue when they're still stunningly beautiful and packed with guilt for things they didn't do.

There's way too many Litmus Tests like that. But with a resulting -18 score, I'm not going to complain about it.

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Fifth, it asks if she suffers from a pathological phobia of clowns. That's negative twenty.

Sixth, it asks if she sings Don't Cry For Me Argentina in a loud, bellowing voice, which is negative ten. Does that mean to knock off a few points, my character HAS to sing, badly? And they have to sing that song? Why that song?

Seventh, it says that if your character comes lurching out of their coffin you can knock off twenty points, because the writer of the test would like to see that.

Um...i think this test was satire.

From the last line of your post, i'm not entirely sure if you did or didn't realize that....

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I think for the most part those Litmus tests are wrong, if everyone followed canon, there would be similar stories being written by everyone and it would be very boring to read.

I don't take them nor do I trust them.

Beth

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Keith, while perhaps (PERHAPS) small parts of the Transformers test were jokes, they shouldn't be. It's not like people won't be seriously using the test to grade their characters.

Anyway, the really serious test still sucks ass.

And besides, it's not the first test I've read that involves negative points in questions.

Some tests say that it's impossible to get negative points in their test and not to worry about it. Which is another stupid thing to say, and upon making a test it should be possible to get a score of zero, just like when taking a pop quiz it should be possible to get a perfect score. Without deliberately going through the questions and saying "Well for that I must have a slashy guy" and so on.

It shouldn't matter (well, not that much) about the character resembling you - no reader is going to know what you're like unless you tell them, and it's their opinion that matters. And lots of people put a little of themselves into the character to make it easier to write.

What should matter is magnificent superpowers, and the canon's reaction to your characters, and whether your character fits into the universe.

And that's another reason Mary Sue Litmus Tests - in particular the 'universal' tests - suck.

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Keith, while perhaps (PERHAPS) small parts of the Transformers test were jokes, they shouldn't be. It's not like people won't be seriously using the test to grade their characters.

Why shouldn't they be? It seems to me that the test you quoted was written in reaction to MSLT's, exactly because they felt that MSLT's suck the major ass.

And besides, it's not the first test I've read that involves negative points in questions.
I don't see why that's a problem.

The whole idea of a litmus test is that various data points lead one towards or away from a conclusion, rather than offer up a silver-bullet answer. the goal is to fix a character's position on a number line, close to or far from the measured state.

It's not saying that any single character that has superpowers is a Mary Sue. If she does, and you have a logical argument for it, and the rest of the test doesn't really apply, then you've got nothing to worry about.

If someone gives their character a phobia, especially such an illogical one as a major clown phobia, then no matter how many coincidental matches there are on the test, they've still made a choice about the character that moves her significantly away from the classic Mary Sue. Mary Sue never even has a bad hair day, muchless pee her panties at the sight of a man in particolored clothes with facepaint.

Some tests say that it's impossible to get negative points in their test and not to worry about it. Which is another stupid thing to say, and upon making a test it should be possible to get a score of zero, just like when taking a pop quiz it should be possible to get a perfect score. Without deliberately going through the questions and saying "Well for that I must have a slashy guy" and so on.
Well, test construction is a difficult process. If you're really weighting tests for a defensible result, you need to take them and retake them, adjust the weights, get other people to take them, discuss the question content, the question order, references, word choices... You know, work. Most Litmus Tests are just opinion essays framed as a point-assaying test. Even if this one is perfectly sincere, i doubt they use the proper exam creation reference material and frameworks of the industry.

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As I've said before Mary Sue tests are as shallow as the people that write them. They test traits, but they do not test reasons (whys and hows) behind the traits.

Test: Your character has purple eyes? Sue.

Writer: But--!

Test: Sue.

Writer: But (character A)'s eyes are like that because (logical reason X, Y and Z).

Test: It's a damn Sue, so STFU bitch!

=D

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Damn right, Black Mage. That's the sort of question Universal Litmus Tests use.

"Are your character's eyes a colour not used in nature?"

"Well red isn't a colour found in nature but my character's a robot so-"

"SHADDUP! That's five points! Now, is your character related to a canon?"

"Well yeah, but their distinct character development makes them infinitely more interesting and it's part of the whole POINT-"

"SHUT THE FUCK UP! Ten points!"

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"SHUT THE FUCK UP! Ten points!"

Not quite. If you take a look at that particular litmus test (I presume you're referring to the one with the blue background?) it says at the beginning that Sueism is relative. It does invite you to use your own brain, not just rely on what the test says.

In fact, I used that very test to come up with Starla Brighteyes, and most of my readers adore her think she's brilliant. Okay, she's ironic, but a great character still came out of it. So it depends on where you're coming from.

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So it depends on where you're coming from.

I always wonder how Jesus would do in a Mary Sue test...

Unusual birth, magical heritage, always wins arguments, dies in a sacrifice, constantly making speeches,

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I'm sorry, but I like the non-satirical litmus test. At least the one I took, which was similar to the one described first.

I think some people are taking the tests too hardcore. If the character is a self insert, that's a very big indicator of sueness. Purple eyes have almost become the genetic trait of sueness. But that is only 2 checks. Having purple eyes, or wanting to be like the character you create does not mean your character is a sue.

Usually at the bottom of the test it says "0 - 15: Not a sue at all. 15 - 30: Kinda Sue-ish, depends on the writers ability. 30-45: Almost definitely a Sue. 45+: OMG What are you doing!"

So really, you have to have over half the required traits to REALLY be put into the sue camp. Of course, its always better to be in the first or lower end of the second category, but once you have over 50% of the sue traits, The room for defense starts becoming limited.

When I took the test I was looking at (I THINK it came from somewhere on these forums.) I only got 5 or so.

Jesus is a total Stu, that's the point.

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The first time I took the test I got over 100 points... then I saw one important line: you are allowed to ignore everything which is normal/not too unusual in the universe/fandom the character lives in. So if you write an X-Men story, you don't get any points for your character being a teenager and having one (!) special power. If your story takes place in a fantasy setting, it's OK when your character is able to use magic and being not human doesn't make him or her a Stu or Sue. She or he even might have purple eyes - if there are others who have purple eyes, too.

I think all of this is about balance: your character shouldn't be younger, stronger, more beautiful, more powerful AND better at everything than all the canon characters. There also should be strengths AND weaknesses. A character who is great at wielding magic could suck at sports. It also would be a good idea to add a flaw or two, like an addiction (drinking, eating, gambling) or phobia.

It is true that those test don't work properly for some fandoms, but if you take the test and ignore everything considered "normal" in the fandom, it might work.

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You make some good points, but you also make some bad points.

You brought up balance, which is the most important way to stop sueism. You brought up series normalcy, which can definately skew a sue test.

But at the same time, making the magician bad at sports is a bit of a cliche, and a lot of times addiction is a major tool used by sues and can amplify sueness in another direction. There is the "I'm super unique and good at everything" perfection sues, but in the age of emos, there is also the "I'm depressed, an addict, and sometimes cut myself to feel alive" self destruction sue.

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Litmus tests are for those with either little or no skill in creating OC's, too insecure in their writing and character creation, or for those who want a laugh on how high or low their character will score. All anyone has to do when creating characters is read one of the numerous creating-character books out there, or learn from their mistakes.

Maybe the litmus test can be a guideline on what to avoid with OCs, but I never bother with them. I did one or two for fun and got a low score, but even if my score was high, that wouldn't change how I had the character. The Sue is in the writing, not the traits.

Took three years to be where I'm at now, and none of those skills I gleaned from the litmus test.

Edited by Maiafay

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On a lark I did the litmus test, keeping the univers she was in in mind and the results were pretty much as expected, not overly sueish. I think to do the test properly you have to keep the universe in mind on wether or ot the question applies.

just my two cents

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Yeah, most Mary Sue Litmus Tests do suck. No, not because I failed - even though I have, once or twice - but for better reasons than that.

I think it really depends on the test. I found a pretty good one on TONFA that is pretty accurate, I think.

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How 'bout I make one right here. Yes or no answers only.

9 questions.

1) Is your character well liked by the cast of whatever you're writing fan fiction from? (If less than 2 characters dislike your original character, then answer yes.)

2) Does more than one character have a crush on your original character?

3) If there are uniforms involved (Team, school, etc.), does your character not wear one, as to stand out? (If uniforms aren't involved, does your character wear all black and/or band related clothing?)

4) Does your character share the same name as you? (First, middle, last, etc.) Or is your original character a relative of a canon character?

5) If a comparison of strengths were to be involved, would your character best some of the strongest canon characters? (If your original character could single handedly defeat the hero or main villain in the series, check yes.)

6) Is your original character an Ameican/etc exchange student going to school in Japan? (I'm looking at you, every anime Mary Sue ever.)

7) Is your original character extraordinarily attractive? (If you even spend more than 2 paragraphs describing what your character looks like, this is a yes.)

8) Does your original character's love interest (If any) become out of character or ignore/end canon relationships in order to be with your original character?

9) Does your original character show off it's abilities/strengths/etc while the canon cast of stares wide eyed in awe?

If you answered yes to 5 or more of those, for the love of God your character is a Mary Sue.

If you answered yes to 3-4 of those, your character's pretty Mary Sue, but you could fix it by toning it down a little.

If you answered yes to 2 or less, you're okay, not very Mary Sue.

Edited by DarkInuLord

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Shoot, I was about to do just that. Well, since I've already written it, I'll put mine below here anyway. Yours is very good though, except that #1 leaves some loopholes in both directions(I've got a refined version of that same question for #1 in my litmus test), and I don't understand what #4 has to do with Mary Sues. Makes me feel that I mostly wasted my time making my own.

Yeah, there's nothing wrong with Mary Sue litmus test, some writers really do need something to make them stop and realize that the characters they're creating are just obnoxious and annoying to readers. The problem with the litmus test quoted in the first post is that whoever wrote it plainly doesn't have any idea what a Mary Sue is! :devil: What you have there is a Self Insertion litmus test. A Self Insertion is completely unrelated to a Mary Sue, and it boggles my mind that some people manage to get them so mixed up. Anyway.

1.Are there any likable characters in your story who are not fond of your OC? If no, add a "+".

2.Is there any character in your story who would most likely win in a fight with your OC? If no, add a "+".

3a.Does a character from your fandom fall irresistibly in love with your OC? If yes, add a "+" and go to 3b. If no, move on to 4.

b.Does he later become disillusioned with your character and break up with him? If yes, erase that "+" you just put down and go to 3c. If no, move on to 4.

c.Does another character start a relationship with your OC after his break up? If yes, put that "+" back up and go to 3d. If no, move on to 4.

d.Does the character start a relationship with your OC out of pity? If yes, erase that "+" you just put up.

4.Does your character get invited to a menage a trois with two fandom characters of the opposite sex? If yes, add two "+"s. If your OC originated the idea and the fandom characters said yes, add one "+". (Same rules apply to moresomes.)

5.Is your character wiser and more experienced than any of the other good guys in the story? If so, add a "+".

6.Do the other characters in your story say things to your OC solely as a setup for a witty or impressive response from your OC? Here are some examples:

"Any last words?" OC asked.

"What is your name?"

- (That's a real life example, believe it or not!) This is this guy's final breaths of sweet life... and he's spending them on learning what your OC's fricking name is? Why would he even care what his name is?

"Boy, it's cold," Fandom Character said.

OC nodded. "As cold as death."

- If the two characters have been waiting for hours in snow and ice, this is a reasonable bit of dialogue. But otherwise, why should Fandom Character make such an inane comment?

"You'll rue the day you interfered with my plans!" Fandom Character roared.

"Only because that involved seeing you naked!" OC smirked. "I mean, yecch!"

- In the fandom, is Fandom Character a raving idiot? If no, why would he make such a pointless threat?

7.Does your character ever do anything that you think he shouldn't do? If no, add a "+".

Zero "+"s - Rest easy, no Mary Sue here.

One "+" - You may have a Mary Sue. Probably not, but it's worth reviewing the character.

Two or three "+"s - At the least, your character has strong Mary Sue tendencies that should be fixed.

Four or more "+"s - Full blown Mary Sue. Throw out that character and get a new one.

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I have actually put myself into the limitus test once, just out of morbid curiosity. Apparently I am a Mary Sue, but my RP character isn't... O.o... W.. T.. F?

So yeah I take these tests with a grain of salt. I figure they are a nice guideline if I am unsure if the character I am making is too over the top, but then most the time I don't care. I tend to get an idea for a character and run with it. Mary Sue/Gary Stu be damned. If people don't like it, Its not like i have their eyes taped open forcing them to read it.

Probably why I don't post anything I write. I write for me cause I like it. I write my dreams cause they are hot/interesting and I write stories that are fantasies, things I would love to have happen. Are they any good? well I dunno. Is the character a Mary Sue? well since it's me sometimes I guess it's a self insert which is just as bad or something.

um.. I think I was trying to make a point and lost it.. hold on.. *shuffles around*

Ok, yeah.. Honestly I wouldn't take any of them seriously. You should always write for you, not for anyone else. If you like it, then thats really all that maters.

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I think the litmus test is really for 14 year old writers.

Personally, though, I'm irked about the male/female option. How many people are born in the third gender for god's sakes? Granted, alot of these people were irreversably changed by surgery at birth, but that doesn't mean mentally that they feel out of place.

Like for instance, a girl who is under extreme pressure from school for not having her period or breast growth at 17. Then she finds out, after taking dangerous medications to try to promote female puberty, she finds out waking in a hospital that she was really a hermaphrodite.

It's a plot that's already something to read about. When I heard of cases like these, I sympathise with these people, I want to know if they had a happy ending or become finally comfortable with themselves. But no, the 18-20 year old wimmin always have to be the one shouting the loudest to be heard. "Oh, lookat me, I'm a girl and I hadn't had a boyfriend yet." What a standard plot device, ugh.

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I think you guys have missed the point of Mary Sue Litmus Tests. Mary Sue Litmus Tests test the MOST COMMON characteristics of Sueism. Same sex as yourself? Check. Loved by all? Check. Silver- or raven-haired? Check. Curves "in all the right places"? Check.

The hard truth is that most Mary Sues are teenaged, beautiful, female (because more girls right fanfic than boys), desired by the opposite sex, seemingly immune to hard substances, superpowered (or conversely, practically helpless, which invites a Rescue Romance with the hero), and just generally so perfect that it's a wonder that they don't shit rainbows. If your OC fits this description, you could very well have a Sue on your hands.

Mary Sues are, by most definitions, self-inserts of some kind. That's why the gender/sex question doesn't bother me at all--if an OC is the same sex as the writer, then the OC is that much more likely to be a Mary Sue.

Of course there are OCs who meet some or lots of the descriptions but pull it off with aplomb, but they are few and far between. The tests are meant to weed out those who don't.

These tests are for more than 14-year-olds; I can think of published authors (Stephenie Meyer comes to mind) that desperately need a reality check when it comes to their characters.

Also, a word of advice to the OP: don't take the result of the tests so seriously. The ultimate proof of Sueism is the feedback you get from your readers. The kind of reader who understand the concept of Mary Sue is the same kind of reader who isn't afraid of telling you your OC is one.

Edited by windofthenorth

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The kind of reader who understand the concept of Mary Sue is the same kind of reader who isn't afraid of telling you your OC is one.

Even when it's just one person who assumes that any original character of the same gender as the author MUST be a Sue -- of course!

I ran into that, stopped writing a story that I had been writing for a year or so, because it shook me to think I might be falling prey to such a stupid idea. Nevermind that the original character was quite ordinary, wasn't saving anybody or doing anything heroic or plot-forwarding, and was serving as the simple peasant stuck on the sidelines observing the heroes from afar. A bit like Merry and Pippin, except she never got to save Éowyn or Faramir.

All the other reviewers of the story chimed in saying she wasn't a Sue, but, well. Eight years ago I was less confident that I knew what I was doing than I am now.

I later realized the person calling my character a Sue was probably young enough to be one of my students, and didn't yet have the faculties or experience to observe nuances. She was thinking only in macros.

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Yes. I was still taking every comment too danged seriously back then.

Concrit is useful. I guess those litmus tests are useful as a checklist of things to watch out for, not so much as things to avoid, but things that you shouldn't do without a very, very good reason, keeping in mind that you may alienate readers who are burned out by bad examples of all of the above. If you choose to use badly-abused fanfic tropes and clichés, you have to be a better writer than most, as you're starting off with a handicap.

I do wish that readers would be a little more careful not to scream "Mary Sue" at every OFC in fandom.

The funny thing is, my worst offenses are never OFCs. It's writing canonical characters I love. Sometimes I make them too perfect, too KEWL.

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Litmus tests sound rather foolish overall to me.

Why not use personality worksheets that you can get from any pro writer site? Those are to help pro writers design their characters. I use those exclusively for all of my O.C. Characters and they insure you do not have a Mary sue/Gary Stu problem because you can put thought into the character that fits the requirement of the storyline without being a clone of yourself. Most character build sheets are free and can be found online at reputable writer's Industry Trade magazine DIgest sites. Give one a try. They have made a huge difference in my own writing of original characters, and make designing a Mary Sue/Gary Stu character almost impossible.

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