If you’re a writer – particularly a romance or YA writer – you need to be familiar with the term “Mary Sue.”
A “Mary Sue” is a convenient character trope leaned upon (a lot) by beginning writers (and sadly, some not-so-beginning writers). I hate to feel like I’m throwing Stephenie Meyer under a bus here, but Bella Swan in the epitome of a “Mary Sue.” And the difference between Bella Swan and the protagonist of Stephenie’s next book after the Twilight series is night and day. In The Host, the character of Wanderer is so much more fleshed out and so much more interesting for it.
There’s a really good definition of a “Mary Sue” here, if you’d like to read all the tired, hackneyed character traits. If you recognize a majority of these in your story, you may want to check out The Writer’s Mary Sue Test.
I’m pleased to say my overall score was in the mid-twenties and my character was pronounced “healthy” and able to stand on her own.
Your mileage may vary, of course, and this test is not definitive by any means. It is a helpful tool though, to keep you from turning a blind eye to your own weaknesses.
So tell me – which “Mary Sue” ruined a book for you?