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Fanfiction Writing Tips: 5 Ways to Avoid a Mary Sue

Hey folks!

I’d like you to check out a guest post from Laura Glenmore, all about how to avoid writing a “Mary Sue” (for a full definition of this term, as well as any other fanfic terms, please see my Fanfiction Glossary).

I know I myself have cowered at the thought of adding a female OOC to any story, just out of fear of inadvertently creating a Mary Sue. Whether you’ve had the same worries, or have never even heard of a Mary Sue, I encourage you to check out Laura’s post. It’s vital reading for fanfiction writers everywhere.

Fanfiction Writing Tips: 5 Ways to Avoid the Dreaded “Mary Sue”

a guest post by Laura Glenmore

She’s exotically beautiful, talented, skilled and destined for greatness. Introducing the Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for male characters). She/he is, all in all, one step short of perfect. Or might already be.

Perhaps the most outstanding quality in a Mary Sue is her lack of flaws. Authors highlight their importance in the story by giving them as many positive attributes as possible. Other characters become overwhelmed by their beauty, wit and power. No one can really beat or compare to them.

Sound familiar? Perfect heroines have been in fanfiction since the beginning of time. If you’re starting to think that your OC might be one, don’t worry just yet. Not every character with a remarkable amount of great traits is necessarily a Mary Sue (MS). Writers can avoid this label by creating a believable back story that explains the positive traits.

However, if the trait appears out of thin air without any natural development, you’re looking at a MS. The attribute is given just to make the OC stand out. It lacks any personal growth and there’s no real justification as to why they’re like that.

Mary Sues are normally an idealized version of the author. So it’s up to you to make your characters as believable as possible. Here are a few useful tips to help you achieve it:

1. Research!

You must research and study your chosen fandom in order to create a character that could realistically exist within it. For example, if you’re writing a Harry Potter fanfic, don’t make your character part cyborg. It just doesn’t work that way.

2. Know the limits of your fandom and try to blend in with it

Your character should be able to easily coexist with other canon ones from your chosen world. This means further research of the fandom and basing your OC on other characters’ abilities and limitations.

3. Give her a believable back story

Very few fanfictions have characters that were abandoned, forced into slavery and set on fire all at once. Make a character profile before writing anything else. You need this in order to establish a realistic back story.

If your OC has a tragic past, make it just one major event. If you want to create more angst, describe other tragedies as a natural consequence of the major one.

4. Make her compatible with other characters

Other characters will be more compatible with yours if they have a common past they can relate to. When it comes to befriending canon characters, your OC should have a similar personality or traits to make the friendship believable.

When you’re aiming for a romantic interest, the same rules apply. Research the character to discover what they’re like and what traits they appreciate in a person.

5. Be creative

Writing gives us the chance to use our imagination’s full potential. Don’t base your character solely on yourself. Draw inspiration from the fandom, friends, role models and other places to make a truly unique, believable and engaging character.


Got a fanfiction issue, question or problem? I can help! I am now offering fanfiction consultating/coaching services to anyone, in any fandom, writing any type of story. If you’re interested in a consultation, just email me at to get a free evaluation and find out what I can do for you.

Have something to say about the subject of fanfiction? Write a guest post for Moki’s Fanfiction Blog and get the chance to speak to other fanfic readers and writers. Just drop me a line on the Contact Page and let me know what you’d like to do a post about.

Subscribe to Moki’s Fanfiction Blog

More from Moki’s Fanfiction Blog…..
Fanfiction Writer to Entertainment Writer – My NCIS:Los Angeles and Supernatural Interviews from Comic Con
Moki’s NCIS Fanfiction Story: “The Cavalry Rides Again” – Chapter 17
Moki’s Supernatural Fanfiction Story: “Blood Brothers” – Chapter 4
Article – “5 Things I Wish People Knew About Fanfiction”
Moki’s Supernatural Fanfiction Stories and Recs
Moki’s NCIS Fanfiction Stories and Recs

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  • SupernaturalSoul

    Great reminders for not only authors, but for people who do beta editing as well!

  • Anonymous

    Very good point! Beta readers should definitely take note, too. 

  • Anonymous

     Really good tips.  OCs can add a lot to a story, but only if they are well thought out and well written.

  • Anonymous

    That’s very true. Thanks for commenting! :o)

  • Inchy

    Thanks to Laura and Moki. Have missed these helpful tips Moki! I know you have had other guest posts from Muffy Morrigan and Laine and it would be great to have more – especially while you are super busy.

  • Anonymous

    Well you’ll be happy to know that I’m working on lining up Muffy again. So stay tuned! So glad you’re enjoying the tips. More coming very soon! :o)

  • Carla Lute

    Just to challenge myself.  I wrote a fanfic, introduced a character that was text book Mary Sue….except that she was nothing like me, and tried to make it work.  Oddly enough I think it did, but it was funny reading people’s reactions.

  • Anonymous

    Haha! That’s awesome. I love that you purposely broke a “rule” just to see how it works. Sometimes I think us writers need to do things like that, too. 

  • Krys

    Oh, wow. You’ve just simplified a year’s worth of battles for me. Starngely enough, I came across your blog while I was ‘Search-Engining’ (to avoid the use of the term ‘Googling’ since there are many engines out there) for Published Authors who have started out as Fanfiction writers – and I must say that I was pleased with the results. I am a Fanfiction writer who dreams of becoming a published author, and I needed to know that there were successful other out there. Thank you for bringing my attention to Muffy M. Also, in my ‘virgin’ state of mind on the website, I knew absolutely nothing about Mary Sue’s / Stu’s and wrote a few tales (targeting a much younger audience than myself), only to do a Mary Sue litmus test and discover that the character was one. She was not perfect, nor she did not have an unatural physical appearance, and she certainly was not meant to fall in love with any of the canon characters, so in my mind she was not necessarily one. As a result of the test, I deleted the original story that spawned the character and am debating about whether I should re-do the fictions that were originally written using a program that lacked a ‘Spellcheck’. I’ve spent an entire year trying to determine what the correct definition for a ‘Mary Sue’ is. I’ve done other stories where I am still trying to determine if they’re Sue’s or not. Yes, my confusion is that bad. On a good note; none of them resemble or reflect me in anyway. I am confident enought to say that they are not self-inserts. 

  • Anonymous

    Wow, so glad this article helped you! :o)

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  • Mahmood Saleem

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