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How much awesome is too much awesome?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Scribble, Nov 5, 2013.

  1. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    I read this post on reddit this morning that I quite liked. It talks about overdoing "awesome" in stories at the cost of depth.

    How do you deal with "awesomeness"? How do you know when you've sacrificed depth for awesomeness? It seems like a frailty of our genre. What do you think?

    http://www.reddit.com/r/writing/comments/1pvxx1/help_avoiding_fanfiction_style_of_writing/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2013
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I haven't really put in anything all that spectacularly awesome in my story yet. I do believe that the post you're quoting makes sense though. I believe it's about contrast. If you want to make something awesome you will have to make everything around it less awesome. The more unawesome everything is the more awesome the awesome thing will seem once it's introduced.
     
  3. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    My rule of thumb for a lot of story elements is "does this interfere with the other elements I want to create?" In the case of awesomeness:

    1): Does this interfere with believability? Self-explanatory.

    2): Does this interfere with characterization? Part of making someone understandable is to show their weaknesses, and if a character spends all his time being awesome, he'll always have a wall up between him and the reader.

    Also, Patrick Rothfuss thinks you shouldn't make your protagonists boring Mary Sues?
     
  4. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    That was well put, nice and tidy.

    It is hard to argue with Patrick Rothfuss. I love that pathetic D&D hero story. I've been toying with a story idea in which the main characters are specifically not awesome.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    "Mary Sues" can work just fine. People get too hung up on these sorts of labels, or even on tropes, which is why I never visit TVTropes or other such sites than I think can stifle writing.
     
  6. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    I actually found the concept of Mary Sue hard to grok, I haven't really been subject to much fan fiction. I'd heard the term, of course.

    I looked up this Mary Sue quiz in hopes of gaining some knowledge (The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test). You have a strong argument there about anti-creativity. I can well imagine this sort of thing stifling your ideas if you find yourself afraid to break these "rules".
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    @Scribble:

    I think there are two definitions for "Mary Sue" thrown around. One is author projection onto the character and wish fulfillment; the other appears to be any character who is good at a lot of things and has no significant flaws.

    I agree re: creativity, and I'll also add that once you've fallen into the trap of seeing everything in terms of tropes, it is hard to get your mind out of that box, and so considerations of tropes are necessarily going to affect your writing. I don't think that's a good thing, on the whole, though it may be useful in very specific instances where you consciously mean to invoke a trope.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Scribble, unfortunately super-lengthy excerpts cut from other sites is against our policy. Google penalizes us for lengthy excerpts.

    I'm going to edit your post to remove it, but I wanted to give you the chance to send me a PM picking a shorter excerpt you would like me to leave for the discussion.

    I'll be responding in a separate post about awesomeness.
     
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  9. *Sad Sigh* There goes my mine laying, fire breathing, triple winged, fanged rainbow unicorns of death, with their shoulder mounted ice cannons and their riders, who are just to awesome for words- seriously, they make Thor look like a rabbit!
    *snigger* :)
     
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  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    The Mary Sue definition that I use and find helpful is a character whose positive traits are excessive enough to risk breaking immersion. I think that's a good line to watch for - I hate the other definitions.

    As for awesome, I love awesome. But I've got a definition for that, too. ;) Well, not really for awesome, exactly. But when I look for ways to create a "Crowning Moment of Awesome" in my writing, I do it by looking for ways that this specific character can resolve a plot point in ways that only that character, with his or her personality, would ever think to do. Which means I need problems nobody else can fix.
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I guess that's going to vary from reader to reader, though, so what's the best approach to assess it? Jack Reacher, for example, doesn't break immersion for me, but the guy is always just so much better at everything than anyone else in the books that many would probably view him as a Mary Sue.
     
  12. Mary Sues are actually more important for the roleplaying (pen&paper and internet) community, as those characters often hug the spotlight and ruin the game for others. Of course in a book that's less important because the main character is the most important character.

    I'm not particularly fond of those characters (in books/movies/games) though. Of course there are characters that are good and that share the Mary Sue DNA. But most of the time, they are written horribly and most of the time, a well written three-dimensional character is a lot more compelling than a well written Mary Sue.

    Mary Sue isn't just about being better. It's about combining all the clichés in an attempt to create the perfect character. These characters are generally very one-dimensional because they only have strengths, not flaws.
     
  13. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    If a character has no flaws there's no room for growth. If there's no growth there's really no story, at least no compelling story.
     
  14. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    No flaws? Sure, i'll go with that.

    The MC Kvothe from Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles grows during the story. He is certainly a Mary Sue.

    I don't think the definition of Mary Sue has to be "no flaws".
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2013
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think you can write an engaging story without much if any character growth. I hesitate to mention Reacher again, but...
     
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    The way that I read this is that you're saying that Kvothe is portrayed as having no flaws. If my interpretation is correct, I must say I disagree.
     
  17. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    No...I meant he has flaws AND he's a Mary Sue.
     
  18. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    I don't agree that he's a Mary Sue. That seems to be the bone of contention here.
     
  19. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

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    This is worth posting above my monitor! Bravo
     
  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I think that's fine. Everything is arbitrary, except in the extremes.

    This kind of trope jargon, let's call it, is only useful as a tool for dissecting the elements of a story. I don't really see much value to an aspiring author in going on a Mary Sue witch hunt - not to disparage a fan community that has fun doing it. But I think the value is in thinking, "I have this character. I'm worried he's becoming a bit of a Mary Sue. Maybe I should go back and tone down his magic and skills and make him struggle a little more before making the right choices."
     
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