Friday, 18 March 2011

Honey, that's Fantasy, not Realism

You've all heard of Mary Sue's, right? I'm sure you've read stories where they've appeared before. Hell, I'm sure you've met one. They exist in real life, I assure you. Mary Sue's tend to write stories which contain Mary Sue's, and the cycle goes on and on and on.

And it's this kind of writer I want to have a little whinge about today. The Mary-Sue type.

I believe that (well in the case I am referring to anyway) the cause stems from two reasons.

* Number One: The writer does not believe that anything that has actually happened to them is worth writing about. They do not believe THEY are worth writing about, or that any facet of their personality is worth writing about, and so on and so forth. (And yet, strangely, they seem to like the sounds of their own voices, and using these voices to go on and on and on about how they are not worth writing about, all the while laughing in a faux-self-conscious manner that makes the average class member want to commit Hara Kiri with a plastic ruler.)

* Number Two: The writer has a certain idea of what writer's SHOULD be like that has come from God Knows Where (that magical place lots of bullshit comes from) and they either try in earnest to become this person, or they fake it.

[As a segue, one of the things I personally believe about writing is that you definitely should fake it til you make it. I think it's pointless to say "I wish I could write like X writer but sadly I never will be able to." That is a complete turd of a thought and shame on you for giving up so easily. I was thinking to myself today of an example of near perfect writing that I came across in Creative Writing class last year, and I have decided to hold that piece up as the be all and end all of what I aspire to. And until I realise I have actually become the type of writer that the author of that work was, I am going to PRETEND to be that kind of writer. But I am going to do it badly, most likely. And when people give me criticism, I am not going to defend the drivel by making a santimonious speech about my INTENTIONS.]

So in other words, they lie about what sort of writer they are and they lie about what sort of person they are. And as someone who has recently come to value honesty as above all the most beautiful quality in some prose (honest writing is raw emotion without raw writing, as I have heard a wise, wonderful person say) I can't stand people who write absolute verbal vomit and then hand it to me expecting a cookie.

The result of this is a new genre in student writing. It's a hybrid of Realism and Fantasy, but really it's just Fantasy. I'm going to call it Frantasy though because I have to give it a cool name.

Let me give you an example of Frantasy.

Joan stepped off the plane. She smelled bad, and she knew it. Plane rides did not agree with her. Getting through customs made her head pound. She wondered what people were doing back at the firm. She wondered whether anyone would remember that tomorrow was her twenty fourth birthday, or if any of them would care. In truth, she would much rather have been at the firm, arguing with the partners than back home in Hicksville explaining to her mother why she still wasn't married.

Okay so I could have done better there. But I hope you get the point. Straight away we have been given a strangely overachieving twenty four year old lawyer with stereotypical mother issues. Snore.

Everyone has a narrative constructed of where they want to go. Without this, we lose focus. But writers need to be realistic. And to truly grow through your writing, you need to be honest with yourself. If you're not, don't expect anyone else to be. Or, expect them to be brutally so. Expect ME to be brutally so, if you ask for my advice.

Believe in your experiences. Believe that there is some story in you worth telling. Believe that honesty is the best policy.


  1. I wonder if anyone pointed it out to Stephanie Myer that Bella Swan is basically MARY SUE WITH A VAMPIRE COMPLEX!~

    I'm a fantasy buff and though I get your meaning on what 'frantasy' is, I have to scowl and defend the 'Fantasy' genre and say fantasy in literature especially is an inclusion of realms made of fantastical realms, the paranormal, the occasional vampire and slayer and a shit-load of 'magical' influences. And Mary Sue just can't go under that even as a sub-title.

    If you wanna put a label on the mary sue bs, its gotta be something between 'author-idolized hyperrealism' and Stephanie Myer. XD

    screw twilight mary sue!!

    eugh, which reminds me. Don't ever pick up, even for curiosity's sake, 'Vampire Academy' by Richelle Mead. You are practically spoon fed your mary sue in the character 'Rose Hathaway.'
    The male lead however isn't so bad. Should've been about him :P


  2. Ok so maybe Frantasy wasn;t the best term. I;m not saying Fantasy is a bad genre, I'm saying people's fantasy worlds/ self delusions have no place in realist writing. This blog post was very specifically related to an actual event.

  3. Oh Mary Sue, how we love to hate you.
    To me, writing is about challenging something. Doing things differently to how other people do things. If there's no conflict, or if the conflict is only fictional and put in place to boost the ego of the so called "Mary Sue" character, then it's pointless and uninteresting.

    I read through this: a while ago, which details the Mary Sue character to quite some length. I'm quite fond of the concept of the thirty-sue pile up. Might make for an interesting plot device. ;)


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