Ah, Mary Sue. We all know one. She’s the girl with amethyst eyes, the twee name, the startling power that no one else has but everyone wants. She’s the girl that the bad boy falls in love with, that the villain falls in love with, that the other girls hate until Mary Sue is soooo kind to them.
And when Mary Sue sacrifices herself at the end to save the world, everyone cries.
Mary Sue started out in Star Trek fanfic. When she first showed up, Mary Sue was all about author self-insertion and wish fulfillment. Nowadays, the term has come to mean something a little different – Mary Sue is the heroine who is too perfect to be true – but the general idea is the same: she doesn’t have any flaws. And despite the love the other characters feel for Mary Sue, she pretty much only inspires one emotion in her readers: overwhelming hatred.
Now, I am not one of those readers who has ever imagined herself in the heroine’s place. Nor am I the type of writer to put myself in my books, because – let’s face it – not only is my real life incredibly boring, I’m a dork on top of it. Nobody wants to read about me, but more importantly, I wouldn’t want to read (or write) about me. That would be the fastest trip to the nearest high cliff followed by a dive that I could imagine.
But there is one little thing…
Here is where I go on a tangent:
I don’t have a Wal-mart nearby. I live in one of those areas that didn’t let Wal-mart come in, because everyone around here hates Low Prices Everyday and Smiley Faces and Senior Citizens Greeting You at the Door. There is a Target, where I get most of my LOL Vintage t-shirts and household stuff cheaper than I can at the local grocery, but it’s still not as inexpensive as Wal-mart (and when you are a writer, inexpensive = a big huge w00t! (okay, I guess if you are anybody, inexpensive = big huge w00t!))
Where was I?
Oh, yes – Wal-Mart, and my tragic lack of one. Except, of course, when I go back to the ol’ homestead to visit the folks, because in that little town, the Wal-Mart is right square in the middle of everything. And every time before I go, I always ask my husband: “Do you want me to pick up anything from Wal-Mart?” and he grunts a few things and then I write down my list, and off I go (without him, of course, because he’s afeard of the little town. Pfft. City boys. But he’s really pretty and smart, you know, so what can I do?)
Anyway. So there I am, being greeted, and the first thing I always see is the women’s clothing. And you guys, I know better. It’s not that it’s from Wal-Mart … but that every time I go anywhere that sells clothes, and the chances of me using the changing room are small, I always walk out with the effing UGLIEST thing on the racks.
Meljean + Ugly Clothes – Chances of Using Dressing Room = She’s Going to Look Like Someone Took a Dump on Her, Smoothed Out the Crap, and Upholstered Her in the Ugliest Fabric and Color Known to Man
I swear to god. It’s like I’m a fugly magnet. I see something on the rack and in my heart I know it’s ugly, for god’s sake, but I get it anyway because some part of me thinks: It can’t really be that bad. No, it’ll be the ugly duckling on the hanger and the swan on my body. It’s not that fugly.
But it is. It ALWAYS is. And so I have this collection of shirts in my closet that are like a collection of shattered Wal-mart dreams: I will take you home. You will look great, and so will I. We will frolic in style together, and Clinton will smile at us while Stacy will say, “Shut. Up!”
And so here’s where I go totally Mary Sue. Where wish fulfillment enters my books with purple ponies and daisy chains: There isn’t a freaking thing in my heroines’ closets that they don’t look great in. Sure, everyone around them might question their fashion taste*, but by god, if they picked up an ugly shirt from Wal-Mart, they would rock it.
(And their hair always looks pretty damn good, too**.)
So, if you are a writer or if you did write, what’s the one thing you think you’d pull a Mary Sue on?
*I can post examples if you want them.
**I have a signing tonight, for which I just got my hair done, because my hair really needed it. If you’re in Portland, Oregon, and you can make it to the Beaverton Powell’s around 7pm, do come up and say Hi. And you can make fun of whatever shirt I’m wearing, because it’ll probably be bad. (Details here, on the 18th.)