Ty-Chou's Mary Sue Litmus Test

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Ty-Chou's Mary Sue Litmus Test

Postby Ty-Chou » Fri May 13, 2016 12:08 pm

I've noticed this litmus test gets mentioned every now and then, but at the moment, there's nowhere to find it. (What happened to the archive? Is it gone for good?) So I thought I'd post it on here in case people want it for reference.

For the record, I do not consider litmus tests an accurate barometer for how good your character/story is going to be. That can only be determined when you write the actual story. Litmus tests are only good for those who want to know which tropes their fellow fans are doing to death without having to look themselves. (I ALWAYS suggest reading what other people have done as opposed to a litmus test. That way you'll know if someone has already done your idea better than you.)

I don't really advertise that I do this, but I have been lecturing on the writing process, original works and fanfiction at conventions for over a decade. Would anyone be interested in like... maybe a Q & A thread where I can help people with their questions and projects?

Either way, here's my old litmus test:

************************

I've been a career Mary Sue Author for years and years. I enjoy writing them and reading them. I love to add characters to my favorite fictional worlds, let their personalities bounce off the cast and see what happens. I am fully aware of the negative stigma surrounding the term Mary Sue. Some people do not like to read these types of stories, no matter how well written they are. For those who enjoy MS fics or wish to improve their own, I've modified this simple test to help you with your character.

This litmus modeled after Merlin Missy's Original Mary Sue Litmus test (http://firefox.org/news/articles/651/1/ ... Page1.html). The original is heavily geared toward the Gargoyles fandom and not always relevant to the SWAT Kats fandom. So I have used it as a template to cover the cliches most seen in SWAT Kat Mary Sue fanfiction.

I define Mary Sue characters as a fan made character who plays a large part in the story and, more often than not, has a romantic relationship with a cannon character-- most often the author's favorite. Usually these stories are written poorly, have weak characterization, and contain a large handful of overused story tropes that have been done to death. Mary Sue fics CAN be written well if the author decides to take their time, learn the craft of writing, and be honest with themselves over the quality of their ideas.

Litmus tests like these are created so that Mary Sue authors can be aware of what has already been done and to help them tweak their characters a little. Keep in mind, if something is on this list, that doesn't mean just one writer has done it, it means SCORES of writers have already done it.

I suggest to be honest with yourself while taking the test. If the answer to a question is "well technically yes, but..." the answer is still yes.

Part One-- Creating Mary Sue.
The key to avoiding bad Mary Sueism is to create a well rounded character, not a kat version of yourself. She/he may have some of your traits, but they have to stand on their own feet as an individual. They need to feel like a real person and you as the creator need to learn how to stand apart from your characters and not consider them to be you. Mary Sue fics can be great practice in creating real characters instead of just parodies of yourself. It is completely okay to spend time properly naming your character and coming up with a physical description, background and personality that fit properly into the universe and solidify your character.

Names-
Is the character named after you? (First or middle name?) [3]
Is the character named after your pen name, chat name or internet handle? [3]
Do they have an extremely odd name that otherwise does not fit in with this universe? (For example, common names are like Molly, Callie, Chance, Jake. If your character's name sounds like high fantasy elvish, then it does not fit in the universe.)[3]
Is there absolutely no reason as to why their name is so different?[1]
Do you wish your character's name was your name? [1]
Do they have an extra cutsie/awesome nick name also because you wish it was your nick name?[1]

Physical description-
Do you only describe your character with synonyms of sexy/beautiful/cute/handsome?[1]
Are you constantly reminding the reader how sexy/beautiful/cute/handsome your character is in your story?[1]
Does the character have amazing hair that you remind us of often?[1]
Does the character have your hair color or style?[1]
Do you go out of your way to overly describe how the character looks and what they are wearing at all times?[1]
Are you so obsessed with your character's appearance that you forget to describe anyone else?[1]
Does your character have completely natural, but unusual eye or hair colors for no reason?[2]
Do they have an odd scar, birthmark or other mark that characters always notice but it doesn't subtract from their beauty?[1]
Does it relate to the plot later?[1]

Background-
Does the character have an unusual birth or strange experience early in infancy? (left on a doorstep or demonstrates strange powers)[1]
Does the character have a twin or sibling that also appears in a large part of the story?[1]
Is the character a sibling, child or other relation of a canon character?[2]
Are they a sister/brother of Felina, Callie, Jake or Chance?[1]
(But minus one point if they are a canon character's parent.)
Does the character know one of the canon characters from school/childhood?[1]
Do they have a very tragic past when they were children? [2]
Were they victims of some form of abuse?[1]
Does the character have an amazing singing voice or plays an instrument amazingly well?[1]
Does your character have magic powers?[1]
For no reason?[1]
Because they are related to Queen Calista's bloodline?[1]
Do you describe the character's personality as shy, but with a fiery temper?[1]
Do they have superb fighting skills or marksmanship despite no mention of any prior training?[1]
Do they have better marksmanship skills than Razor?[2]
Can they fly any aircraft despite no previously mentioned training?[1]
Can they fly better than T-Bone?[2]
Does your character have no discernible job or means to support themselves?[2]
Are they ex-Enforcers and Feral kicked them out?[3]
Was it for a reason that was not your character's fault?[1]
Did Feral send your character to the salvage yard with Chance and Jake as punishment?[3]
Did you come up with any other reason that your character has to either live or work at the salvage yard with Jake and Chance? [3]

Part Two-- Mary Sue and the Story.
Creating a well rounded group of stats for your character is not enough. Mary Sue has to fit into the universe enough to feel like she belongs in that world, instead of feeling like something unnatural has suddenly disrupted all the lives of the characters. Also, Mary Sue's story should not overshadow the canon characters. They are, after all, the reason we read your story in the first place.

Plot-
Is the character mentioned by name or in some way in the story's title?(Example: Mary Sue's Big Day or T-Bone's New Love)[2]
Is your character in the first scene in the story?[1]
Are they the absolutely first character mentioned in the first scene?[1]
Is there not a single canon character in the first scene of the story?[2]
In the first chapter?[3]
In the first THREE chapters?! (If so, you should probably stop right there and evaluate your story. It's not a Swat Kats fanfiction without any Swat Kats characters in it.)[10]
Is your character either present or mentioned in every single scene of your story? [3]
Does the entire plot revolve around your character?[2]
Are there no subplots at least involving canon characters with no connection to your character?[1]
Do they find out Jake and Chance's secret by stumbling upon the hanger or other condemning evidence while at the garage?[2]
Did this happen in the first few chapters of the story?[1]
Do they end up living at the salvage yard?[1]
Do they become the third SWAT Kat?[3]
Do they become any other kind of masked vigilante during the story?[1]
Do they save another character's life?[1]
Do they save the city from certain destruction and the SWAT Kats could have never done it without them?[1]
Do you plan to write many more stories revolving around your character? [1]
Are you writing this story because you read a fanfic similar to the story you are writing and you wanted to write the same thing, but with YOUR character? (That's a reason to stop right there. You are STEALING someone else's idea. Write your own story. Make it as different as possible from what you have already read.) [10]

Relationships-
Does everyone immediately like your character the moment they meet them?[1]
Does your character immediately fight with characters you dislike?[1]
Do you change the personality or intelligence of disliked canon characters to make your character look better?[1]
Do all characters of the opposite gender instantly fall in love with your character and all those of the same gender want to be his/her best friends?[2]
Is the entire plot about your character and your favorite character from the show falling in love and absolutely nothing else happens in the story? [5]
Does that pairing involve Jake or Chance?[3]
Do they have a romantic relationship with your favorite character because you have a crush on that character?[1]
Does your favorite crush instantly fall head over heels in love with your character the moment they see them?[2]
If it's Jake or Chance, is their first meeting so magical they completely forget their previous crush on Callie for the rest of the story?[1]
Do they and your favorite character get married and have children by the end of the story?[1]
Do the children also become SWAT Kats to carry on their legacy?[1]
Do you plan on writing more stories about their children?[1]
(Minus a point if Jake and Chance's children either never find out about it or never become SWAT Kats.)

Possible Points: 120
1-10: You have avoided most of the overused Mary Sue tropes. You're likely to be giving the readers something they haven't seen before.
11-18: Getting into dangerous territory. Check your plot and how you portray your character. See if there's some changes you can do to make the story more original.
19-26: Your character and story have quite a few over used ideas. Time to take it back to the drawing board and think of something we haven't already seen 100 times before.
27+: Major Mary Sue-ness. If you are not willing to change your story for the better, then please don't post it anywhere. We don't want to read it. There's too many fics exactly like it online already.

Please keep in mind, I am not judging you by making this test. Mary Sue type stories are fun and they SHOULD be fun. You get to play in your favorite fictional world with the characters you love, all while practicing your writing skills. There are very bad Mary Sue stories out there and also very good ones. The good Mary Sue writers are the ones who are honest with themselves and are willing to pay attention and improve. They are aware of what ideas have been done to death and actively work to make sure that, even if they use one or two old ideas, they are putting a new spin on it. They think of the readers and do their best to entertain their fellow fans instead of just showing off how great and beautiful their character is.
Last edited by Ty-Chou on Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ty-Chou's Mary Sue Litmus Test

Postby MoDaD » Fri May 13, 2016 3:26 pm

Ty-Chou wrote:I've noticed this litmus test gets mentioned every now and then, but at the moment, there's nowhere to find it. (What happened to the archive? Is it gone for good?)
Same thing happened to me yesterday when I went looking for it and noticed skfanfic.com was down. I contacted Kris and we're in the process of fixing that. Should hopefully be back by Saturday at the latest. Her web host decided to abruptly change its hosting plan as it related to the domain name, so that got frozen. I have several backups, but they don't have the most recent additions, so we're trying to get let back in to do a more up-to-date recovery. If not, still have 95% of it intact, but would prefer 100%.

Also, have you considered making your presentation a video presentation?

EDIT:

And, after some unexpected effort involving database repairing, this should be back up:

http://skfanfic.com/guidelines/litmus-test
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Re: Ty-Chou's Mary Sue Litmus Test

Postby Ty-Chou » Sat May 14, 2016 10:14 pm

MoDaD wrote:
Also, have you considered making your presentation a video presentation?


I do not own a video camera. Also, I don't have a single presentation. I usually do 3 panels/lectures per convention and the subjects change each year. Various topics include but are not limited to:

Dealing with writer's block
Good writing habits
World Building
Writing Relationships
Creating Likable characters
Fanfiction AUs and Crossovers
How to improve your fanfiction and gain readership
Creating Villains and Antagonists
The Mary Sue Trope
Fanfiction vs Original works

So a Q&A would be preferable. I could hit the topics people are most interested in. Though, only if members are interested in a thread like that. If not, that's fine, too.
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Re: Ty-Chou's Mary Sue Litmus Test

Postby MoDaD » Sun May 15, 2016 1:25 am

Ty-Chou wrote:I do not own a video camera.
I was actually thinking more along the lines of recording audio and then creating video to go with it, be it in a presentation style format or inserting visual examples that are relevant. Or, just audio alone could be interesting, where you can have a second person read out examples/excerpts of stories that convey the positive/negative points you're trying to make. I'm still interested in pursuing that podcast project, I've just been delayed and trying to get some other items accomplished first.
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Re: Ty-Chou's Mary Sue Litmus Test

Postby Ty-Chou » Mon May 16, 2016 7:38 pm

I have often entertained the idea of doing a youtube channel where I can do some lectures and review different movies and such from a writing perspective. I probably don't have the technology to pull it off too well at the moment.

But I saw your post about doing a swat kats podcast. It might be a bit limited with the slow fandom right now, but you could probably make a good handful of episodes. I'd listen to it :)
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