The Mary Sue Litmus Test
adapted from the
original by Melissa "Merlin Missy" Wilson
Copyright 2002 Emby Quinn
Missy Wilson's excellent Mary Sue Litmus Test is a useful tool
for identifying problems with a self-inserted original character.
Since the original test was intended Gargoyles and Star
Trek fanfiction, I have modified the original to fit the Gatchaman
universe. This test may also be applied to Battle of the Planets, G-Force or Eagle Riders fanfiction.
This test is very simple. It's not intended as a thorough test, but rather a simple preliminary test to determine whether or not a specific original character is too powerful (what is commonly known in fandom as "Mary Sue"). "Supercharacters" are annoying and have no place
as "supporting characters" in fanfic--they deserve their own stories/series (such as Xena).
Scoring is very simple: for each of the following questions to which you would
answer "Yes", score 1 point. Keep a running tally and compare your total score to the
guide at the end of the test. Be very honest. There's no point in taking this test if you're not willing to be completely honest in your answers. Note also that there are no "maybe"
or "sometimes" answers. If a question can be answered "yes" in one particular case,
then it counts as a "yes" answer. If you have more than one original character,
score each character separately. Provision is made for alternate universes; treat the
characters from such stories as you would a character from one based solely in the main storyline of the series.
Section 1 - What's your name?
Is the character named after you? (This can be your first name,
middle name, or a favorite nickname.)
If so, stop now. Put your pencil (mouse?) down and turn in
your test. You flunk.
Does the character have a really cool name that you wish you had?
Like Scarlet? (If you're writing for one of the American dubs,
ignore this question.)
Does the character have more than one name? (i.e. a nickname or
a pseudonym--Galactor/Spectran names or Science Ninja/G-Force names
Did you spend more than a day looking for just the right name?
Have you named or considered naming your pet or child the character's name?
Section 2 - Go Look In The Mirror
Is the character the same gender as you?
Is the character from the same racial group as you? (Note: if the
character is an alien, mutant, or cyborg, answer yes to this question.)
Is the character a half-breed (human/alien, etc.)?
Is the character too young to legally drink alcohol (below 21)?
Does she drink anyway?
Does the character *look* like she is younger than 21?
For a particular reason?
That you plan on making a plot point later?
Is the character very beautiful or very handsome?
Does one or more of the regulars find the character highly
Do other regulars see her as a threat because of
Does the character have an unusual hair or eye color for no
apparent reason? (Hair dye and contact lenses do not count.)
Will this be a plot point later?
Does the character do any one thing better than any of the regulars?
(We're talking fighting skills, technological abilities, etc.)
Does the character do MORE than one thing better?
Section 3 - Your Story
Is the character the long-lost child or descendent or sibling of a
regular or recurring character?
Of Ken or Joe?
Of Nambu and/or Katse?
Of another original character for whom you intend to
write another story or even another series?
Is the character a member or a friend of a hitherto unknown
Science Ninja Team?
And is the last surviving member of that team?
Did the character have an unusual birth?
Does the character have a twin (male or female), a clone, or a sibling
of the same gender?
About whom you plan on writing another story later?
Does the character have a very good singing voice?
Does the character play a musical instrument really well?
The guitar, for instance?
Does the character have better taste in music than you do? (For
example, does your character own cd's that you think sophisticated
people ought to own, even though you've never actually
listened to the music yourself?)
Does the character do what you do for fun or profit? (This includes
having the same job you have, or would like to have when
you're older, or having a job that sounds like a lot of fun
even though you know nothing about it. It can also mean
RPing, computer programming, whatever.)
Is the character Nambu's secretary?
Does the character insult the regulars constantly and/or show a
blatant disregard for authority?
Does s/he get away with this stuff?
Does everyone end up liking the character (among the regulars you
In spite of his/her bad attitude?
Section 4 - The Opposite Side
The Bad Guys:
Is the character a Galactor?
A Devil Star?
One of Katse's most "trusted" aides?
Is the character the child of Galactor?
But doesn't find out until the middle or end of the story, or
will find out in a future story you already have planned?
Is the character currently being actively hunted by Galactor?
Is the character actually a double agent for the ISO?
Does the character, not being either Galactor or a Science Ninja,
have special fighting skills anyway?
Is she trained as a Science Ninja in spite of not being
originally on the team?
Does the character have any psionic abilities (telepathy, telekinesis,
empathy, precognition), even if only with a sibling or lover?
Does the character just "know things" for no apparent reason?
Can the character fly?
Without the aid of BirdStyle?
Can the character heal with a touch or thought?
Do animals instinctively like the character? (If the character has
animal empathy, answer "Yes".)
Section 5 - Romance
Does the character fall in love with or have sex with Joe
or Katse? (And if anyone writes a story with both
please send me a copy.)
With another recurring character from the show?
With Ken or Jun?
With Ken AND Jun?
At the same time? (Ooh...kinky...)
With whom *you* would like to fall in love and/or
With another original character?
With whom *you* would like to fall in love and/or
Does the story end with the character's wedding?
Does the story end with the character getting pregnant or getting another
Is the father Joe or the mother-to-be Jun?
Is Katse either the father or the mother?
Is another regular one of the parents?
Is Sosai X? (If so, give yourself 20 extra points and the X-Files
"Out There" Award for Originality--thanks to Katharine Foust-Martin
for this idea!)
Section 6 - Reality
Would you like to be friends with the character if you met in real
Do you think everyone who reads the story should automatically like
the character and want to be friends with the character?
If someone tells you she doesn't like your character, do you
take it as a personal attack on you? (Be honest.)
Do you ever pretend, just to yourself, that you *are* the character,
with the same strengths and abilities?
Section 7 - Plot
Do you introduce the character on the first page of the story?
Before any of the regulars appear?
Do you tell the story primarily from the character's point of view?
Does the character meet the team, and after a few tense
pages of plot, become friends with them?
Does the character figure out right away who the Science Ninja
Without any prior knowledge?
Does the character manage to develop a friendship with an otherwise
villainous character, and through this friendship, reform the
Is the villain in question Katse?
Does the villain become evil again after the character
dies, but retain some last vestige of goodness from
her interaction with the character, evidenced in
one selfless action at the end of the story?
Does the character become a Science Ninja during the
course of the story?
Does she become G-6?
Is this an alternate reality where she has always been with the
Does the character save the day and/or another character's life?
Through use of their superior fighting skills or firepower?
Does everyone go into mourning?
Does she return miraculously from the dead by the end
of the story?
In the sequel?
Does the character become an ISO?
Does the character end up living at the Snack Jun or Crescent Coral?
With one of the other regulars (at the airstrip, in the trailer,
at the harbor, etc.)?
On a permanent basis?
Do you plan on basing all your future stories around this particular character?
Now compare your total score to the list below:
0-15 Well-developed character, not likely a Mary Sue. Very good.
16-25 Borderline case. If poorly or inobjectively written, she could be branded a Mary Sue. If handled well, people will forgive you a lot of personal excess.
25+ Mary Sue. Dangerous...
35+ Give serious thought to overhauling your character and plot. Please. Pretty please.
Okay, the worst is over. Let's assume your character failed
miserably. What to do? Do you try to correct the problem or
do you forge ahead and write what you want anyway? That's entirely
up to you. There are no hard fast rules governing fanfiction, and
popular opinion varies not only from fandom to fandom or from
group to group, but even from story to story. If your character
scored 35 or higher and you don't want to change her,
that's totally okay. It's your character, and they're your stories,
and you're allowed to write whatever you want. Just be aware that,
if your character got a high score on this test, chances are that
there are going to be some people who will call your character
a Mary Sue. While that's potentially true of any self-insertion
character (there's always going to be somebody around
who will call any non-series character a Mary Sue),
a high score on this very generalized and
hardly all-inclusive test will make that possibility a hell of
a lot more likely.
"Emby, how would YOU fix it?" You mean how DID I fix it. >.<
Trust me, I've written plenty of rabid Mary Sues in my time and I
learned from my gaffes. The best advice I ever got came from
Mercedes Lackey (of Valdemar fame): "Give your character warts."
This isn't a directive to curse your darling with an embarrassing
skin condition--it's a caution to build flaws into your character.
Nobody's perfect except Jesus Christ and they crucified him for it.
Flaws like "she has a tragic past" or "he cares too much about his
friends" won't cut it either. Maybe your character's tone-deaf but
THINKS she sings like a bird, or maybe he couldn't shoot straight to
save his life, or maybe she's got a bad temper (and SUFFERS THE
CONSEQUENCES FOR IT!!). If you're going to give the character something
they can't do, make sure it's something they wish they COULD do.
Not being able to fight effectively could seriously hamper your
character. Not being able to tap-dance and whistle simultaneously is
If you must have your character romantically involved with one of the
regulars (Joe, Katse, even Nambu), don't for God's sake let it be love
at first sight (at least not for the regular!!). Show the relationship
developing over time. Throw obstacles in their path. Let them have
fights (and don't let your character win or always be in the right).
Most of all, don't let your character abuse the love of their lives and
get away with it--when Miya pushed Joe too hard, he walked out on her.
Speaking of the Savage Redhead, she scored higher than I
thought she would, but still tolerable (I would hope). So she's a borderline Mary Sue. I could
bring her score down easily enough (taking away her musical ability and singing voice, adding a prologue
featuring the KNT to her introductory story, not having her fall for Joe, etc.), but I choose not to.
(And yes, I answered "Yes" to the question about taking slams against
Miya personally. If I can be honest, you can too.)
If you would like more tips on writing Gatch fic in general and this sort of fic in particular, check out my new guide. It might prove useful to you.
To quote Missy herself: "First and last of all, be real. The fantasy will make itself."
Send your results to Emby Quinn
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