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The Mary Sue Litmus Test

adapted from the original by Melissa "Merlin Missy" Wilson
missy@reimer.com, missy@darklair.com
Copyright 1999 Emby Quinn

Missy Wilson's excellent Mary Sue Litmus Test is a useful tool for spotting problem areas with a self-inserted original character. Since the original test was highly geared towards Gargoyles and Star Trek fanfiction, I have modified the original to fit the Gatchaman universe. While this test is heavily Gatch-oriented, it can also be applied to Battle of the Planets, G-Force or Eagle Riders fanfic.

This test has been designed to help an aspiring author determine whether his or her character is a Mary Sue, or is simply another addition to the megaverse that is fanfiction. Scoring is simple -- the more questions answered "Yes," the more likely it is the character is a problem, or worse, is a retread of an hundred characters exactly like him/her/it.



Possible Points: 68 (assuming some questions obviate the rest) If you care to score your own character and send me the results, I'll post them. Preliminary testing suggests the following basic scoring scheme:

0-14 Developed character, unlikely MS.
15-19 Borderline character. Characters in this range are potential MS's, who can go either way dependent on the author's skill.
20+ Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Proceed with greatest caution.
35+ Reconsider your character and plot. Please. In the name of humanity.

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 him or her, that's totally up to you. Just be aware that there are people who will consider your character a Mary Sue. While that's true of any "self-insertion" character (there's always going to be somebody with a big rubber stamp waiting to brand your character with this label), 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 totally irrelevant.

If you must have your character romantically involved with one of the regulars (Joe, Katze, 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 and/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 13 on this test. Higher than I thought she would, but still within the realm of believability. (And yes, I answered "Yes" to the question about taking slams against Miya personally. If I can be honest, you can too.)

To quote Missy herself: "First and last of all, be real. The fantasy will make itself."

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