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how do I make this character not a mary sue?

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Tue May 28, 2019 7:01 pm
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ellasnotebook says...

So, I'm kind of struggling with a character over here. She's kind of like Timothy Green from the movie "The Odd Life of Timothy Green", but not at all? They're just kind of similar in the fact that they just kind of show up by magic and kind of fix everything. But my problem is is that right now I'm kind of envisioning her too much as like, "the perfect wish-fulfiller". In the story, that is kind of what she does; she grants wishes. But we also follow her throughout the story. So how do I have this otherworldly magical "fix-it" character that still has flaws and is interesting to read?
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Wed May 29, 2019 2:20 am
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Vervain says...

A few easy ways to make someone less of a "perfect" character:

1- Have someone (or multiple people) dislike her, and do NOT have those characters be trashed by the story (i.e. they get happy/decent endings, too, they don't get killed or end up unhappy).

2- Have her power not be useful/usable in every situation, then throw her in a situation where it won't work. This way she can't fix everything and it shows that she doesn't just waltz through life.

3- Have her power have a trade she might not be willing to make. Energy/materials to grant wishes have to come from somewhere else, or she has to give up part of herself/her power to grant each wish. For example, a wish for a sandwich would have a relatively low cost while a wish for an empire would be astronomically expensive.

4- Don't have her be the Most Beautiful, Beloved By All, etc. etc. This kind of ties into suggestion 1 that people dislike her (and not end up dead/unhappy), but to keep your character from being unbelievable, let other people be more beloved than her. Let other people be prettier. Let her be average at a few things, or even most things, like most people are.

These are just a few quick suggestions. Knowing more about your story might help, but also this:

Don't worry too much about it. What draft is this story in? If it's still early (first or second draft) it's something that can be beat out of the story by beta readers and critique partners. I'd definitely finish a draft or two, then toss it in front of someone who's willing to help you beta it to see if her character is an issue.

Also, Mary Sues aren't that bad. It's when they're pain-in-the-neck better-than-everyone-else most-perfectest-person-ever too-special-for-you that people begin to despise them.

After all, Captain Kirk is a Mary Sue.
stay off the faerie paths

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Wed May 29, 2019 4:38 pm
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Tenyo says...

I would probably find other wish-givers and look at them from a really cynical perspective. Then I'd look at my own character and their limitations, and consider how to hyperbolise these to make them into flaws.

Cinderella's godmother gave Cinderella everything she needed to get to the ball, but not to get back. I mean, who would give a young girl a lift to prom and then tell her if she's not back by midnight she's got to walk home alone? I'm sure she means well but her recklessness could have put Cinderella in danger.

Aladdin's genie was really fun in the Disney version, but he was clearly burying his emotional issues, particularly his fear of being used or betrayed, beneath a whole ton of sarcasm and humour.

Pinocchio's Blue Fairy offered to make him a real boy- only if he could prove that he was good enough. But never telling a lie, ever? It sounds to me like the only way she deemed him worthy of being loved like everyone else was only if he could be absolutely perfect.

So on, so forth. I guess in the case of a Timothy Green kind of character I would look at the tendency to turn up, do something magical and then disappear as some kind of compulsive need to meddle even if that person doesn't want it.
We were born to be amazing.

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Wed May 29, 2019 5:02 pm
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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...

I would create a draw back to using such a power. For instance she can't just wish away a bad situation, she simple redirects it to herself. In a sense using magic to swap that part of herself. It would force her to be very careful with the magic she uses. If she is keeping someone from dying from cancer or something then she will end being the one with cancer.

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Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:09 pm
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jorge says...

Give her some flaws; this will bring her down to earth. In addition, give her some quirks. Make her come alive like a real person in real life. How does she think? Tell us what she's thinking. I hope this helps.
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Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:25 pm
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BlueAfrica says...

Does this character spend the story granting wishes only for others? Can she use her powers for herself/does she use her powers for herself? I'm curious about the dynamic between this character and the other characters, because whether she uses her powers solely for others or if she's tempted to use them for herself/can't use them for herself, wants to use them for others/is forced to use them for others is one thing that can really affect how Mary Sue-ish or otherwise she is.

Like, if she gets upset and someone wants an important wish but she's like "NO," even if it's a really worthy cause or one she'd normally care about, that's something that humanizes her. If she's not supposed to use her powers for herself but is tempted to or does - especially if her doing so has negative consequences - that's something that humanizes her. So even though she's this perfect wish-fulfiller in the story, when and how she uses her powers can still make it so that she's very human and makes some questionable choices, either because she really wants something or in a moment of negative emotion.

What's the point of being a grown-up if you can't be a bit childish sometimes?
— 4th Doctor