Deanne Swaringen

In the world of fanfiction, the story isn’t over until the fans decide it is.  Fanfiction is a style of writing where the author takes a pre-existing movie, TV show, book, or even musical, and spins it how they want.  That can mean anything, like tweaking the plot, putting the story in an alternate universe, playing matchmaker with characters, crossing two mediums (like movies and books), or even adding new characters.  There are infinite ways to write a fanfiction, and anyone can enjoy the stories produced from anywhere in the world.

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However, not everyone enjoys every story that is written.  This is natural, as people dislike things in every aspect of life.  The problem, though, is that some take it upon themselves to make the author know how much they dislike what's been written.  Examples of some subjects that receive hate include certain character pairings, an alternate universe, a certain tag or category, and most commonly, the addition of original characters.  

Almost every person has made up an original character for something they love; they wonder what kind of superhero they would be in the Avengers, what house they would be in at Hogwarts alongside the Harry Potter trio, or what weapon they would use in Soul Eater.  Everyone likes to imagine what it would be like to be a part of the story.  The problem is that some readers don’t like it when characters are added into a fanfiction, and even less when they are ‘Mary Sues.’

So, what’s the problem with not liking Mary Sues?

A ‘Mary Sue’ is what people in the fanfiction world call a self insert.  This is when an original character is based off the fanfiction author.  The Mary Sue is usually talented, beautiful, and nearly perfect, and everyone in the story typically loves her.  She’s introduced in great detail (looking at you, My Immortal) and is depicted as the great heroine of the story.  Fanfictions that contain these character types tend to spark the most irritation and hate among readers.  

The problem lies with the fact that those who mostly write Mary Sues are, in fact, young women and girls.  Writing is hard, even when you already have a plot and characters at your disposal.  Then try adding original and dynamic characters on top of that, which most people don’t have experience in.  It’s a challenge, so younger writers, or those just trying out fanfiction, turn to the Mary Sues to help them along.  

Mary Sues are a great way to get a feel for writing characters and learning how to describe people to make them dynamic.  Yes, they can be a little over the top when they start out, but the writer learns from them.  Unfortunately, though, some never get that far because they begin to be harassed in the comments of the story about their character.  They’re told in the comments on their stories that they’re awful writers, that their characters are ‘cringy/problematic’, that they need to try harder, or even give up.  

This is the problem, and it’s a giant one.

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Writers help shape the world, and that includes the young girls and women who write the Mary Sues of fanfiction.

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Young girls, and even adults, suffer at the hands of the reviewers because they wrote a character the way they wanted to.  Some authors stop writing altogether because the commenters get so bad, just because they’re learning and trying new things.  Fanfiction authors should be able to write freely, however they like, without fear of receiving nasty comments.  Writing takes time to get good at, and even those who have done it for a long time still struggle and make mistakes.  The only way to improve your writing is to keep at it and to try new things.  No one is good at writing something new the first time through.  It’ll be clumsy and awkward, but at least you tried it.  

Fanfiction has been around for a long time, and it’ll be around for a long time still.  We need to embrace the variety that comes with this genre, and that includes those who’re just starting out.  That means encouraging writers, commenting on and critiquing their original characters, and suggesting ways to make their writing better.  Keep in mind, though, that these words and comments should never be rude, condescending, or cruel.  

The fanfiction writers need positivity to see that what they’re doing is appreciated and that there are people out there who would love to read what they write.  Even if you don’t like the characters or writing style, there’s no excuse to be mean.  Leave a helpful comment, or don’t comment at all, because there is no point in being unkind.  Writers help shape the world, and that includes the young girls and women who write the Mary Sues of fanfiction.

 

Deanne Swaringen was born in raised and the quaint state of Missouri, in the small cornfield filled town of Winfield.  She is a senior at the University of Central Missouri where she is studying Digital Media Production (Digital Cinema) and Theatre.  She has a love for horror movies and hopes to direct one someday!

 

Comments (1)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Another excellent post Deanne on a very important topic!

 

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