|Mary Sue Litmus
[Adapted for Thunderbirds]
Worried your character might be a Mary Sue? Take this test and find
out! Be Afraid... Be Very Afraid...
Mary Sue Litmus Tests
are well known across many fandoms as a simple, fun and hopefully
not too painful way of finding out if your favorite original
character is a "Supercharacter," commonly referred to in fan fiction
as a "Mary Sue" (or a "Marty Stu" if the character is male).
You may not
immediately know what we mean by this, but once you've worked your
way through these questions you'll know exactly what we're getting
at, and you'll probably be able to name several offending characters
from fiction you've read!
We were originally
going to do this as a standard test, complete with the usual scoring
system. But as we worked to customize the questions for
Thunderbirds, we realized that the standard scoring system just
plain doesn't work. The reason is simple -- in the hands of many
writers, being guilty of even one of the more extreme (but
unfortunately all-too-familiar) scenarios below would make the
character a crashing Mary Sue.
As with most things,
it's all in the execution.
Our advice: if you
find that when you read through some of these questions you a) don't
find these scenarios remotely ridiculous, b) actually think they're
pretty good ideas for a fic, or c) recognize them as important
components of fics you've already written, then you're in trouble
and you need to get yourself to a good beta reader, pronto!
1) This does NOT mean
that just because she's guilty of any one particular trait below
that your character IS a "Mary Sue." For instance, it's always
possible that a really excellent writer could do a story where the
original female character is a secret agent with amnesia, has three
of the boys fighting over her, gets them all singing and then crying
over their mother, and then elbows Scott out of the way when a
rescue call comes in and pilots TB1... and somehow manage to make it
all sound so good that we forget that we should be tearing our hair
out at the outrageousness of the manipulation. (Okay, that might be
a bit too many for even the best author, but you see what we're
saying!) So please don't seize on one or two things that you
recognize from these questions and immediately decide that this
means your character is doomed to the Supercharacter Hall of Shame.
As we said before, it's all in how it's done.
2) VERY IMPORTANT
INDEED! Just because your original character becomes involved with
one of the regular cast does NOT automatically make her a Mary Sue
no matter what people tell you. It's all about how real and
independent and three-dimensional a character you make her, and how
well you handle the development of the relationship itself. We can't
doom our boys to celibacy simply because a few fanfic nazis out
there want to shoot down every story that features a romantic
Remember, there is
always hope... that's what good beta readers are for!
Hackenbacker" (or What's in a Name?)
1. Is the character
named after you? This can be your first name, middle name, or a
favorite nickname, even your pen name or online name. If so, stop
now. Put your pencil (mouse?) down and turn in your test. You flunk.
2. Does your character have a cool, exotic or unusual name that you
wish you had like Scarlet, Savannah, Amethyst or Starlight?
the character have a secret identity with an even cooler, more
exotic or more unusual name than the one she/he usually goes by?
Did you spend more than a day looking for just the right name?
Have you named or considered naming your pet or child the
(or Who's That Girl?)
1. Is the character
the same gender as you?
2. Does the character have an unusual,
exotic hair and/or eye color? ... that keeps getting pointed out
over and over again throughout the story?
3. Did the character wash
up on the shores of Tracy Island? ... with memory loss but lots of
cool clothes? ... and weapons?
4. When your character regains
her/his memory, do they find out they're a famous rock star? ... and
is the rock star persona a cover, and they're really a secret agent?
... who is being pursued by the governments of the world and every
known crime syndicate because of a secret artefact/device/microdot
they have in their possession?
5. Is the character being haunted?
Is your character channelling someone from the past or future who
wants to help the boys? ... or save the world as we know it?
the character do any one IR-specific thing better than any of the
regulars? (Like being a better pilot than Scott, a better engineer
than Brains, a better piano player than Virgil, etc... ) ... Does
the character do MORE than one thing better?
8. Does Jeff Tracy
instantly and without question entrust one or all of the
Thunderbirds to the character's flying skills? ... even though they
are only 16 and still in high school?
9. Does one of the Tracys
instantly fall in love with her and start talking marriage and
babies? ... even though she is only 15 and still in high school?
Is the character so bewitching and drop dead gorgeous that every
man, woman, child, animal, fish and insect on the island falls
instantly and hopelessly in love with her? ... do they instantly
fall in love with her even if she isn't bewitching and drop dead
gorgeous? ... even if her body type can best be described as
"chunky," she has a patch over one eye and she's so homely she
frightens the livestock?
11. Do they offer to leave the island and
IR to follow her to the ends of the Earth? ... even though she's
only 14 and still in high school?
12. Does Tin-Tin hate her because
the boys, Jeff, Brains and Kyrano are all hopelessly in love with
(or Family Tree)
1. Is the character a
long-lost child of Jeff and Lucille? ... a long-lost child of one of
the Tracy brothers? ... a long-lost girlfriend/wife of one of the
Tracy brothers? ... Lucille herself (she didn't die!)?
2. Is the
character the reincarnation of someone near and dear to one or all
of the Tracys?
3. Is the character a member of a hitherto unknown
Philanthropic organization? ... that resembles International Rescue?
... that's pretty much exactly like International Rescue? ... except
that they are all girls under the age of 16?
4. Does the character
have a twin (male or female), a sibling, or even a clone of the same
gender? ... and is this twin, sibling or clone also a secret agent?
... who was supposedly killed in action a long time ago but
miraculously shows up again, only he or she is now evil?
5. Does the
character have an angelic singing voice that the Tracys mistily
compare to that of the dead Lucille?
6. Does the character play the
piano better than Virgil and the guitar better than Gordon?
the character paint and draw better than Virgil?
8. Does the
character spend half the story giving piano-playing and painting
pointers to Virgil?
9. 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.)
10. Does the character
insult the regulars constantly and/or show a blatant disregard for
authority? ... does she/he get away with this stuff? ... does
everyone end up liking the character (especially the regular
characters that are your favorites)? ... in spite of her/his bad
11. Is your character the female equivalent to one of the
Tracy sons in every way including eye color, hair color, etc.?
Was your character created in vitro from a lock of Jeff Tracy's
hair? ... by the Hood?
"Move - And You're
Dead" (or Villainous Villains and their Villainy)
1. Is the character a
double agent? ... one of the Hood's most trusted aides? ... even
more ruthless than The Hood?
2. Is the character another child of
Belah Gaat's parents but doesn't find out until the middle or end of
the story, or will find out in a future story you already have
3. Is the character currently being actively hunted by an
4. Does the character have a secret evil past,
has now reformed, but is being blackmailed? ... by the Hood?
the character manage to develop a friendship with an otherwise
villainous character, and through this friendship, reform the other
character? ... is the villain in question Belah Gaat?
6. Does the
villain become evil again after the character dies, but retain some
last vestige of goodness from his/her interaction with the
character, evidenced in one selfless action at the end of the story?
"Cry Wolf" (or
Weeping, Wailing and Training)
1. Does your
character immediately put the Tracys into informal family therapy
and begin to solve their emotional problems, even though they've
only known them a week and have no qualifications as a therapist
whatsoever? ... do the Tracys enthusiastically embrace this
immediately and without question?
2. Do the hitherto dry-eyed and
stoic Tracy brothers cry at the drop of a hat in this character's
presence, usually on her shoulder, and spill their guts endlessly
about how unhappy and insecure they are and how much they miss their
mother? ... and then sing?
3. Is your character the only person on
the face of the Earth who can supply the Tracys with whatever it is
they need to save the world (or effect the rescue)?
4. Can the
character fly any or all the Thunderbirds? ... without any apparent
5. Does the character, not being International Rescue, a
government agent or in the military, have special fighting skills
anyway? ... and is in so much better shape than the Tracy brothers
that she/he can take them all on in hand to hand combat? ... even if
the character is female, 5'2" tall and 90 pounds soaking wet?
Does she/he tell Jeff how to command, tell Brains what to invent,
teach the boys better ways to fly the Thunderbirds and have an
amazing database of knowledge about every single type and place of
rescue they encounter in the story?
7. Does the character have any
psionic abilities (telepathy, telekinesis, empathy, precognition,
etc.)? ... or just "know things" for no apparent reason? ... or have
the ability to heal with a touch and/or thought?
8. Does your
character have latent super powers like Wonder Woman or Spider-Man?
9. Is the character really an alien from another planet who's come
to tell one of the Tracy brothers that he has a secret and profound
"Pit of Peril" (or
Love, What is it Good For?)
1. Does the character
fall in love with and/or have sex with Scott, Virgil, John, Gordon
or Alan? ... all of the above? ... simultaneously? (We'd like to see
this one... send us a copy!)
2. Does the character fall in love with
and/or have sex with another main character from the show? ... for
instance, Jeff or Penny? ... or Jeff AND Penny? ... at the same
time? ... just kidding here... but if you write it, we'd like to see
it. ... strictly for research purposes, of course.
3. Is the major
character your character falls in love with/has sex with also your
favorite character on the show? ... i.e. the one YOU would most like
to fall in love with/have sex with?
4. Does the story end with the
5. Does the story end with the character
getting pregnant or getting another character pregnant? ... is the
Hood secretly the father and no one knows?
Intruder" (or Meanwhile, Back on the Mainland... )
1. Would you like to
be friends with the character if you met them in real life?
you think everyone who reads the story should automatically like the
character and want to be friends with the character?
3. If someone
tells you she/he doesn't like your character, do you take it really
personally? (Be honest.)
4. Do you ever pretend, just to yourself,
that you are the character, with the same strengths and abilities?
5. Have you made a costume of this character in your size (i.e., an
IR uniform with a sash color that matches the character's eyes?) ...
which you wear in your room at night when no one can see you?
Destruction" (or The Plot's the Thing)
1. Do you introduce
the character on the first page of the story? ... before any of the
regulars appear? ... long before any of the regulars appear?
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 instant, fast friends with them?
4. Does the character
figure out right away who the International Rescue organization is
without any prior knowledge?
5. Does the character become a member
of International Rescue during the course of the story? ... or is it
an alternate reality where she/he has always been with the team?
Does the character save the day and/or another character's life? ...
through use of her superior fighting/flying/technological/medical
skills or the fact that she's a dead shot with a crossbow? ...
through dying? ... thus sending everyone into months of
7. Does the character single-handedly
rescue the Tracys from a dangerous situation or from capture by the
Hood or another evil-doer?
8. Does she/he return miraculously from
the dead by the end of the story? ... in the sequel?
9. Does the
character end up living on Tracy Island/at Creighton-Ward Mansion?
... on a permanent basis?
10. Do you plan on basing all your future
stories around this particular character?
"Day of Disaster"
or... Help! My Character's All Over This Test, What Do I Do????
Okay, the worst is
Let's assume your
character is guilty of not just one but several of the worst of the
scenarios above. 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 and 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 it's obvious to you now
that she's a Mary Sue (or a Marty Stu) but you don't want to change
him/her, that's totally okay. It's your character, they're your
stories, and when it comes right down to it, you're allowed to write
whatever you want. Just be aware that other people will see it, too,
and will probably call you on it.
Okay, enough said.
Now get out there and do the most important thing you can do with a
good fic... WRITE IT!!!