8

Sometimes (as an intelligent species, and therefore creative, speculative about reality and so on...) we want to experience some situations which aren't possible at all. Then as a writer you can create a character who "lives that cool stuff which I (the writer) WANTED but isn't possible." Well, this thought defines the notion of "A character who was born to fulfill an author's power fantasy [1]." But, again, as a writer you introduce a story. Then you have a character who has this "feature of a Canon Sue" but isn't.

Considering a part of this video [1], how can I identify a Canon Sue? I mean, suppose that you want to fly by yourself. Are you really creating a Canon Sue by inventing a character who can "live your dream"/"do something that the author wants to do but is impossible in our reality" (fly by yourself), even though you have a proper story of this character to tell?


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcXVGIi1m28 (in time interval of 3:16 - 3:20)

  • 6
    When dealing with tropes, absolutism isn't good. Tropes aren't good or bad, they're tools. A well-written story with a technical Canon Sue is better than a crappy story without one. I think 95% of people writing about magical worlds would like to be able to do magic, but that doesn't mean all their protagonists are canon sues. Don't identify canon sue. Identify what makes a story good. – Gloweye Nov 7 at 8:16
17

You can definitely have characters that fulfill your fantasies. You can even have a character that represents you, the writer. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.

The problem is that a lot of inexperienced writers can fall prey to making characters Canon Sues (or Mary Sues) if they happen to personally identify them, or see them as their own persona in one way or another. That's why many people mistakingly tell you not to make characters that are you or fulfill your fantasy. Because they think that this will automatically result in a Canon/Mary Sue character due to writers wanting readers to perceive them in the most positive light, wanting to live out their fantasies through those characters, not wanting bad things to happen to the characters who represent them, etc.

Just make sure your character is flawed, not overpowered, has bad things happen to them along with the good ones, etc. No one will probably even know that character was made to let you live out your fantasy or just to be your persona in the novel if you write them well.

But above all, no matter what, make sure your character is interesting to read about. The reason why people hate Canon/Mary Sues is because they are awesome and everything in their lives is just awesome. Always succeeding and being overpowered and having little to no conflicts with anyone or anything is boring. Bad things happening, the character struggling, conflicts--those are what make for interesting characters/stories.

6

I agree with Klara. The strategy I often use is to devise a character that has both a superpower AND a significant weakness, and devise a plot in which her superpower is of very limited help, and the only way she can truly prevail is to overcome her weakness.

She may be able to fly, but she is not a detective. Superman can keep law and order among normal humans, but his arch villains tend to be aliens even stronger than him, or like Brainiac, way smarter than him. Spiderman (in the comics) loses half his battles, the designers of Spiderman did that intentionally so the outcome of any given arc would have suspense.

In order for your superhero to not be boring, she needs setbacks to overcome, she has to fail. Fulfill your wish of making her the best in the world at something, or having a unique power. Do not fulfill your wish of making that solve everything. In the story, it shouldn't solve most of the challenges she faces. It's fine if it plays a role in the finale, if flying is, at last, critical to her victory, but it should be impossible for her to achieve victory without overcoming some deficit or weakness she has that truly seems to the reader to give the villain the upper hand.

  • Your main message is very valid, but your examples are a bit weak. Superman is notorious for spending the first few decades essentially growing superpowers on a whim (and hence really not having a weakness), and Spiderman certainly does not lose half his battles - or, more accurately, he may lose battles, but he very rarely loses the war (entire swaths of villains are by now driven half crazy because they have never beat him even once). I am sure there are better examples in literature to drive home your point. – xLeitix Nov 7 at 6:54
  • @xLeitix About 90% of stories support this, but I specifically chose two glaring examples. Agreed, Superman was not designed invulnerable, but I'm talking about the one's we see now. Spiderman was designed to be a normal guy and fail, go look for Stan Lee's interviews on the subject. And yes, he loses his battles slightly less than half the time. I didn't say he got killed, or anything about "the war", I am talking about episodes strictly in the comic series, not in the movies. Stan Lee, in interviews, says this was a first for superheroes and why Spiderman quickly became so popular. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Nov 7 at 11:48
4

Always maintain some distance between yourself and the character. Ensure that the character is somebody you can empathize with, but somebody who is fundamentally and emphatically not you. As in "I could not be that person". It's a little bit like avoiding nepotism: If you hire a relative, or you're a judge deciding a relative's lawsuit, you can't help but be partial to them. It doesn't matter how firmly you resolve to be objective. It's not possible, you can't fake it.

So don't "hire a relative". If you always find yourself asking "how does he feel about this" and never "how do I feel about this", you're on the right track. The character should be perfectly comfortable doing some things you'd never do. You should think of the character as a stranger you've met and you're getting to know. You may well be ambivalent about some things about the character. All the better, so you don't feel bad about kicking them around.

Then you strive to represent this person fairly. Representing a stranger fairly is doable. You're not emotionally involved in their flaws and virtues. It is what it is. Sometimes you want to hold that jerk's feet to the fire.

  • Your commentary is the "rule of thumb" of character creation: "Always maintain some distance between yourself and the character."and all the second paragraph. This is a general point of view but still a quite good advice. But, I don't know how to use this advice (as you can see in another question of mine: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/47733/… and writing.stackexchange.com/questions/47738/…), I mean which mechanism makes you distant from "you"? – M.N.Raia Nov 7 at 1:23
  • "distant from 'you' " means that you can sit with your character and chat. But suppose the following: – M.N.Raia Nov 7 at 1:25
  • ok, we must to maintain some distance. I going to create a character now, named Rattle the Rat. Rattle lives in Australia and his best friend is the cousing of Remy the famous French Chef. I sit down with Rattle and I ask: What your favorite food? Then he answer: I love fresh tomatoes with garlics. – M.N.Raia Nov 7 at 1:30
  • 1
    Some people love fresh tomatoes with garlic (raises hand). I can relate to that. It’s a good, vivid detail. Then you think about how a rat eats a fresh tomato — being a rat, it’ll be a bit disgusting. But that’s great. I can’t relate so well to some of a rat’s other habits. You create a character out of reasonably plausible pieces. At some point, you hopefully start to have a feeling for the character as a being, with his own momentum, more than the sum of his parts. – Ed Plunkett Nov 7 at 1:43
  • 1
    Using elements of real people works. And like anything, the more you do it, the more naturally it comes to you, until eventually you’ve done it too much, and you start going through the motions and repeating yourself (but without the inspiration). But that’s a long way off. – Ed Plunkett Nov 7 at 1:46

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