Keep in mind that not every original character is a Mary Sue. For each of the below traits that apply to your original character, award one point. The score will tell you whether or not your character crosses the line.
- Transplanted 20th century native
- Unusual eye colour (violet, amber, etc.)
- Unusual name (including spelling variations of common names involving y or e, Terran ethnic name on an alien world, etc.)
- Her hair is mentioned repeatedly (down to her waist, fell in blue-black waves, etc.)
- Rules that apply to others are bent or broken for her
- Is often maverick or unconventional, bordering on insubordinate
- Excels at everything she turns her hand to or conversely, fails at everything she turns her hand to, but is forgiven
- Is connected to a member of the senior staff, either through familial or psuedo-familial ties ("adopted" daughter, etc.) or through a romantic relationship
- Is unusually physically attractive
- Interacts socially with the senior staff rather than her own peer group
- Has uncanny or supernatural abilities and skills (does not apply if the character is Ocampan, Vulcan, Betazoid, or a member of a race with documented extra-sensory powers)
- Is unusually accomplished for her age
- Has a particularly traumatic past
- Is universally liked and/or respected by the entire crew
- Has an excellent singing voice
- Is unusually skilled in areas outside her duty assignment (example: is a nurse, but also an expert hacker)
- Shares a hobby or passion with a male member of the senior staff
- Is recognised publicly for feats above and beyond the call of duty
- Dies a heroic death and is mourned by all
How to read your character's score:
6-10 Needs work
11-15 Needs major work
16-20 Beyond help
Do not despair! There are ways to turn your Mary Sue into an interesting yet realistic protagonist. First and foremost, avoid extremes and excesses. In order for your reader to identify with a protagonist, the protagonist should be kept to human scale, rather than operatic. Jettison the superlatives and go for believability. Do not make your protagonist you only cooler, taller, thinner, smarter, and from the future and able to read minds. Instead, think about guest stars and recurring characters that have appeared on the series itself, and try to add to their number without dropping a superhero in their midst. For more information about Mary Sue in fan fiction, read the Fanfic FAQ.
Transplanted 20th century native
Scrap this one. It's trite, over-used (even by Trek. Remember Gillian?), and a recipe for disaster.
Unusual eye colour (violet, amber, etc.)
Go with the normsblondes are genetically pre-disposed toward light eyes (blue or green). Brunettes are genetically pre-disposed toward dark eyes (brown or black). Redheads are are genetically pre-disposed toward shades of brown and green. Betazoids canonically have black eyes.
Unusual name (including spelling variations of common names involving y or e, Terran ethnic name on an alien world, etc.)
Pick a name similar in construction to other characters of the same race/species featured on Star Trek. If your character is human, and of a certain ethnic background, go with the norm rather than trying to differentiate with weird spellings (for example, Kymberlee instead of Kimberly), or "fantasy" names such as Raven, Hunter, etc.
Her hair is mentioned repeatedly (down to her waist, fell in blue-black waves, etc.)
Cut all but one mention, unless it relates somehow to the plot. Do not wax lyrical about her locks. This is Star Trek, not Harlequin.
Rules that apply to others are bent or broken for her
Either find a solid reason for doing so, or rethink your plot. There is no reason the Captain should be favouring one ensign above another, period.
Is often maverick or unconventional, bordering on insubordinate
No matter what the norm was (according to Learning Curve) aboard Chakotay's Maquis ship, insubordination is simply not tolerated aboard a Starfleet vessel. And grandstanding may seem cool in one's head, but in reality, it's rare to see someone break the chain of command or ignore a direct order without paying the consequences. Teamwork is key among a starship crew. People do not simply go off and save the day all on their own (unless they are Seven of Nine).
Excels at everything she turns her hand to
Let's be realistic. Everyone has one thing that is their speciality. Gifted people may have two. But no one is perfect, or can pick up other people's specialities at the drop of a hat. Narrow your character's fields of expertise to one speciality, two at the outside. And even then, be aware of her limits.
Fails at everything she turns her hand to, but is forgiven
It's not cute, funny, tragic, or in any way endearing. Trust me. Keep away from extremes, and go for believability. Keep in mind that if your character is a 'fleet officer, then she had to be good enough to get through the Academy. Also keep in mind that if she was Maquis, she had be good enough to survive. Darwinism should come into play here.
Is connected to a member of the senior staff, either through familial or psuedo-familial ties ("adopted" daughter, etc.) or through a romantic relationship
This is the single most common failing of Mary Sues. It is the author's desire to be closer to her favourite character manifested through a surrogate, and it is transparent and usually forced. If you can find a way to sever unusually close ties (unless they are supported by canon, such as Harry and Tom and the Delaney sisters) do so for the sake of believability.
Is unusually physically attractive
Look at the people around you. How many of them are supermodels? Size 4? Okay. Yes, these folks are going to be reasonably physically fit (especially compared to civilians like you and me) but they are not Greek Gods. People like to read about real people.
Interacts socially with the senior staff rather than her own peer group
Consider this one carefully. While this crew has been alone for six years, and for this reason ties have formed between people that most likely would not have in the Alpha Quadrant, keep canon in mind. How often do we see the senior staff fraternising with the rest of the crew? Yes, it happens. Tom refers to many crewmen and women in dialogue (due to budget constraints, actually seeing these folks is rare), usually in reference to the holodeck, the messhall, and other group activities. Also, Neelix is fair game to interact with damned near anyone. But close relationships tend to be limited.
Has uncanny or supernatural abilities and skills
Unless a member of a race with documented mental abilities (Ocampans, Vulcans, Betazoids, etc.) shy away from making her telepathic, precognitive, or any flavour of psychic. You can push that only slightly with identical twins. But even that has become a cliché in fan fiction.
Is unusually accomplished for her age
Keep in mind that the youngest person aboard Voyager that we know of at the time it was flung it into the Delta Quadrant was Gerron (approximately 19). If your story is set during the current season, it is less than plausible that any crewmember would be younger than 25. In fact, the majority of the crew should be in their mid to late 20s, and early 30s. Naomi Wildman, Mezoti, Icheb, and the twins are the only children currently aboard Voyager. If you are going to set the story ten to twenty years in future in order to write the adventures of two crewmen's daughter or son, keep in mind that an original character who is the child of your favourite couple among the senior staff is another hallmark of Mary Sue.
Has a particularly traumatic past
Do not torture your character in an attempt to have the audience immediately empathise with her. This is especially true for Maquis crewmembers. The atrocities committed by the Cardassians were horrible, but do not over burden a character with a horrific past unless it relates to the story and the plot. And keep in mind the history of the Maquis on the series, and what we know about the Maquis crewmembers. Do not try and out-pathos another character just for the sake of having an even more traumatised character. Also, keep in mind that not all the Maquis would have been captured, tortured, raped, or have seen the above; some would have joined out of idealism, and although probably all saw comrades killed, that may have been the extent of their trauma.
Is universally liked and/or respected by the entire crew
No one person is a seen as a saint by everyone. Even among 150 people, there will be members of the crew whowhile they know each other by name, and perhaps even know a few key thing about each otherare not known well outside their department, let alone universally adored. This alone can become a plot point. For example, there was an episode of the series MASH where a nurse was blown up by a land mine, and everyone realised that no one knew her well enough to even eulogise her. It is occasionally interesting to write about one of these nondescript characters, but do not always go for one of the above mentioned extremes. Rather, think about the dynamics of a group that works and plays together such as a high school class. Look for real-life examples upon which to base your fictional interpersonal relationships and social dynamics.
Has an excellent singing voice
When used in combination with other excellent traits, this in particular stands out as a classic Mary Sue identifier.
Is unusually skills in areas outside her duty assignment (example: is a nurse, but also an expert hacker)
While an engineer can also have a fondness for horticulture, and a security team member might love to cook, no one is a jack of all trades and equally accomplished in each. Especially if the trade in question requires the equivalent of a graduate degree. Keep hobbies to a reasonable scale, and avoid upstaging a canonical character who is the head of that department.
Shares a hobby or passion with a male member of the senior staff
While the series has shown Tom Paris is not the only crewmember with a passion for the holodeck, his penchant for B-movies is most likely unique. However, Harry has played music with Sue Nicoletti and a number of other crewmembers. Just keep in mind that, as stated above, while some relationships are supported by canon, giving your character the same hobby as your favourite member of the staff as an excuse to have the two interact can be seen as yet another hallmark of a Mary Sue and can be gratuitous.
Is recognised publicly for feats above and beyond the call of duty
Janeway doesn't even promote or decorate her senior staff on a regular basisit is not particularly likely that an ensign would save the day and be handed a medal. However, it would be reasonable for her to verbally commend someone or to make a note in that person's personnel file or her log.
Dies a heroic death and is mourned by all
This is also very common Mary Sue identifier that should be avoided if at all possible. Mary Sue is as often martyred as she is married, and the series has thus far only done it once (Jetal) and is not likely to do so again.
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