Welcome again kiddies to another exciting instalment of "You and Your Senshi". Today's lesson is indeed focusing on melodrama. Or at least, an aspect of it- stock characters. Also known by most of society as stereotypes, and in the fan fiction community as the infamous Mary-Sue or Gary-Stu. Today we'll be looking at just what they are, and the pros and cons of them.
Now, in a melodrama, stock characters were a set of character types which were used in every play (They stole the idea from Commedia D'el arte, who have about 20 characters with set personalities and names that have a story improvised around them). These characters would have different names, sometimes different backgrounds, and very occasionally different relationships, but their basic 'role' and sometimes personality were always the same. There would always be a hero (strong, brave, dashing, always on the side of good), the heroine (well… Not really heroic. She's usually a damsel in distress), the comic character (usually a sidekick to the hero or the villain, a Milhouse type for the hero and an Igor for the villain) and of course a villain (he usually turned everyone against the hero, captured the heroine, or in general did some bad stuff… Think Dick Dastardly from the old Hannah Banabra cartoons (or however you spell those two names…)). This not made the melodramas easy to write and implant high comedy into, its audience already knew the characters whenever they came to see the performance, even if they had different names, settings, times, stories, etc!
So how does this apply to you and your Senshi? Well, as you are aware, the Otaku Senshi community especially is quite harsh when it comes to sniffing out something that is remotely stereotypical, and then proceeding to shoot it down as crappy. I do believe this is wrong. This article will be the start of a small campaign that only involves a little button on your page (I might create a website one day, but for the moment it's just a graphic).
In my belief, a Mary-Sue should either be:
b) having prominent character traits which are so overused that you cannot have an original characters, in short, they have become stereotypes such as 'the berserker' or 'the emo Goth'.
Putting that aside, there are actually reasons you may want a stereotypical character. For instance, think of the melodrama example. If you automatically set your character up as a stereotype, the reader will already know what to expect from them. Breaking the character from this stereotype later is an especially dramatic twist in a story, and can add three extra dimensions to a character (so they're five dimensional!), creating tension that would not be achievable with a character who already had enough depth to confuse people.
A story full of stereotypes also helps to set certain characters apart - if you have a set of two dimensional characters running around, and then this character who has a lot of depth to them, they'll really stand out. It's just common sense.
Though there is of course a downside to stereotypes that you may want to think about. The people who accuse others of "Mary-Sues" may be harsh, but there is a little basis to why they are calling you out.
The main downside being that your character will indeed be two dimensional if you don't deviate from the original stereotype. I would suggest thinking about your character, and doing a little thing called "composting", which is where you take aspects of people (or animals…) you know, and shove them all in together to make a lovely, colourful mess that ends up being a really original and very realistic character.
Overall, if someone tells you your character is a Mary-Sue, or even a Gary-Stu, ask them to clarify just WHY, and how they would fix it up. Whether you listen to their advice or not, is up to you.
Another interesting article you may want to look at is this one, which pertains a liiittle bit more to Otaku Senshi than this article, or even this by Cosima.
And finally, the badge. Display it on your page with pride if you wish to support my little campaign ^_^
Quite crappy, but it does the job. Again, questions and comments to meeee!