Tag Archives: Mary Sue

What Writers Can Learn From Star Wars’ Mistakes

I just got done responding to another person who felt Rise of Skywalker was lacking because it pandered to fans too much. So, it seems a good time to step back and take a look at the general errors that have so much of the fan base annoyed. Not surprisingly, many of the errors are the same as ones I discussed in an old post on mistakes comic book writers are making. It could also be said to apply to Star Trek, as it’s writers have made nearly identical mistakes with “Discovery”.

Change With No Real Logic Behind It.

Even with canon or lore that may only be one book old, if you’re doing to turn it upside down, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Most readers want to see a logical progression of events and character development. The longer standing the canon, the more this is going to be true. Two examples from the Disney Star Wars movies are the change to the nature of the Force, and the character assassinations of Han and Luke.

In the case of there now being no light or dark side to the Force, Disney just decided to push Hollywood moral relativism on people with no real logic to it in the film. There was no great “enlightenment”, nor did the Force turn out to be sentient and simply shift it’s own ideals. We’re simply left with Yoda going from spending 2/3 of Empire Strikes Back lecturing Luke about the perils and pitfalls of the dark side, to his ghost talking to Luke about how idiotic the Jedi principles were. You know, the same principles that per lore defended and guided the Republic for a thousand years… Yeah, let’s just flush that.

Character Assassinations of Existing Characters:

Character assassination of existing characters is getting to be a widespread problem as newer writers take over franchises and want to spread some sort of message or just make their own mark. Captain America was turned into a Nazi to justify giving his role, title and shield to the Falcon. Thor lost his role and Hammer to Jane Foster, Tony Stark was replaced by a black teenage girl. In Disney’s Star Wars, Luke went from ultimate idealist who willingly risked all to redeem his father, to somebody who would kill his twin sister’s son with barely a second thought. Again, with no natural progression to sell it to fans. Han basically went from rogue with a good heart in the original canon to a complete bum in the newer movies. He had a great backstory as an Imperial officer who threw it all away and became an outlaw to rescue a freighter full of slaves, including Chewbacca. He volunteers to lead the ground team in Return of the Jedi, risking himself to help others and a greater cause, then Disney comes along and he abandons his family, friends and the new Republic.

Mark Hamill read the script to The Last Jedi and said “I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve done to this character BUT it’s my job as an actor to bring your vision to life”. Ironic that he can’t get roles beyond voice work due to a facial scar while primadonna actors fight with producers and directors every day.

The Mary Sue:

This ALWAYS seems to follow the trashing of old characters nowadays. Insecure writers seem to feel it’s necessary to build up their own characters. Dislike for Rey is one of the biggest gripes I hear from fan bashers. Well, she uses the force and a lightsaber with no training, and manages to beat Kylo Ren in a dual the first time she really holds a lightsaber. Luke and Anakin were Marty Stu for sure, but even they required training. Luke couldn’t defeat the Emperor, neither could Yoda. Rey can do it even after he drains the Force from her. 90% of fans don’t care that she’s a woman, or what her sexuality might be. They care that she’s poorly written and developed. Daisy Ridley’s acting is the only thing that saves the character.

Again, follow a logical progression of character and power level development. If there’s a sudden growth in power, have the character struggle to learn the control and self discipline that’s needed to harness the power.

Poorly Defined New Characters:

A cardinal sin among comic book authors. Never throw in a new character just because you need another woman, or a Muslim, you have a flashy new general concept, or whatever. Inclusiveness is great, BUT have some depth to the character beyond that label. Think about why they’re in the story, What role will they play in the conclusion? What connection do they have with the heroes and/or villains? What unique role do they fill on a team? What makes them unique personality wise and what other characters would that lead to them bonding with instead of others?

Weak characters make for a poor story. The audience won’t feel any real connection to them. Rose from Last Jedi is a good example here. She seemed to serve no real role other than as a tag along for Finn while planetside. Would anything have changed if she was never in the movie? Not much. She needed to be better developed.

Poorly Thought Out Plot Ideas and Twists:

Rise of Skywalker excelled here. Most of it due to not thinking out the hows of trying to make the movie appeal to the core fan base. Net result: Things feel fake and contrived. The Emperor is back! How? WHY did he hide his presence at all, esp after Luke’s reborn Jedi Order collapsed? Why the obsession with super weapons beyond creating terror? We know it’s the writers being fixated on MacGuffins but put some logic behind it at least. Even going back to the original trilogy, the whole Luke and Leia and Vader all being related felt pretty contrived until the prequels put things into a better historical perspective.

Attack Your Critical Fans:

All over the blogisphere, there’s advice about taking criticism graciously. Apparently this goes out the window when you’re a “famous” Hollywood writer or director. THEN when your fans object based on the items above, you can turn around and call them ignorant, narrow minded, bigoted, homophobic, etc… Both the Star Wars and Star Trek Discovery development teams made this mistake, and made the criticism they took 50 times worse than it had been. And of course having viewership fall off because of it.

Reality is you have to pick your battles on this kind of thing. You can’t spend all your time explaining your thinking to fans. You’ll also never make everyone happy no matter what you do. If you’re trying to turn a profit from your work though, the worst thing you can do is insult your customer and tell them to piss off.

Pushing Social Issues TOO Hard:

I’ll probably get some pushback on this idea. There’s a popular school of thought that fiction has to have some underlying social message to it. Pure entertainment is somehow a waste. I disagree there.

None the less, there’s a right way and a wrong way to push the social issues thing also. Most folks today only understand yelling and bludgeoning. Try a gentler sell with social themes. Let’s say we go back to introducing a lesbian character for example because you want to promote acceptance. You can pummel people over the head with her gender identity and make it the center piece of her character, OR you can create a character who is three dimensional, has real life struggles like everyone else, and also happens to be a lesbian.

Or let’s take something completely different. Say you want to spread religious ideas. You can either hammer people with a “you’re all going to hell” approach, or you can sell the upside of how it’s benefited you in your life.

If your story reads like a twitter flame war… Well, readers have Twitter for that already, right?

Want to know why almost everybody likes “Rogue One”? It didn’t do any of the things above. Good story, all the characters were well defined, as were their roles, no Mary Sues, etc… OK, it had the obligatory MacGuffin, but it still did everything right otherwise.

Magnun P.I. Revisited…

A while back, one of my Hawaii Pics was of the plaque that commemorated part of the Kahala resort being used as a location for the original Magnum P.I. TV show in the 80s.

In the comments section, we got to talking about the reboot of the show. I had mentioned that it just wasn’t grabbing me the way the original did. Jay Hernandez just wasn’t seeming to fill Tom Selleck’s shoes very well. The new Higgins is a woman, which doesn’t bother me. The character is a bit different than the original (other than gender) but is true to the spirit of the original character and show. Rick and T.C. are definitely true to the original characters.

Anyway… It finally hit me during last week’s show what the problem was for me. It’s that the show SHOULD be called the Higgins Show. Magnum looks like a putz every time bad guys jump him because Higgins is the former James Bond MI 6 ass kicker who turns every fight to a win. She’s also the only one of the group that has computer / hacking skills as well as M.I.6 contacts, SO all the breaks in the cases come from her. Everybody else on the “team” is pretty much a third wheel.

Don’t get me wrong… The Tom Selleck version of the show featured a new helpless, clueless damsel in distress every week, who Magnum rushed in to save. That was 80s TV though, for better or worse. Seeing a stronger female character is a nice switch.

HOWEVER… It’s been taken too far to the other extreme here. The title character is made to look like a buffoon constantly for the sake of upselling Higgins and the idea of a powerful female protagonist. In a season and a half, the last episode this Friday was the first one where Magnum even came close to shining.

Is the idea of a little balance really that hard for Hollywood SJW focused writers to figure out? I wouldn’t think so. Hawaii Five 0 is on the same network. They even do crossovers with a few supporting characters. H50 is pretty good about sharing the spotlight among a very diverse team also.

I’m all for letting Higgins shine. She’s proving to be a great character with more depth than the original. Dumbing down the ex SEAL and Marine Force Recon rest of the team is poisoning an otherwise good show however. It’s honestly making Higgins look Mary Sue.

Me and Mary Sue Return

I am officially back among the living again. 🙂

Nicholson

I never was really totally gone, unless you count the lack of productivity in my own writing.

So I had an interesting realization while taking that time off.  Mary Sue is a HARD woman to kill, LOL.  She shows up in the oddest damned places too.  For those of you not familiar with the term, a “Mary Sue” is an overly perfect character; super popular, smart, good at everything, super model level attractive, etc…  The archetype is often seen as the writer’s idealized version of themself.  The male version is sometimes called a Marty Stu.

My first City of Heroes character was very much a Mary Sue.  As I studied more about writing and character development, I got further away from that over-idealized stereotype and made characters for writing and games that were more balanced.  Not perfect, but much better.  Up till last night, I thought I’d slain the dread Mary Sue.

Then, as I’m killing time playing Champions Online with a friend, I realize that Mary Sue had snuck back into my life.  This time a bit more of the idealized me than the perfect person scenario.  My character “Paladin” is a power armor character much along the lines of Marvel’s Iron Man.  Maybe closer to War Machine actually.  I can honestly say I made her BEFORE Marvel turned Rhodey into a jet jockey though.

Side note; he was originally an army helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

So, the character is an Air Force pilot that gets into bad dogfight while taking up two rookie pilots for training in the Middle East.  They get jumped by a group of Russian Migs.  She gets the other two away safely and manages to shoot down two of the five Migs, but not before her plane is hit and she takes some shrapnel to her lower spine.

She’s initially told she won’t walk again.  Being a Tony Stark level inventor though, she invents her armor initially as a suit to act as a junction to her legs and let her walk again.  It grows into the Paladin armor over time from there.

Recapping the character’s origin story for an in-game friend, I realized that she was an idealized version (sort of) of me, and that I apparently haven’t come to terms with my physical issues as much as I thought.

I haven’t talked much about my own health problems.  I want to be known for what I do (or at least write or say) rather than my issues.  Some folks whine and milk their problems to death also, to the point that I think most folks are sick of it all.  Just as a another side note, I do differentiate between that and those of you who blog to help others deal with similar situations.  Completely opposite things there.

Anyway, I have stage two spinal degeneration in my entire back.  That means degenerated (herniated) discs, and bone spurs, but the vertebrae haven’t started fusing together yet.  A good portion of the herniation is mild; only a few centimeters.  Other spots, like my lower back (right where I envisioned Paladin getting hit by shrapnel), is pretty bad.  I have a completely torn disc in my neck also, thanks to a crap chiropractor.

The bone spurs are where the real problem is.  I also have a swollen tendon on the left side of my neck, and the bone spurs tend to pinch it when my neck goes out of alignment.  THAT triggers massive Cervogenic headaches.  I also have a tremor in my left arm that the doctors are still debating if it’s related to pinched nerves OR early onset Parkinson’s disease.  So yeah, I’m a mess, LOL.  I’m still mobile though, and there are people out there alot worse off than me.  Being aware of that, I thought I’d kept a pretty good attitude about everything.

Then last night it hits me that Paladin is how I wish I could fix my problems and not feel as useless as I often do.  What makes it hard for me is that I was brought up to believe people should be as self sufficient as possible.  My issues have derailed completely the last couple of jobs I’ve had.  If I’m very sedentary, I do OK.  Activity has everything popping out of joint and me in real pain.  So, I’m OK if I sit around and do nothing.  Blah!

That’s all the more difficult to take because at my peak I was extremely active.  I’ve mentioned my martial arts training a few times.  At my best, I was training 3 hours a day between two different schools, and loving it.  When I was younger, my parents told me I was too much of a wuss to take classes and that I’d only cry and quit.  Doing itfor 3 hours a day was a real sense of empowerment.

So, things are still more of a struggle than I’d like to admit; coming to terms with my condition and feeling like I should somehow be doing more…  It even gnaws at my writing productivity.  Why am I doing this when I should be finding a way to make money, etc…  Even reminding myself that I intend to be published doesn’t help shut up that nagging doubt.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m in a better place than I was even a year ago.  It’s just frustrating realizing how far I still have to go.

There’s also a lesson here that lessons will show up in the darnedest places and ways if you really look for them.