Is she appears in all of my stories. It was only recently pointed out to me that my books have a tendency to follow the same pattern: drop a girl into a difficult situation, and use her to fix it. Mary Sue: the perfect, capable miracle worker who no-one dislikes and has barely anything wrong with her.

I am fond of a happy ending, especially when life is so hard to control, fix and predict. I like the idea of being able to send one of my creations in to rescue people from their circumstances. Over the centuries, most female characters have been shrews, victims or one-dimensional needle-point women whose principal aim is to snare a man to do all the sorting out. Even as I write that, I’m remembering Jane Austen’s Emma and Elizabeth, or LM Montgomery’s Anne. But then, think of how they end up; married and on their way to a lifetime of child-rearing.

This morning, I read an article about avoiding gender-bias when writing letters of recommendation, and it included a list of adjectives to avoid including ‘caring’, ‘dependable’, ‘warm’ and ‘helpful’. My girls are usually all of those things. Perhaps because of my fondness for 19th century novels. Or maybe those qualities are more laudable than you might think…

My defence is this: in the story, the main character actually plays an active part in changing and directing the plot. She does not swoon trembling into the strong arms of an overpowering man. Often, if there even is a man, he waits in the wings until she notices, or decides he’s worth pulling in to her story. Even in Walking in the Sun, I take care to let Rachel kiss Charlie, and not the other way round. (I have to confess I was a little troubled that I even let that happen.)

From now on, I resolve to put more light and shade into my Mary Sues, and try not to make them anything like me.

Watch out for my next work where a flawed man tries to make sense of the shambolic lives of the people around him.

I think I’ll call him Marty Stu…

Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

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