How not to Make a Mary Sue

Saitama's Face

I know at times that making a character that doesn’t have any flaws may seem enticing.  However, there is a huge problem with this. A character with no flaws has no problem to overcome and because they have no problems to overcome there is no real story for the audience to become invested in. Characters with no flaws also tend to seem one dimensional and boring. Because the character has no problems, there isn’t really a situation the writer can use to give depth to the character. It is through the character’s struggles that the audience sees deeper into who the character is. Without these struggles, there is no character growth which is an important part of what makes a story. The only way a Mary Sue could work is in comedy or satire. In the manga known as “Haven’t you Heard? I’m Sakamodo” by Nami Sano, the entire story focuses on a student who is basically perfect in everyway and seems to come out on top every time someone tries to ruin his day. The reason the author of this manga can get away with doing this is by playing it off in a humorous way. This is done by putting the character in an absurd situation on top of the character solving it through absurd means like skating down the hallway in a mop bucket. Generally, making a character without flaws is a bad idea unless said character is going to be a part of a comedy.

                However, just because having a character without flaws is a bad idea doesn’t mean you can’t make a character that could be deemed overpowered. There are many stories I seen, heard, and read that depict overpowered characters that have flaws and character growth. One manga writer known as One does an excellent job of creating godly characters that have immense power that still depth to them. One of the first manga he made was Called “One Punch Man” which is the entire premise of the story. The main character has become so powerful that he can defeat anything with one punch. Though this sounds nice, the character quickly realizes that without any real challenges his life has no real meaning. What ends up happening is the character becomes depressed and treats being a hero like a job more that a profession he actively pursues which a massive change compared to how he started. This creates a character with depth even though most of the manga is based in humor and satire. Another manga that One created called “Mob Psycho 100” is another good example of an overpowered character with depth. This time, the character is a student with psychic powers that are crazy strong. The only problem is he doesn’t how to control them as he loses control every time he becomes emotionally stressed. This leads to him suppressing his emotions which makes it hard for him to connect with people. There’s a bit more to it than just losing control. One of the main reasons he doesn’t want to lose control is because the last time he did, he hurt his brother. Because the audience knows this and watches as he struggles to keep his power at bay. They can see a character that has depth and emotion. It’s because of these examples we see that we don’t to start out with a week character. We can create a character that is basically limitless so long as it has flaws to give the character depth and ground it in reality.