Dear Mr. Critical,
I’m the perfect height, the perfect weight, bleach blond hair, the perfect bust, the perfect grades. I’m special because there’s power to me that no one gets, all the boys want me but they’re all losers, the only boy I want is perfect but unattainable until I do something amazing. My parents died in front of me and I killed their attacker on the spot, without suffering any psychological set backs.
My problem is no one likes me. What should I do?
Dear Mary Sue,
You’re right. No one likes you. Why? Because no one can relate to you.
People are not perfect. They have a birthmark that makes them self-conscious. They’re made fun of school and feel fat, no matter the truth. Their grades are perfect and they’re ostracized or they’re mediocre and they’re accepted, much to their parent’s chagrin. People cannot relate to “My life is perfect,” because their life is not.
If you want to be liked, if you want to be relevant, stop being perfect. Hair gets tangled. Bra shopping is awkward because they never have the right size (so are the complaints I’ve heard). Parents dying in front of a child creates Batman. Yes, Batman is awesome. No, I would never want to be Batman. He’s psychotic. He’s broken. He’s damaged beyond words, no matter how awesome he is in fighting people and making gadgets. Normal people do not act like that.
Even in anime, the perfect girl has something brewing deep inside her. There is some part of her she loathes, even if she reveals to the world she is the greatest person ever to roam the earth. Those attitudes come from a sense of doubt, low self esteem, and sometimes narcissism. Whatever it is, someone who has an air of perfection is hiding their cracks. Have cracks. Let them shine through.
Why should you let your cracks shine through, Mary Sue? Because we do not love people for their perfection. We do not love people based on what comes easy to them. We love their flaws, their imperfections. We love what we can fix about them. This is why good girls date the bad boy. This is why we are glued to imperfect characters doing bad or stupid things, especially when we can see the ability to change those ill-fated decisions.
What I want to tell you is to throw off your perfections. Gain some flaws. Each one is an opportunity for you to succeed at becoming a more fleshed out character. It is the chance to succeed where you would otherwise fail. It is the chance to fail and show us that you are only human. It is the chance to shed ridiculous powers and plot holes in lieu of a touch of realism. Don’t overdo it. But just enough that when we see you, it makes us laugh and cry. Because we get it.
This is how you can find the acceptance you so desperately need. It’s how you can overcome your one character flaw: being a character the reader cannot relate to.