(I did this before I joined tumblr so I never actually posted it here myself.)
I love the Game of Thrones books. I’ve only watched the first season of the series, so this isn’t supposed to be true to that or anything, just a loose painting of how I’d like to portray Ygritte.
I’ve started to also post some work in progress type things on my twitter, this image has a couple iterations. So if you’re interested, I’ll hopefully post more!
So true. I’ve never looked at a work of art and felt personally invigorated. I can see a caricature of me in the midground and background, scrubbing floors and grooming white people. White people…
what a dingus
I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind when writing fantasy is to try and keep as much of it realistic as possible. Obviously since it’s fantasy, there will be some kind of magical or supernatural powers, creatures, etc., so those won’t necessarily be “realistic,” but there are still real-world things to consider.
Some commonly overdone fantasy tropes that can easily lead to overpowered characters include
- learning a new skill (magical, weapon-related, etc.) in an alarmingly short amount of time
- related to the above, a young character being more skilled than an older and more experienced person despite their age (not to say that you can’t make young characters exceptionally talented, but let’s be honest, if a teenager who just learned magic six months ago goes up alone against the most powerful mage in the land, they’re probably gonna lose, and if not, you might have an overpowered character on your hands)
- having a character be born with some kind of “inherent” talent for a difficult or long-lost power, then using this as an excuse for why they’re so good at everything
- characters who are mages/witches/wizards/magic users of some sort who aren’t balanced out by other magic users, or by limitations on their magic. For example, if magic users are super uncommon in your world and there are only a few in the story, there probably should be some severe limitations on how much or what kind of magic they can use, or else they’d wipe everyone else out easily.
- this one isn’t quite as overdone, but since you mentioned your characters were mostly mercenaries, you’d want to make sure their weapons, armor, and other gear reflect their status. Unless they’re exceptionally well-paid mercenaries, they probably won’t have the best mint-condition armor or greatest super-rare enchanted weaponry, and even their fighting style will likely be different from that of formally trained soldiers, knights, etc.
There are probably a lot more, but those are some ones that seem pretty common. There are also non-genre-specific things that can lead to a character seeming “mary-sue”-like and flat:
- always being right even without enough information to make an informed decision
- not having flaws that can actually affect the story (example: if one of the character’s flaws is that they’re “immature,” think about how “has an immature sense of humor and makes fart jokes” differs from “handles confrontation in an immature way, leading to difficulties in their relationships with the other characters”)
- saying in the narration that a character looks a certain way but showing them to be another. For example, you can say upfront that Character A is “plain-looking with brown hair and gray eyes” but if you go on to constantly describe them with phrases like “soft auburn locks shining in the sunlight” and “eyes like oncoming storm clouds,” people probably aren’t going to buy into the whole “plain” claim, and it’ll seem like you were just saying that to make them seem less exceptional
- not being fair in the way characters’ negative actions are portrayed– for example, excusing the protagonist if they make a mistake that costs innocent lives, but vilifying another character for doing the same. Although this bit of advice doesn’t always stand, especially if your story is in first-person, or if you’re intentionally going for an unreliable narrator.
These are just some that immediately came to mind as common or overdone. Here are some external things to check out:
- Common Mary Sue Traits
- Mary Sue Problems
- 123 Character Flaws
- 100 Character Development Questions
- Help! I Have a Mary Sue
- Mary Sue Litmus Test (this one can be entertaining but I’d take it with a grain of salt; once I ran through it just for fun with one of my old characters who I knew was ridiculously overpowered [like he was literally a 1,000-year-old immortal demigod mage swordsman] and it said he was a well-balanced character, then it said that my scruffy plain 50-year-old non-magical human general was most likely a Mary Sue. So I would definitely not use this as you #1 resource for writing well-rounded characters.)
Want to make some badass props and have no idea how? Check out my new prop making book for only 5$!