To Be or Not to Be; What /does/ a writer truly do?


What does a writer actually do?


What is the difference between a writer who publishes thousands of cookie cutter books and is forgotten and a writer who publishes one book but is remembered forever because of it?

As a former roleplayer, I’m almost positive that the answer behind these has to do with the writer’s focus.

Every serious roleplayer dreads hearing the words “god-moder”, “Mary Sue” and “Anti-Sue”–among others, of course. If you’ve never picked up a D&D book or peeked into an online forum, you’re probably not familiar with these terms, so I’ll explain them quickly. Skip over the following section if you already know.

A God-moder is an incredibly annoying character to roleplay with. These characters can do everything and anything. They can use every weapon in human history, solve every riddle and they never ever lose. Ever. If you try to sneak a blow in on them in a duel, they always have an excuse for why your attack didn’t work.

“My character is 3/1500’s dragon so fire doesn’t hurt him. He’s also part elf, so he can move without you hearing him.”

“My character blocked your attack because he has super-reflexes.”

“Your character is a bad guy–he can’t hurt my character.”

Even more aggravating than the God-moder, if possible, is the Mary Sue, a character who has no flaws, can never lose, and is so amazingly beautiful that everyone loves her. Often, Mary Sues come about because the author admires a character or two and seeks their approval. Or just wants to be loved by people. Either way, the result is INCREDIBLY ANNOYING and roleplayers who can’t move past this step are often looked down upon.

Sometimes, roleplayers attempt to raise themselves from the Mary Sue stage by creating what’s known as the Anti-Sue–which can be worse since it doesn’t entirely make sense. Anti-Sues are characters who are horrifically flawed (maybe they’re ugly or poor or weak) but everyone still loves them. Even though these characters are flawed, they’re still annoying as they expect everyone to love them.

What makes a good writer, therefore, is not just writing or novel ideas or creativity, but the ability to observe life, pull insight from it and then present it in a way that wows others.

Readers love characters they can relate to or understand. Many readers also enjoy fishing philosophic themes from writing–even if they don’t do it consciously. Often, following the adventures of a perfect character who we want to be is boring. We need tension, danger, flaws, mistakes! We need improvement! We need insight!

We don’t need another world entirely, but an insight on the one we already have.

That’s not saying that writing focused on other worlds is worthless–this can often be more impactful than realistic fiction. Your new world, worlds or galaxies should have some tie back to our own, however.

The best fiction, the most memorable fiction, branches off from reality. It isn’t pure nonfiction that takes the prize, nor is it bleached imagination. Instead, it’s a mix of the two.

Observe life, therefore, and make it your own.



  1. Writing Jobs said,

    August 1, 2012 at 06:06

    That was another excellent post today. You make it look so easy. Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a wonderful day!

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  2. EFoley said,

    August 1, 2012 at 11:23

    I wonder if we try to be God-moders in our own lives? Perhaps because we don’t want to get hurt? And I wonder if Mary Sues and Anti-Sues are more alike than we realize? Interesting also that imagination is not an attribute of being able to look beyond where we are but rather very deeply into it, overcoming our “bleached imaginations” (great phrase!).

    Fascinating post. You have me thinking on multiple levels.

  3. September 7, 2012 at 22:31

    […] To Be or Not to Be; What /does/ a writer truly do? ( […]

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