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My mother died giving birth to me, so I'm an Only Child Syndrome...You think YOUR life sucks? THINK AGAIN!!!!
My father was killed in Iraq when I was 2 then I was put into an orphanage...
When I was three I was kidnapped and augmented into a soldier called a CRUSADER...
The war ended when I was 15, and all my friends were dead...I'm the last CRUSADER...
When I was 16, I found out that I'm the wielder of a sword that almost everyone is trying to kill me for...
I met the girl of my dreams, who was shortly later killed...
—The introduction to an unidentified Sailor Moon(!) OC
The Mary Sue who wants your sympathy. Like most other subtypes, they can be male or female, but generally tends towards the latter since women are perceived to be more sensitive and vulnerable. She'll usually be mopey and depressed while Wangsting all the time. She may go through Deus Angst Machina either in her backstory or in the actual stories she is in.
Please note that you can create an angsty character who isn't a Mary Sue. Even Wangst can have its place in good fanfiction, if done right. An unhappy history and a gloomy personality aren't the only things that make a Sympathetic Sue.
A good angsty character's emotional pain is never stylish, and does not necesserily involve weeping and wailing. People deal with pain in many different ways, usually by becoming trapped in one of the Five Stages of Grief. If they do resort to self-harm such as cutting themselves, it's not glamourised. And like most normal people with a tragic history, they will talk about it as little as possible. If they do talk to somebody they trust about it, they will do so infrequently and reluctantly. Generally there is a single core reason for their angst, although other bad experiences may stem from it.
Their feelings of guilt will make sense, usually because of psychological scarring. Perhaps, just perhaps though, they were responsible for something that happened to someone else and are dead on with their remorse. They might have tried to do something to relieve the pain in the past, even if it failed. And canon characters do other things as well as comfort the angsty character. Even after the angst is gone there's still a story to be told.
Common Sympathetic Sue backstories involve:
- Abusive Parents
- All of the Other Reindeer
- Domestic Abuse
- Doomed Hometown
- Last of Her Kind
- Parental Abandonment
- Rape as Backstory
Keep in mind that these tragic background elements do not, by themselves, define the character as a Sympathetic Sue. Any of these traumas is a good reason for any character - or any living person, for that matter - to suffer some form of depression. And your character can have more than one of them without being a Sue, although the more you have, the harder it will be to write them realistically. But Sympathetic Sue will have suffered hugely - sometimes from all of them at once.
Apart from all that angst, there are all the regular Mary Sue things: Authorial intrusion, plot favoritism, unnatural magnetism, and such often also with a lack of perceivable flaws and a strong tie to the author. It's just that there's something for her to be overly and usually unrealistically depressed about. Perhaps the most important factor in a Sympathetic Sue is that, no matter what she's going through or how emotionally or physically damaged she may be, these damages never make her ugly; if she is unkempt she will be an Unkempt Beauty, any terrible ordeals she goes through will usually result in an Adrenaline Makeover and if she is ever physically scarred it will be a cool looking, Bond villain type scar that will function more as a decoration (and a reminder of how beautifully and poetically tortured she is) than an actual injury. Sympathetic Sue always suffers beautifully (possibly a variation or Beauty Is Never Tarnished.)
But Sympathetic Sue's unhappy past doesn't really match up with how much she angsts over it. No matter how many traumatic events her history involves, the angst is still not portrayed realisticly. Often, it doesn't even have any real permanent implications; it's just a reason to gain the attention of a true love who will spend most of the story trying to make her feel better about it. Essentially, it's not an important part of the story, or the character. It's just there to make people feel sorry for her.
She'll talk about her pain constantly and as soon as possible. In Real Life, some people are very open about their emotional pain, but those with the deepest trauma have it because they keep their pain so close to their chest. A problem shared is a problem halved, people! But Sue's sharing will simply double it.
Sue often blatantly ignores all the positives in her life. Self-blame is often irrational, but Sympathetic Sue takes Survivors Guilt to its most extreme state, blaming herself for her parents dying in a plane crash, and not just feeling mild guilt either, but wallowing in it deeply and extensively for years on end to get attention. The other characters will never get tired of trying to cheer her up, even if it's totally out of character for their personality. If they're not near her, they'll probably be discussing how sorry they feel for her.
She'll never attempt to relieve the emotional pain herself - other characters do all the legwork for her. Any character who doesn't try to help gets chewed out or portrayed as a jerk. And most of all, the story comes to an end as soon as the angst is gone.
Pairs well with Jerk Sue, since angst can fuel anger and acting out sympathetically. Generally shows up in Hurt Comfort Fics, and is a common fate for an in-series Woobie or Draco in Leather Pants. May also be a Damsel Scrappy.
Polar opposite of Iron Woobie, a hard knock character who fights on to improve their lot and refuses to give in to their grief.
No examples please, this just explains the term.