Writing and Reading Heroines Who Are Too Stupid to Live (TSTL)

May 20, 2011

TSTL=Too Stupid to Live

I don’t know who coined the phrase as it pertains to literary heroines, but I like it. You know the kind of fictional lady this phrase is speaking of—the one who walks around outside her house in the middle of the night because she heard a noise…despite watching a news story about serial sexual assaults in her neighbor. Too stupid to live, right?

Fortunately, I haven’t encountered too many of these women in my reading. Some heroines have TSTL moments, but they manage to redeem themselves with rational, adult behavior. But the other day, I “met” my very first TSTL heroine. Her only redeeming quality was an affable character. The rest—holy Hemingway!—was worse than nails on a chalk board.

Of course, I’ve never written a TSTL heroine…have I?

Yeah. I have. My first manuscript, first draft contained a heroine who needed a disclaimer. “Be prepared. Julia cries a lot,” I said as I passed the printed pages to my ideal reader.

Julia cried a lot? Julia cried too freaking much—among other annoying character traits that made her TSTL. In drafts two, three, four and five, I toned her down, but the first impression lingered, and now she lives (and cries and whines) in a box under my bed.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious to see disclaimers like mine written on book jackets?

Caution: Catherine makes rash decisions and never learns from her mistakes. This book may not be suitable for readers with low thresholds for indecision.

As I’m heroine bashing, I’m also wondering if a hero be TSTL? For the heroine, her stupidity centers around naïve behavior that is weak or misguided. But I think a hero can be TSTL if he’s an ass who never sees just how much of an ass he is.

Have you had any run-ins with TSTL heroines? What about heroes? What male traits make a hero TSTL?

One Response to “Writing and Reading Heroines Who Are Too Stupid to Live (TSTL)”

  1. Tari Says:

    This was a topic at RWA Saturday! Heroines who were TSTL, and heroes who were Superman. I’m watching out for them!! (Now if I could just stop over-using exclamation points!)

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