View Full Version : TSTL heros/heroines -- where do you stand?

Cathy C
01-23-2006, 01:02 AM
This topic showed up on another forum I belong to, and it's a good one for romance writers to think about (and, frankly, it's time to liven up this room a bit! LOL!)

"Too stupid to live" heros and heroines (TSTL)

This is the hero who is an admitted wuss with no marketable skills but a title and/or money, who decides to wander down to the bad side of town "for the fun of it." He doesn't tell anyone where he's going. He winds up drugged, beaten up and robbed, or possibly kidnapped (and is SURPRISED! )

One example of a TSTL heroine was the blonde on Hitchcock's "The Birds". KNOWING that murderous birds are rampaging around town, they hole up in the house and try to wait it out. But NO! Wait! The heroine hears a strange noise in the attic (which must be a completely innocent noise, right?) and goes up the stairs and then . . . SHUTS THE FREAKING DOOR BEHIND HER!! AARGH! Again, she is SURPRISED to be attacked.

So, how does one put a hero or heroine in danger without getting a TSTL reaction from the readers? If you make the characters TOO strong, and TOO capable, do you then have to ramp up the villain as well? What does it take NOT to cross the line? Can a writer have both a sympathetic character AND an action plot where the person is in danger and requires the assistance of the other person but keep the people smart?

Thoughts, comments and views welcome!

01-23-2006, 02:38 AM
LOL Cathy - my kids and I laugh about The Birds all the time. Our favorite thing to say when we come across a scene from it is - "It's the 50's we think we can shield ourselves from a nuclear bomb by ducking under a school desk but birds?? There is no way to stop them!"

I don't find many TSTL characters in romances but then maybe that's because I tend to chose books BY character. I hate it more when it's a book deemed "serious literature" by all the 'right' people and I keep thinking - "No freaking way would anyone do this". Or if the people saying these are 'realistic' portrayals ever met a person like this, they'd think they(the character come to life) were an idiot for the choices they make.

Luanne Jones
Heathen Girls

01-23-2006, 07:25 AM
I have come across one TSTL heroine in a romance story I read once. I absolutely love the author, but the heroine he created made me wish she would get trampled by a stampede of wild gofers. (Historical)

A very capable hero/heroine does tend to ask for a more vicious villain. After all, if you need "a bad" guy, then you can't make it too easy for the hero to persevere. What's the fun in that? You want that heart-stopping, blood pumping moment where you fear that the hero/heroine might not make it. Oh, of course in the back of your mind you know they will, but you have to be able wonder how they made it through.

Most of the conflicts in my stories are internal. Some sort of insecurity that they need to overcome. However, in one of my current WIPs, there is an actual villain and it's interesting to make both the hero and heroine strong and capable while being slightly vulnerable to each other and the influence the villain holds over them. :e2shrug: That's just me and well, I'm a bit off anyway. ;)

01-23-2006, 07:40 AM
My heroines and heroes get in tough situations, life and death type of things. But they don't have to be stupid to get there...but they CAN make stupid choices...Smart people make stupid choices all the time, but I would keep even that to a minimum.

Motivation is the key. Running into a burning building is a really stupid thing for a person (who isn't a fireman) to do, UNLESS he/she has good motivation, i.e. a child is trapped in the fire. The reader has to at least understand why the character is doing what he or she is doing, otherwise you will have a case of TSTL and no writer wants that!

clara bow
01-23-2006, 09:39 AM
Can a writer have both a sympathetic character AND an action plot where the person is in danger and requires the assistance of the other person but keep the people smart?

I think so. Though it's not a romance novel, take the X-Files' Mulder and Scully as an example. I absolutely adore the relationship dynamics explored in that series. Each new bizarre situation tested their smarts to the limits, and sometimes threatened to overwhelm their abilities, but both characters rose to the challenges and grew as a result. Their relationship deepened with each new adventure.

In my current WIP, I created situations to demonstrate that apart, the hero and heroine are strong and capable, but become even stronger when they pool their resources and join forces. Each saves the other at different points in the story, but when it comes to completely eradicating the enemy, they are only as strong as their combined abilities.

I think ramping up the villain is necessary with smart characters. Smart characters learn quickly how to think differently and approach new situations with more creative, outside-the-box thinking. Of course, heh, doing this effectively depends a lot on the intelligence of the author (in my extremely humble opinion).