July 4th, 2007
Character Motivation and the TSTL Heroine

This is something I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while. I’ve noticed in recent years on lists and reader’s boards talk of the TSTL heroine. TSTL stands for Too Stupid to Live, btw. 

I have encountered the TSTL heroine many times in my reading life. I know her when I see her. She’s the one haring off without a care, endangering herself, and needing to be saved by the hero. But once in a while I’ll run into someone saying that a particular heroine is TSTL just because, say, she didn’t get permission from the hero to do something.  This has always made me go hmmmm. I’ve talked about this on my discussion board at length.

Here’s the deal, characters have to have the proper motivation to do dangerous things.

For example, if the heroine is in a darkened, tumble-down mansion at midnight and hears something clunking around and groaning in the basement, she would be TSTL if she just flounced down the stairs asking, “Who’s there?” without waiting for the hero (who, I dunno, was out taking a walk or whatever) to come back and accompany her. 

She would not be TSTL if her baby brother was somewhere in the basement, being held captive by whatever was making the clunking and groaning sounds. In the second scenario, she has the proper motivation to venture into the dark by herself (hopefully she takes a weapon!) because someone she loves is at risk. 

I don’t think the heroine in a romance novel always needs the permission or presence of the hero in order to make big decisions that may endanger her life….as long as she has the proper motivation. This goes for the hero, too. (I wonder why we never hear of heroes being TSTL?)  This behavior might make the heroine stubborn or over-protective, but I don’t think it necessarily makes the heroine stupid. The thought that the heroine always needs the approval of the male character to make these decisions kind of bugs me.

One comment to “Character Motivation and the TSTL Heroine”

  1. You make a very good point here. I love gutsy heroines, but there is a line that gets crossed upon occassion. Makes me want to throw the book through a window.

    Oh, I may have a TSTL hero for you. In a book I recently read, the heroine followed the hero, an ex-cop, along several dark country roads (her reason and the resulting “oh no, now I’m in trouble and need to be saved” situation gave her TSTL status, as did the bulk of the book, but I digress) AND HE NEVER REALIZED HE WAS BEING FOLLOWED. What kind of cop was he?!? I guess it was a good thing he left the force before someone walked up to him–no need to sneak up–and popped him.

    I’ll certainly try to keep my heroines AND my heroes from being TSTL. Thank goodness for sharp-eyed/sharp tongued crit partners ; )