TSTL

I’ve been pondering the Heroine who is Too Stupid To Live, and I have to wonder: why does she exist? Is she evidence that romance readers who prefer their heroines dumber than rocks are also seeking to identify with the hero and not the heroine?  Or maybe that the reader who loves these dimwits is perhaps rather dim? Disparaging assumptions about reader intellect aside, I still don’t get how this monster came to wield so much power or appear so frequently.

Candy thinks it’s a “cheap and easy source of conflict: heroine puts herself in danger, and hero has to rescue her”1. It feeds the rescue fantasy in a really lazy way, she says.

I agree that the method behind the madness is certainly true in some cases, but I have to ask what the point of access might be for a reader relating to the protagonists (if one assumes that the reader relates to the protagonist couple when reading a romance). How does a reader connect with a heroine who winds up in dangerous situations, draws ridiculous conclusions with no evidence, and generally exists in a state of cluelessness?

I think there’s more likely some degree of hero-fascination in seeing the capable rescue the incapable, assuming again that the female reader in question is often the functioning caregiver in a given situation. But is there also an attraction to identifying with the clueless and often-rescued? Broad assumptions, ahoy!

As Candy and I were discussing the subject, the question of identification reared its head. Do readers even identify with the protagonists at all? Is that a mistaken concept?

For example, in the circumstances of a TSTL heroine, Candy says, “a good deal of it’s also feeding into the ‘rescue me, big hero dude’ fantasy, in which case, I’d argue the point of identification is at least partially with the heroine. This is all assuming that readers identify with the characters, too, because a lot of readers don’t. I don’t, for example. I tend to be more of a spectator.”

Myself, I’m not a spectator as a reader, though I have to think hard about my role as reader when I choose a romance. Reading romance demands a different kind of involvement on my part. I don’t seek to identify with one or the other of the pair, but with the emotional development between them. It’s not so much the individuals as what is between them that attracts me.

What’s interesting is the one area in which Candy and I agreed: to quote Candy, “For romances, I have to like the protagonists in a way I don’t have to when I’m reading other types of fiction.”

Hear, hear. If I find one of the protagonists unlikable, I can’t participate in the development between them, though how I participate other than empathizing is something I’d have to ponder further, as a ready answer isn’t popping into my brain.

Candy explained further better than I could: “I don’t think empathy is strictly necessary, [but] believability is important. They may not make decisions I would, but I need to appreciate how they arrived at those decisions.” In other words, it’s more a question of being able to relate to them than it is to empathize with them in all aspects of their story.

Thus encountering a heroine who is Too Stupid To Live ruins a lot of the enjoyment, though whether the reason for that ruination is because of a lack of connection to the protagonists, or a mere disgust for rescue scenarios is an individual determination. Sadly, we’ve encountered plenty of dumbass heroines, like Lee-Lee from Desire’s Blossom and Whitney from Whitney, My Love. (Aside: it is amazing how many people read Whitney when they were younger, then went back to read it again after more romance experience and HATED her insipid blockheaded ass.)

Does the TSTL heroine piss you off because of sloppy characterization? Inability to relate? A natural inclination to dislike the stupid and blissful? (Sorry, that’s me.) What’s your take?

1 Candy’s addendum and assorted thoughts:

There are only so many ways to invoke conflict in romance. Too much external conflict, and you risk switching the focus of the story from the relationship to the external circumstances, in which case, it’s not really a romance any more. Too much internal conflict, and you have a claustrophobic story, or one in which the hero and heroine are either separated for a long time (which: bonerdeath), or one in which the hero and heroine are fighting constantly (which: even bigger bonerdeath). A TSTL heroine who needs to have her stupid ass saved is an easy way for the conflict still be focused on the couple while adding a sense of adventure to it all. Plus, hey, lookit how gosh-darn spunky she is! Isn’t she feisty? And look, another 20-50 pages of story, what with the TSTL set-up, the heroine falling into danger, and then having to be saved.

I’d also like to stress that TSTL behavior doesn’t always break a book for me. One instance of TSTLiveability might be forgiveable, especially if the heroine is young and naive. If she doesn’t learn, however…that’s when I contemplate bringing out the giant bat marked “A Clue” and beating her over the head with it. There’s also the question of believable motivation. If she’s being TSTL for sufficient cause, or if circumstances are desperate enough that the TSTL behavior might actually make sense or seem like a viable option at the time, I might be more inclined to forgive her. And then there’s magnitude of TSTL behavior, too—how much does she endanger herself and the other characters? How likely would it be for somebody in similar circumstances to do something like that? For instance, take Merry of The Windflower, especially her escape attempt. Merry is young and sheltered, but not necessarily stupid; however, her attempt to get away from The Black Joke was pretty ill-advised—but the Curtises did a great job of showing us how desperate she was, so while I was cringing and going “No no no bad idea,” I wasn’t angry at her the way I’d be at a garden-variety dingbat heroine. As Sarah said, “Keeping the reader from getting angry at her is probably the border between ignorant naive heroine growing up and TSTL heroine.”

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  1. 1
    Kimber says:

    I probably haven’t read as many romances as some of y’all, but there are two TSTL scenarios that I find particularly grating: 1) heroine constantly puts herself in danger despite danger being abundantly clear; 2) heroine draws damning conclusions about hero without allowing him to explain.

    Without a darned good reason for this behavior, I tend to blame the author for lazy plotting.

    In the first scenario the heroine’s lack of appreciation for her own mortality undermines the reader’s belief in same. That is, how am I supposed to take this supposed life-or-death situation seriously if the person in danger doesn’t? I already know there’s going to be a happy ending, so it’s that much harder to add real tension.

    The second scenario might just be a personal peeve, but I find it so irritating when a novel’s entire source of conflict could be erased by a simple, honest question. I think people can have disagreements without it always being due to a misunderstanding. For this scenario to ring true, you have to be very clear why the heroine assumes the worst, instead of giving the man she loves the benefit of the doubt.

  2. 2
    Carrie Lofty says:

    I have been stuck writing a scene of external conflict for the last two weeks precisely because I wanted to avoid a TSTL heroine. How do I legitimately get her into trouble without her seeming to charge at idiocy on purpose? How would I write this scene so that I wouldn’t turn my own book into a wallbanger, if presented with it for the first time? It’s hard. It’s difficult to come up with the right circumstances of danger vs. good sense, and I still don’t know if I got it right. But at least I feel like I haven’t copped out and made my heroine *gasp* feisty… which seems to be a synonym for idiot in Romancelandia.

  3. 3
    Najida says:

    Great!  I check here and I have only 2 seconds to post.

    My issue is, maybe I’M TSTL, because many of the “TSTL” girls that folks bitch about seem to be normal humans puttering through life screwing up.  Not always making the best decisions, sometimes making mistakes, sometimes just chasing rainbows.

    Honestly, give me a TSTL chick over an uber-bitchy, mean spirited “kick butt” man in a dress for a heroine.  I hate those.

    But, that’s just me!  Off to kick puppies for a bit :)

  4. 4
    Jess says:

    TSTL heroines are the one guaranteed way to turn a book into a wall-banger for me. Their prevalence astounds me.

    Although I rarely find myself identifying with the heroine in a novel, I need to be able to respect that character.  If I don’t, I’m just irritated that the hero could possibly fall for this simpering idiot. And I don’t get any real enjoyment at the HEA because I spend more of the novel wishing the hero would ditch the heroine and embrace the bachelor life.

    In large part I think that authors do this as a way to generate false conflict, as you mentioned.  And clearly some readers find TSTL genuinely amusing.  I suppose their is some amusement factor in people who continually get themselves into absurd scrapes, but not to me.

    Recently I stumbled upon the work of Linnea Sinclair (and promptly glommed her backlist in a reading orgy). She consistently has intelligent, rational heroines who I can respect.  They don’t leap to conclusions to create the horrid ‘Big Misunderstanding’ and they have enough sense when to know that they’re in WAY over their head and need backup. They are independent, but not to the point of idiocy.

    I think one of the other frustrating attributes of the TSTL heroine is their self-delusion that they’re a lot more independent then they actually are.  They seem to have this grandiose sense of their own abilities which get them into absurd live-or-death situations.  Which of course necessitates the intervention of the big strong male.

  5. 5
    Robin says:

    We often think of the reader as identifying or not with the heroine, but in some cases, could it be that the reader gets off on feeling superior to the heroine and more powerful, more intelligent, and more together?  I’ve often thought that in certain books it’s almost as if the characters provoke a competitive or almost antagonistic relationship with the heroine (or the hero, but most often with the heroine, IMO), perhaps as a way to build an alliance between the reader and the hero or to allow the reader some kind of cathartic experience.  It is reassuring to think that even the dumbest heroine doesn’t get ground into dirt?  As a perfectionist myself, I could find that notion appealing. :D

  6. 6
    Leah says:

    I run into a lot of TSTL heroines, too. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve been reading fewer romances lately—every new one I pick up seems to have a heroine I want to pick up and shake.

    For one thing, I don’t see how anybody can get satisfaction out of rooting for a really dumb protagonist. It’s like the Darwin Awards—you root for the gene pool as a whole instead of the individual with the Stupid Gene.

    One book that I hurled across the room as hard as I could had a heroine that essentially broke up with the hero because he wouldn’t leave his big important POLICE STING OPERATION to come console her over some petty upset. I felt almost physically sick over that one. It was almost as if Authorial Issues were being taken out on the characters, and by default, me.

  7. 7
    ChickLitter says:

    I agree with Robin. And sometimes, it’s also a way to show the heroine’s development throughout the novel (this seems especially true in novels that lean toward the chick lit genre).
     
    But I also think it’s a mistake to assume that readers—regardless of their own gender—will always identify with the heroine, rather than the hero.

  8. 8
    Charlene says:

    I was given a big box o’ romance novels recently by a friend with somewhat different tastes than I have. Going through them I’ve found a lot of examples of TSTL heroines, but even more of heroines who aren’t actually stupid as much as they are less competent and less intelligent than the hero. And to me that seems to be the point.

    They include:

    - a Ph.D. geneticist (who is an unflattering and unrealistic stereotype of scientists in the first place) who gets pregnant by a professional wrestler but only “learns to love” when she acknowledges his superior understanding and knowledge;

    - a supposedly experienced assassin who can’t even fire a pistol without breaking down into tears, until her One True Love (who has never shot a weapon in his life) arrives to show her how to do it (and yes, he falls in love with her because she’s incompetent);

    - a trio of ultra-stupid women who only through great luck defeat three vampires, only to be romanced by the same men in human form, who were clearly intrigued by their stupidity.

    So no, I don’t think the TSTL heroine has as much to do with creating internal tension or making the reader feel superior (although I agree that may be part of it) as it does with the idea that the heroine is only deserving of the hero’s love if she’s his inferior in some way.

    It’s a powerful meme – Dorothy Sayers used it with her subordinate characters Charles Parker and Lady Mary Wimsey, and you see it in every old Harlequin where the woman can only find “fulfillment” by giving up the career she spent years cultivating in order to push out the hero’s babies.

  9. 9
    Yvonne says:

    I think that I classify as a spectator myself. It is true that I need to care about the characters though, and if they just don’t learn, they shouldn’t live.

    Nevertheless, people do make mistakes. Something that may seem glaringly obvious to me as a reader, may not be so to the character. They still have to be constructed as a believable person, however, and there should be a reason for their continued stupidity.

    Finally, if the stupidity is part of the character arc it works much better for me. Specifically, they make stupid mistakes but learn and grown from them. This applies to both main characters. Stupid heroes chap my ass even more than stupid heroines do.

  10. 10
    Robin says:

    But I also think it’s a mistake to assume that readers—regardless of their own gender—will always identify with the heroine, rather than the hero.

    Oh, absolutely!  In fact, when really crappy things befall the heroine, I wonder sometimes if it’s at those points the reader isn’t really supposed to be identifying with the hero.  I certainly think in FS scenes the reader may be identifying with both the hero and the heroine (powerful and powerless).  I’m more of an objective reader than a subjective reader, but it seems to me that there are points in each book that I’m *supposed* to be identifying with one character or another, and that inevitably, that identification is *supposed* to shift at various points.

  11. 11
    ChickLitter says:

    Robin said: “I’m *supposed* to be identifying with one character or another, and that inevitably, that identification is *supposed* to shift at various points.”

    That’s really interesting. I usually have the sense that I’m *supposed* to ID with the heroine. I was more thinking that readers are UNRULY! We don’t always do what we’re *supposed* to—so our responses and reading practices might be resistant, or critical, or just plain unpredictable.

  12. 12
    snarkhunter says:

    that the heroine is only deserving of the hero’s love if she’s his inferior in some way.

    I think this is a really good way of accounting for the recurrence of TSTL heroines, though in some ways, I also think it’s a horrific mutation of a way of avoiding the other dreaded heroine: the Mary Sue. (Sorry ‘bout that convoluted sentence.) I am not a professional fiction writer, but I do occasionally write it for my own amusement, and I find it rather too easy to invent the perfect hero/heroine. Imbuing him/her with some bumbling foolishness is an easy way to create artificial “depth.” Look! She’s flawed! Therefore she’s loveable! Not b/c only inferior women are deserving of love, but b/c, let’s face it, perfect people are annoying.

    But TSTL heroines—and just about every chick lit heroine in existence—take this whole “flawed” concept too far. I admit I can be a bit of an idiot on a good day, despite my higher degrees and supposed intelligence, but I am quite certain I learn from my mistakes and can add 2+2 without getting 5, which many TSTL heroines can’t do.

    Take Lois Lane—the ultimate in TSTL. (Sorry, but I really loathe her.) I can’t help but wonder if she isn’t the prototype for the chick-lit protagonist and TSTL heroine in romance. She’s “spunky” and “feisty” and supposedly a crack journalist, but she can’t recognize that her partner is shockingly similar to the local superhero, and she can’t seem to remember to NOT DO STUPID THINGS THAT PUT THE WORLD IN DANGER.

    Ahem. Anyway.

  13. 13
    RandomRanter says:

    I agree with the assessment that it often stems from a need to create conflict; I also agree that I can follow along with a lot if given appropriate motivation for the character making the choice that they are. 
    And yes, I have recently run into a few books where the big resolution involved the heroine realizing that the hero had been right all along – about her job, her life, all of the above.  And they had been pretty good stories up until then.

  14. 14

    I consider myself lucky that I must not be reading the same chick lit books that a lot of the previous posters commented on, since the chick lit heroines I read about are neither TSTL nor shoe-obsessed.

    I do not think that TSTL is any kind of comment on the genre, since when I think of TSTL, the first image that comes to my mind is the horror-movie scream queen who goes DOWN into the basement, in her UNDERWEAR, to see if the monster/serial killer is still around. I tend to think the deployment of the TSTL character is a function of lazy storytelling—the writer has not properly motivated whatever action the character is going to take. You CAN have a character who rushes into danger (even in her underwear) as long as she does it with good reason (cf. Ripley in Aliens, going back to the base to rescue the child). I think when you see TSTL, it’s because the storyteller is trying to hit a particular plot point rather than make it an organic outcome of the character interacting with her situation.

    In romance, the TSTL situations that annoy me the most are:
    1) The Big Misunderstanding
    2) The woman in jeopardy who eschews any help from the expert bodyguard/cop/etc.

    And at the same time, one person’s TSTL is another’s “completely understandable mistake.” Characters aren’t perfect and they do make mistakes. Sometimes they even make them knowing that they will later regret what they do. And one reader may be able to identify with that, while another prefers to think that they would never let it happen to them.

  15. 15
    CM says:

    For the record, I don’t count heroines who do dumb things but who learn from them as TSTL; I refer only to the heroines who are dumb all the way through the book.

    There are probably four reasons why authors write TSTL heroines.

    1.  Authorial laziness.
    2.  Authorial incapacity.
    3.  Lack of good critique partners who bash the author over the head and say, “Why would she do that?”
    4.  The market demands it.

    Authorial laziness can be detected because the author will likely write every heroine as TSTL; you’ll rarely see a compelling conflict in that author’s books.  This is equivalent to lack of authorial imagination; the author can’t imagine a conflict that doesn’t involve stupidity.

    Authorial incapacity can be detected because none of the characters are particularly smart—even the ones that are supposedly “smart” as shown by various indicia like degrees.  The author can’t write anything except a TSTL, because she just doesn’t have the ability.

    Lack of good critique partners is harder.  When you write, you get really invested in your work.  You believe in your characters.  Sometimes, it takes an outsider to say, “Uh… That is really idiotic.”  And few people are willing to say that to friends; fewer people are willing to listen to those that say it.  So sometimes good people write dumb heroines, because they get so invested in them they refuse to believe how dumb they are.

    As for four….  I’m not sure what to say.  Is there really a demand for TSTL heroines?  There might be some such demand, but I don’t buy that it’s really all that high.

    Here’s what I think is going on.  There are fewer truly phenomenally great romances published in a month than I want to read.  My rapacity for great romances is not met, and I think that much of what is published is just inadequate substitute for the real stuff.

    Think of all the things that make a great book:  snappy writing, lovely description, great pacing, interesting conflict, likable characters, a hook that will catch a reader’s eye, a compelling plot, a different setting.  How many of those are delivered perfectly in any one book?  Maybe the TSTL heroine is just a function of the fact that some authors can deliver the goods on a number of fronts, but are just not good on others.

    Think of the authors out there who have delivered “perfect” novels:  Loretta Chase, Jenny Crusie, Laura Kinsale.  (My list will differ from yours, and this list is hardly complete.)  Even they don’t always hit the high note in all their books.

    There are so many things that go into writing a romance novel.  However hard it is to get published, I think the answer is not that the market demands TSTL heroines, but that the market’s highest demands cannot be met.  So we end up with imperfect substitutes.

    Some of those have TSTL heroines.

  16. 16
    Abby says:

    I agree with the others – TSTL is all about plotting. Plotting a romance believably is hard. If you’re lazy or out of ideas, TSTL is the easy way out. Have them argue about something stupid. Have her refuse his help. Have your Regency miss wander the London streets in the middle of the night…

    Let’s not target the heroines, either – TSTL heroes are everywhere. Regency spies who would give themselves away in an hour. Apha dorks who go barrelling into situations without thinking first. Cops who can’t put two clues together and sleep with suspects… Sound familiar?

  17. 17

    Charlene, I agree that heroines are often less competent than heroes and I wonder if it is because strong heroes sell and it is more difficult to write a competent heroine without making the hero look weak.

    One of my all-time favourite authors is Elizabeth Peters, though she’s not strictly a romance author. Her heroes and heroines have different, complementary strengths and they use them to save each other. I must admit, I’m a bit tired of reading historical romances where the only strength the female has is the ability to love despite all the rot the bastard hero puts her through. But try writing a truly flawed, intelligent heroine and often readers won’t like her. I think women are pretty tough on their own sex and they are particularly tough on heroines. This is why (I think) the historical has become so much the hero’s story, with the heroine just there to love and heal him and perhaps be initiated into some great sex on the way.

  18. 18
    TeddyPig says:

    I hate it when I wind up feeling sorry for the hero.

    All I can think is “Dude, go the gay way!”

    That sucks.

  19. 19
    Kerry says:

    In my reader’s advisory workshop, the prof talked about the appeal of romance and one of the things cited was romance readers like heroes/heroines who are at least as smart as the reader. I should look into where that factoid came up.

  20. 20

    I liked Sarah’s comment about “keeping the reader from getting angry at her…”.  The heroine can do stupid things—we all do—but the reader has to be willing to accept her despite this.  Too often the character just makes us angry or frustrated, and then the author isn’t succeeding in her job, which is to hold the reader’s interest from page 1 to “The End”.

  21. 21
    Jo Davis says:

    The TSTL heroine is one of my biggest pet peeves. I just read a book last week where the heroine gets mad a the hero for a really stupid reason and decides to follow him while he goes on his super dangerous mission to infiltrate an enemy operation, never mind she has no training in fighting, shooting, or covert operations in general. It was more annoying because the heroine wasn’t that young (probably late 20s/early 30s) and had acted pretty rational and mature up until that point. I agree that the TSTL heroine is often used as a solution to a plot problem. In the case of the book I just read I think the reason for it was to keep the hero and heroine together while the whole “covert operation” went on rather than having them apart for 100 pages. However, it ruined the book for me and I hated that the hero forgave the heroine almost immediately for putting them both in danger.

  22. 22
    Najida says:

    Golly,
    what ya’ll are describing sounds more like too selfish to live or too self-centered to live. :)

    I don’t like those either.  But those who do things that get them in a bind or a pickle, with good reason I have no problem with.

    In fact, my absolute favorite type of book has a rescue in it, by the hero!  I’ve never had a man do so much as bring me a friggin’ drink of water (but I can shingle my own damn house, thankyouverymuch).  So as a reader, a guy who will risk his life for his love!

    WHOO HOO!  Better than chocolate.  Even if she’s clueless, it’s his actions that I read about (yes, I’m one of those readers who pays no attention to the chick and all attention to the guy and his actions).

  23. 23
    Molly says:

    I think one of the best descriptions I’ve read of a good book for relaxing and curling up with—generally what I feel romances should be like—is one where, if you met the characters at a party, you wouldn’t quietly make your excuses and go hide in the kitchen.  You need the people to be interesting, to not leave you wanting to give them a firm smack upside the head.  Even a villain should have interesting motivation, and you’d want to keep talking with them even while you’d avoid meeting with them in a dark alleyway.

    I’m currently reading The Fire Rose, which has a heroine who is the polar opposite of TSTL.  If she encounters a locked door, she assumes it’s locked for a reason and goes on to investigate other interesting things that she can access freely.

  24. 24
    Najida says:

    I must be totally clueless myself, because I can’t think of a single TSTL heroine that made me angry.  Again, maybe it’s my RL that makes them seem ‘normal’. 

    The only books that I stop reading are where the woman tries to out guy the guy and compete, is mean and ‘smart mouthed’ or just cold. 

    Otherwise, I just see it has humans being humans.

  25. 25
    Catherine J. says:

    I think the TSTL heroine has her roots in Mary Suedom and masochism.

    There are lots of women who have secret domination fantasies. Sometimes they want to feel helpless, enjoy the fact that someone else is in control; it also provides escapism, as the pressures of modern life sometimes make you wish that someone else knew how to do everything and would take over for you. The TSTL heroine is an extension of the urge to throw up your hands and shout “Do something!” at the man in your life.

    Mary Sues are, of course, avatars of our perfect selves. Every writer begins with herself, so many writers begin with Mary Sues. I think Mary Sue is the TSTL heroine’s cousin, similarly born of the desire for things to be completely ideal but often manifesting in the all-men-should-worship-and-adore-me fantasy rather than the let-a-man-take-care-of-me fantasy. Two sides of the same coin.

    That said, TSTL heroines make me want to throw things. Fine, sometimes I get frustrated, but even severe anger and put-out-ishness does not involve running straight under the wheels of a moving carriage. That’s suicide, not romantic helplessness. Lee-Lee and her ilk should have been wiped out by natural selection.

  26. 26
    Eva Gale says:

    *It’s like the Darwin Awards—you root for the gene pool as a whole instead of the individual with the Stupid Gene.*

    Snerk. That’s good.

    TSTL, yes they bother the bejesus out of me, but none moreso than the historical TSTL. *Oh my! Is that a Manroot?*

    Flaws are good. Flaws help the reader identify with the character on some level. Stupidity is not a flaw, it’s a curse.

  27. 27
    dl says:

    Like Jess, books featuring heroines TSTL tend to become wallbangers.

    The daughter doesn’t have much patience either, I’ve heard her yelling at the heroine on TV “What are you doing, can’t you hear the scary music?  Evil things are going to happen, your TSTL”.

    So I guess it’s heriditary.

  28. 28
    dl says:

    Kudos to CM for articulating her low opinion of TSTL heroines who just stay stupid and never seem to learn or grow up.  My example here is Stephanie Plum…11 books and the girl is just as dumb and incompetent at her job as day one…a little personal growth would be nice here Janet. Not to mention that anyone who actually ate like Stephanie would weigh 400 lbs and be hospitalized for health issues, yesh.

  29. 29
    Steph Burgis says:

    Coming from the SF/Fantasy genre…I’d say the TSTL character is universal among all genres, and it’s always a sign of lazy writing. That’s one of the issues that will get slammed in any good critique, because readers generally dislike and are frustrated by characters who make stupid decisions for no known reason – but of course it’s often hard to come up with good solid reasons! So if people are writing quickly and without good crit partners, it’s easy to fall into the habit of writing TSTL characters…but the ideal is always to grit your teeth, sit down and rewrite until they’re at least understandable if not sympathetic!

  30. 30

    I think it’s the same principle that makes me enjoy Lifetime movies so much or reading Mary Higgins Clark novels where I always figure out the bad guy by 1/3 of the way in—it is a feeling of superiority, it’s a “I’m not so bad after all” and “If things turned out okay for that moron” feeling (although I don’t particularly care for TSTL heroines myself.)

    I’ve written heroines who do dumb things and put themselves in danger, but I try to make them culpable (and I try to make the dum things, tings a reasonable person might not think is the dumbest thing in the world, either.) When the hero tells them that was really stupid, they go, “Yeah, wow, it really was. I’m sorry,” instead of tossing their fiery curls and stamping their delicate feet. So by the end of the book they’ve grown up a bit.

    I think the TSTL is generally a lazy attempt to add conflict, yes, but I also think she’s an attempt to add humor. A sort of twee, inoffensive humor that anybody can “get”.

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