Monday, October 11, 2010
TSTL…….Or is she?
Most romance writers know that TSTL means a hero/heroine that is “Too Stupid To Live.” (Think about the stupid people in the Scream movies who go outside at midnight or down to the basement when they hear a noise, knowing there is a killer on the loose. I was surprised to find out it is not a common acronym with other genre writers, especially those who don’t belong To RWA (Romance Writers of America).
On the Book Cents Loop, we had quite a discussion about this and a few other acronyms writers use (H/H, HEA, GMC, etc.) It was suggested this would make a good blog topic, and since I had nothing prepared for today, here it is.
I’ll start with a story TCTH (too close to home). A few years ago, I was on a Caribbean cruise with my hubby, son and daughter-in-law. We had signed up for the excursions at the beginning of the week for each of the ports, and I was looking forward to them, especially the cave-exploring one in Belize. That was before clumsy me broke her baby toe and couldn’t go since it involved a lot of walking over rough terrain. So, I sent them on their way that day and decided to go ashore and check out the shopping.
The ship anchored out at sea, and we had to be shuttled to shore in smaller boats. There were two, long, storage-shed-looking units surrounded by a chain-link fence. In a matter of a few minutes, I had walked through both of them and was unimpressed. Being the shopper that I am, I wanted more. So, I walked to the edge of the fence where a policeman sat at the gate and many Belizean vendors (??) called out to me. I almost paid a guy $20 for a tour of the city in his limo, by myself, I might add. And then I decided I should stay close and shop since my toe had started to hurt.
I stepped outside the security of the gate and asked where I could find a souvenir shop. One young man appeared by my side and pointed to a little store about two hundred yards away. I headed that way with him right behind me, joined by a second young man. For some reason, I didn’t hear the Jaws music in my head (Da dump! Da dump!) I was hell bent on spending money since I had missed out on the excursion.
The little shop was a bust, and as I walked out the door, one of the boys said there was a really great shop in the alley. By now, I could hear the little voices in my head shouting “Get out of the water. Can’t you hear the music??” Suddenly frightened, I turned toward the cop and the safety of the fence and headed that way. One of the young men grabbed my arm and tried to persuade me to go to the alley with him. When I refused, he said he would be my bodyguard and not let bad things happen to me. Yeah, right! By this time, my smarter self had taken over my brain, and all I wanted to do was get back inside that fence. So, I handed each one ten dollars and made my way as fast as I could to the gate.
Back on the ship I was still shaking To this day, there is no doubt in my mind I would have been robbed or murdered or both. It was really a very stupid thing to do since we had been warned by the cruise staff to be careful.
So, for a few minutes, I became that heroine TSTL. Playing devil’s advocate here, I once heard Donald Maass say to think about what your character would absolutely not do and make him do it. But I don’t think he had stupidity in mind. I can’t tell you how many contest entries I’ve judged where I’ve had to take points off because of this. If you wouldn’t do it, why make your characters do it?
Oh wait, I forgot. I did do it! Does that make me stupid? Absolutely. For those brief minutes when I put myself in harm’s way, I was stupid. Fortunately, it only cost me twenty bucks. In today’s world we have to be on guard constantly for people who have no regard for our safety, especially in foreign countries.
But hold the phone! Just when you’ve declared a character TSTL for going down those steps to the basement, think about this. What if she knew her child was down there and needed her? All of a sudden, not only is she not stupid, she’s a hero, igniting every maternal instinct in our bodies. Think about those TV shows where a man straps a bomb on his back because some terrorist has his family. The Event (new show on TV right now) has a pilot who found himself in that same situation. Matter of fact, my sequel to my ghost story has a similar plot.
Moral of the story - it isn’t always black and white with the stupid thing. And you know what? I think that’s just what “The Donald” had in mind.
So, now I’m anxious to hear any stories you have about TV shows, your own writing, or your personal experiences where for a brief time, you transformed into someone TSTL.
And BTW, I didn’t come up with the “what if” scenario. Thanks go to my pal, Clarissa Southwick, on the BC Loop for thinking outside the box. Check out her blog tomorrow. She might be writing about the same thing. http://www.ladyscribes.blogspot.com/