Shannon Stacey

Retro Shan: The overuse of TSTL

Today HelenKay Dimon is guestblogging at Genreality on retiring the term TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). While pondering my thoughts on the subject, I realized I’d already shared my thoughts on TSTL here on my blog, so I dug them out to share them again.

(This blog entry was originally posted on January 28, 2005. There was a novella in which the heroine risked her life to save her dog and she was resoundingly trounced as TSTL. This was my reaction.)


Of all the acronyms I’ve seen around—POV, GMC, BM, MOC—TSTL is probably the one that bugs me the most. I see it a lot, and my idea of TSTL is apparently different from others’.

TSTL is when you hear a news report that Norman Bates has been spotted in your neighborhood and you jump in the shower without an entire SEAL team in your bathroom, and at least one of the guys in the shower with you to wash…err, watch your back.

TSTL is when you have unprotected sex with your bad-boy cop lover, get pregnant, and then, because he didn’t pause during his orgasm to tell you he loved you, moving away, raising the child in secret, and not telling him for eight years until a psycho decides to try to kill you. And TSTL is also running to the lone bad-boy cop ex-lover with his secret child instead of locking yourself in your local police station and calling in the National Guard.

TSTL is when you don’t escape your kidnapper when you have a great shot at it because there’s a sad look in his eyes that makes you think he’s not guilty of raping and murdering those six women.

Making a bad choice does not make a heroine TSTL. Nor does having bad luck or doing something reminiscent of I Love Lucy. Lucy wasn’t TSTL. As far as bad choices, women make them every day. I, personally, wouldn’t want to read about a Stepford Heroine, thank you very much.

Anyway, I was reading a comment on a book I really enjoyed, and the reader called the heroine TSTL. Ummm…no. She made a choice based on emotion. While that reader disagreed with the choice, if I was in the heroine’s situation, I may have made the same one. It happens sometimes. And that, to me, is the criteria for TSTL–if a normal woman might make that choice, even if it’s wrong, she’s a realistic character. If 97% of the female reading population would set down the book thinking “WTF is she thinking?”, she’s TSTL.

There are enough TSTL heroines out there without it being the catch-phrase for every heroine who does something the reader doesn’t agree with.

2 comments to “Retro Shan: The overuse of TSTL”

  1. Annmarie
      · March 27th, 2010 at 3:24 pm · Link

    Truthfully, I’ve never encountered a heroine that I thought was TSTL.

  2. Shannon
      · March 28th, 2010 at 2:23 pm · Link

    I think a truly TSTL heroine is pretty rare. I’ve some TSTL plotting moments, though, usually revolving around sex happening during a deadly crisis. Not after, during the adrenaline rush, but actually during. That will throw me out of a book.

    I’m about to die, but dayum, he’s gotta nice ass.


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