Writing Romance 101 – Avoiding The Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) Heroine

Your heroine hears a strange noise in the basement, a noise that doesn’t belong there. She is alone. Clasping only a flashlight and a baseball bat, she creeps downstairs to confront the villain, deliberately putting herself in danger.

This may work in horror films. It doesn’t in romance. This bra and panty clad girl is a too stupid to live (TSTL) heroine. Readers and editors groan when they read her dumb actions. They don’t offer her writer publishing contracts. They don’t buy her books. She is the kiss of death in romance.

How to avoid writing a TSTL heroine?

The women reading your books are, on average, normal, sensible women. Often, while reading, they’re pretending they are the heroine. When putting your heroine into any situation, ask yourself “how would a normal, sensible woman act?”

In this case, she would call 9-1-1 and wait for the police to arrive. She would get dressed. She would turn on all the lights. Perhaps she’d run to the neighbors to wait until help arrived.

But that doesn’t make for interesting reading, does it? It is much more exciting to have the brave girl take her chances in the pitch black basement. Then, ask yourself “Why would any normally sensible woman do that?”

What if, due to tornado warnings in the area and her overprotective nature, her child is sleeping in the basement? The power is out because of the storm. 9-1-1 is overrun with calls and she’s put on hold. Suddenly your heroine has motivation. There is no one else coming to save them and she’ll do anything to keep her child safe, even brave a possible intruder. She is not being stupid. She is doing what needs to be done.