A while back, I finished reading a book by a big-name author and was completely disgusted by the hero and heroine. About three-quarters of the way into the book, the hero makes a TSTL* (Too Stupid To Live) decision that I couldn’t believe, and then to make the situation even worse, this TSTL decision was promptly followed by the heroine upping the TSTL quotient, to the point that I almost threw the book against the wall. The only saving grace was that I bought the book off the bargain rack and didn’t pay full price for it.
As I thought about the book, I realized that the author needed to get the hero and heroine (H&H) into a bad situation. Okay. I understand that. They needed to be there for the rest of the plot to work. I’m good with Hs&Hs being put in bad situations.
What wasn’t okay with me was that in order to get into this nasty situation, the H&H had to make several TSLT decisions in a row. Morons!
So I thought some more: There are plenty of good books out there where the H&H end up in nasty situations without making TSTL decisions. So why did this author do it this way?
About a day later, the answer came to me. In this book, the villains were so stupid that they were beyond TSTL-stupid!
Ah! I thought, that’s what the problem is.
The plot needed the H&H to get captured, but the villains were so incompetent that they couldn’t capture the H&H on their own, which meant the H&H needed to be even more stupid than the villains. **sigh**
So, here’s the lesson:
If your Hero and/or Heroine have to make TSTL decisions to make the plot work out, THEN SOMETHING IS WRONG!!
Please fix whatever is wrong, so that your characters aren’t forced to be TSTL and your reader won’t want to throw your book against the wall.
Which, of course, begs the question: What is the something that is wrong?
— In this case, the villains were too stupid for the quality of the H&H
— In other cases, the plot is too stupid for the quality of the H&H
— In another case, the hero was too stupid for the heroine
— Or the last example that came to mind was a TSTL secondary character, and the H&H had to be TSTL to keep hanging out with that person, and then continue to be TSTL to have to clean up the mess this other person made.
In each of these cases, the fix for the TSTL problem is obvious.
So FIX them, and quit writing books with TSTL characters making TSTL decisions because you-as-author are too lazy to do the work to fix the underlying problem with the villains, plot or other characters.
*TSTL does not apply to children, teenagers, or adults without the capacity to make competent decisions.