Monday, October 30, 2006


Y'all will have to bear with me this morning. After a weekend of house painting, I'm completely brain dead. So if this post is rambling or doesn't make much sense, just pat me on the head and say, "Bless your heart." (That's what we do here in the south.)

Last week, I began reading a book I'd really been looking forward to. Said book was by an award-winning, well-known author I'd never had the chance to read, so I was really excited to see what the hoopla was about.

I gave up after chapter four.

It wasn't the writing or the plot, it was the characters. I simply couldn't bond with the heroine. She was, in writer speak, TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). Not only that, her thoughts were chaotic and hard to follow, without any clear cut process leading from one place to another. While I wasn't quite to the point of wishing her killed off, I figured if she was going to make such dumb choices, so totally against logic with no apparent reasons to back her decisions up, then the police were fully justified in arresting her for the murders. And it wouldn't bother me a bit.

And don't even get me started on the other characters in the book... not one of them was relatable or even remotely likeable. If this is the world she lives in, no wonder this heroine is so screwed up. (Though I don't feel sorry enough for her to wade through 15 more chapters, especially since I've already guessed who the killer is. A quick glance at the back before I throw the book against the wall proves me right.)

Now, my heroines have made mistakes. They may have made wrong decisions based on their feelings at the time instead of what would have been the logical choice. But I sincerely hope that their mistakes endear them to the reader rather than push the reader away. And even if the reader doesn't agree with the decision, he or she may at least understand WHY the character chooses that particular action.

As I've heard said before, you can mostly do whatever you want in a book, as long as it is well motivated.

Needless to say, it would take a lot of prompting to get me to read another of this author's work. The plot would have to be really spectacular to draw me in again. Which is unfortunate, because I know lots of readers out there love her work.

What is it that helps you bond to the heroine in a book? Does she have to be like you? Have similar tastes in food, clothes, men? Or just have similar values and beliefs you can relate to? What, in your opinion, makes heroines TSTL?

I'll check back in later when my brain has kicked into drive.


P.S. No, I'm not talking about the fabulous book by Beverly Barton listed in our What I'm Reading section. You can see a review of that book and Close Enough to Kill on the Playground in November. But I purposely didn't mention the author's name because that's just rude.


Smarty Pants said...

I guess I have to see a little of myself in her. Even if we're different in most aspects, a smart comment or a surfacing neurosis we share can be enough to endear her to me. And she can't be stupid. Consistently stupid or making the same mistakes over and over again. She's got to learn, grow.

There have been very few books that I couldn't finish. On occasion there have been some where I figured out the end way too soon and just skimmed through until my suspicions were confirmed.

My brain is fried too. After a bachelorette party, Halloween party, housepainting with Angel and daylight savings changes, I'm barely human this morning.


Problem Child said...

A book has to be pretty bad for me not to finish it. That said, TSTL heroines, jerk heroes and stilted writing would be my top 3 killers.

Ahh, the joys of the Playground...someone around here will tell you ASAP if your heroine is TSTL.

Playground Monitor said...

There are few books I don't finish but TSTL heroines and a$$hole heroes disguised as alpha men are tops on the list. I also have problems with a book that begins with a huge cast of characters. I need to ease into all those people, not have them competing for my attention from paragraph one.

raises hand to join the fried brain club

I'm still doing laundry, the cat puked on the bedroom carpet, the other cat tracked in mud, I have a week filled with doctor's appointments, a flu shot and a haircut. Sheesh, I'm tired just thinking about it.

Instigator said...

Count me in with the brain dead club. If I never see another picnic table again I'll be happy. It's going to be adorable when it's finished....assuming I can survive that long :-)

The more I write the more difficult I find it to suspend disbelief. The slightest things can bring me out of that make-believe world. Characters that I they have something in common with me or someone I know - are essential in keeping me into a story.


Kathy said...

When I began reading romance, I was more forgiving of characters I felt were TSTL. There are some situations where the TSTL heroine has her place. There are some instances where the hero can be super-uber-alpha. But if neither grows throughout the story or learns something from their experiences, what's the point? As a writer, Angel, you see the plot holes because you know the process and feel cheated when rules have been broken. As a reader you simply sense that instinctively.

Readers aren't fools. Writers have to remember characters have to touch the hearts of readers in some form or another. If they don't, the story is one dimensional, rings false, and fan bases are irrevocably lost. Which makes me wonder why something like this isn't caught before it's published.


Maven Linda Howard said...

On some level, I have to like the heroine. I made bad decisions occasionally, everyone I know makes the occasional nitwit move, but they have their reasons. The TSTL heroine just makes bad decisions on a galactic level, often for no reason other than to serve a plot point. Those kinds of books just aren't worth the effort.