In Defense of TSTL

In Defense of TSTL: or more, accurately, in defense of labeling characters as TSTL (Too Stupid To Live).

Today on Twitter, I stumbled across a series of tweets by Ann Aguirre where she railed against the gendered double standard when it comes to the TSTL label in genre fiction. She also made the claim that TSTL is a useless label because characters are supposed to be flawed and sometimes make poor decisions when scared or angry.

For me and many of my reviewing colleagues, we don't apply TSTL when a character acts in a way we would not. We apply it when the character acts in a way *they* would not based upon the characterization shown.

There's a second, separate application of TSTL, though, that comes directly out of the damsel in distress trope. Many, many readers cannot stand it when a character does something against all common sense that places themselves or others in peril. It's a judgment, absolutely, but it's one I make in real life, too.   For example: I can't stand those people who set out to go hiking ill prepared and end up risking the lives of those who have to come rescue them.

The main reason it's usually the heroine who gets the label is because it's usually the heroine who has been written as having done something that imperiled others. Show me a hero who puts himself or others in danger through poor decision making or a misguided belief in his own abilities, and I will slap him with a TSTL label as well. That includes the men who won't see a doctor when injured, who insist on doing something alone when they really need help etc.

The biggest reason any character gets that label, at least from me, is because the author failed to make me understand why the character made those poor decisions. It was a failure in storytelling. TSTL is a result of the reader being pulled from the story enough to be annoyed, frustrated, incredulous about the progress of the plot. Done right, with sufficient skill, a heroine (or hero) can act like an idiot and no one judges them. That's successful storytelling.


TBR Challenge Review: A SEAL's Seduction by Tawny Weber

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Length: 229 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Since I missed last month's TBR Challenge, I was determined to not miss this one. But of course, spring is crazy busy what with Easter AND Oldest's birthday on the same weekend. Which is why I'm squeaking this review in at the very last few hours of TBR Day. I have no idea when I purchased this; it was in the digital TBR.

A SEAL's Seduction did a much better job skirting my usual issues with Romantic Suspense than most of the books I've tried recently. I liked that the conflict was multi-layered and believable. I liked the characters, even the secondary ones. I really liked that the "sex in dangerous situations" was kept to a minimum although I admittedly skimmed them because as is usual with this line, there are just too many for my personal taste.


Review: Bite Me by Shelly Laurenston

Format: Trade paperback, ebook
Pub Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 384 pages
ISBN: 9780758265241
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably not as critical as I should be with Shelly Laurenston's Pride series. I'm a huge fangirl and the books are such unmitigated fun that I let things slide past me that would normally elicit criticism. I have to say, though, that this book was one of the better ones in recent memory. All because of these two word: honey. badger.


Audiobook Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Format: Digital
Pub Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hrs 5 min
FTC: Purchased myself

There are very few books I look forward to as much as a new Patricia Briggs book. Sadly, the anticipation was for naught with Night Broken. The story lacked punch and forward momentum, and the secondary characters we know and love pop in and out without much rationale or impact.