To avoid the dread TSTL (too stupid to live) syndrome, please avoid these mistakes when creating your heroines:
1. FLEEING UPSTAIRS: The murderer is on the first floor of a building, so our heroine, naturally, runs up the stairs to get away. Eventually, honey, you’re going to end up on the roof and that’s not a good place to be if he’s following you. Your choices, then, are jump off or get caught. I think this is what my sister and I labeled “stupid rule #1.” It often applies to guys as well.
Remedy: Head out where there are lots of people, down a busy city street and then, ideally, into a store. Crowds of witnesses makes the villain’s escape more difficult, and it’s easier to hid.
2. Running in High Heals: Whether you’re running across the moors or that rooftop from earlier, dump the high heals. Those fancy Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks were not made for running. They may have cost a week’s salary, but you can wear them if you’re dead!
I knew this was stupid when I saw Stella Stevens climbing the Christmas tree in the Poseidon Adventure. I was about 13 years old then!
3. Confronting that Sound without a Weapon: You know this one. Our girl is home alone, there’s a murder after her, she hears a noise upstairs and heads up there without a weapon “to see what it is.” Just don’t do it.
4. Talking too much: When you’re running from the bad guy or when the good guy is trying to be romantic, close your mouth. Too much explanation can get you killed or keep you from getting kissed. Neither one a good thing.
5. Sleeping with the Wrong Guy: Just to make Mr. Right jealous or to get back at him for an affair. No, please, don’t. It just makes things worse.
6. Heading out of the house without ID: This applies only if you’re actually getting in the car to leave your property. Jane Does are not attractive.
7. Storming out of the room when you see him hugging a co-worker/friend: Honey, unless their lips are connected or his hands are below her waist, check first to see what’s up. This is a standard way that soap operas and other shows “up the conflict.” She assumes something’s going one, but usually the other woman lost a family member or her job or had some other tragedy and our hero is show sensitivity. Give him the benefit of the doubt.
8. Rejecting Mr. Right for an insignificant reason: An author I knew once told me she had a writer friend who wanted to write a book where the main conflict was that he had a tattoo and she hated tattoos. Our heroines are bigger than that.
9. Describing themselves by looking in the mirror: Let’s be honest. How many of you look in the mirror, even on your wedding day, and think about your “full, wavy hair the color of chestnuts and your deep blue eyes?” Or even that your eyes look sad?? If we’re sad, we know it without looking at ourselves in the mirror. If your heroine does this, she sounds more than a little self-centered.
10. Running away from an unwanted marriage and taking refuge in a brothel: Granted I don’t see this in a lot of books, but I read it in one and that was in the first few pages. Of course, she was “raped” before the first chapter was over by a customer of the brothel who, understandably, believed she was an employee. Boy was she sorry. I didn’t finish the book.
11. Letting someone else deliver her message of love to the hero: He’s bound to fall for the messenger instead of Ms. Heroine. Tell him yourself, sweetie. He’ll be happier and so will you.
12. Dressing up as a man: Okay, this “cliche” has its place, but I never found it particularly believable. Julie Andrews did NOT look like a guy in Victor/Victoria and Keira Knightley didn’t last long as a pirate.
13. FINALLY: Sticking around: When the hero saves you from the bad guy and he tells you to run, honey, DO IT! It’s for your own good!
My husband and I watched a movie where a monster snatched a woman (already we knew she was an airhead) and carried her off. Her hero (not the hero from the story however) rushes off to save her. He distracts the monster who releases her. Hero says, “Run.” She runs…to a near by group (read: 2) trees and “hides” while watching the monster and the young, untrained man fight. The monster flies away after leaving “hero” lying on the ground. She runs over to hero, sobbing.
Well, folks, the monster came back and snatched her again. Another guy (why they cared is beyond me other than her long blonde hair and her, presumably, blind acceptance of whatever tall tales they told her) comes to save her and LITERALLY the same thing happened, except that he defeated the monster. She ran to the SAME group of trees which appeared to be maybe fifty to 100 feet away from the battle.
GANG: Don’t do this. It was supposed to be suspense full and thrilling. We laughed and laughed!
Okay, that was my list. It was a little hard to come up with 13, but I’d love to hear any you have!
Get out there and write that book! The World’s waiting!