Okay, I have a confession to make. I'm TSTL. That's right--My name is Teresa Medeiros and I'm too stupid to live. The first day we moved into our new house, I ran the car into the garage, effectively wrecking both of them. After listening to the song LIFE IN THE FAST LANE by the Eagles at least 10 million times since the 70's, I just figured out the line that says, "There were lines on the mirror" is talking about cocaine, not wrinkles. Only today I risked life and limb (and my beloved Jag) to drive to Starbuck's during a terrible thunderstorm/tornado watch because I couldn't bear to live another moment without a Mocha Lite Frapuccino Grande. So I consider it a personal affront when readers say that they can't stand heroines who are too stupid to live. Just go ahead and kill me now, why don't you? (For other examples of my stupidity, you may contact any of the other Bloggers on this loop by private e-mail and a comprehensive list will be provided to you.)
But seriously, I hate almost any black and white rules that put limits on my fiction, either writing it or reading it. I want to write about all sorts of characters and my very favorites are characters who make mistakes and learn from them. One of my favorite themes is to follow a girl as she makes the journey toward womanhood. And you know what--girls often do foolish, impulsive things, especially in pursuit of love. Things like climbing out of a window in a ballgown like Lottie in ONE NIGHT OF SCANDAL. I love that Connie brought up Lolly in the classic romance JUST A KISS AWAY by Jill Barnett because it was Jill who once said to me, "I love to write about people who make grand and glorious mistakes and who suffer terribly for those mistakes and who are better people for it by the end of the book." Isn't character growth the very definition of well-written fiction? So many things that we used to simply call "a plot" are now dissected mercilessly on the internet as "characters that are TSTL" or "Big Misunderstandings" or "Mary Jane heroines". If we avoid all of these things, then eventually we won't have anything to write about except perfect (and boring) characters and the romance genre will continue to grow even narrower in scope.
Every one of us has suffered through that moment in the horror movie when the heroine decides to creep down into the cellar all by herself with only a flashlight for a weapon to investigate the mysterious noise. I may shout, "Don't do that, you idiot!" but it doesn't usually make me stop watching the movie. (And while we're on the subject of flashlights, how come those people on CSI don't ever just turn on the freaking lights?!?!?!)
I would also like to argue that there are all different kinds of smarts in this world. In my book SHADOWS AND LACE, when Gareth asks Rowena how long it's been since she's eaten, she says, "Four days" and holds up three fingers. Is she stupid? No, just uneducated. I once had a fascinating conversation with another writer about Jed Clampett of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. Was he stupid? Nope, he was innocent. There's a distinct difference. Was Lucy Ricardo stupid because she managed to get herself into all of those messes? Nope, she was funny.
I'm a very open-minded reader. Give me characters I can care about and I'll let them get away with murder (sometimes literally). I only have one hard and fast rule--the hero must never, EVER kick a kitten.