…today is TSTL–Too Stupid To Live. No, not me, although I guess I have my moments. I’m talking about the characters in my new novel. It’s a romantic suspense–a mystery, and I sent chapter 15 to my critique partner last night. Although she liked the chapter, she warned me that my characters were on the edge of being TSTL.
That took me aback just a little–this is a mystery, aren’t we supposed to be setting things up for big surprises and unexpected events? And aren’t the hero and heroine supposed to be figuring things out and solving the mystery on their own? But as I reread the chapter, I saw her point. My hero was being a dope, and my heroine was stupidly (TSTL) going along with his unwillingness to get help with a dangerous situation.
I thought about what I would do given the set of circumstances I’d written them into. Hells yeah, I’d be calling the sheriff–you bet your chickenshit butt! And if I work this right, my characters can still solve the mystery, end up HEA (happily ever after), and have an exciting time doing it even if they get help from local authorities.
This is harder than straight romance. I’ve never written anything like it before. The romance in this book is secondary to the rest of the stuff going on. So in a way, it’s the first plot-driven, rather than character-driven story I’ve written. Yes, I do have to be in my characters’ heads and question their motivations and discover their psyches, but I also have to keep the action going. I have to move the plot along realistically and believably.
Letting my hero be a superman isn’t very realistic. Allowing my heroine to swoon and let him make her choices turns her into a person I don’t want her to be. She’s more courageous than that and this is her life, her issues. Fine for him to help out, fine for her to allow him to, but she’s the one who has to resolve things. She’s the one who has to drive the story.
I’m a little bogged down right now, can you tell? Today is my head-clearing day. It includes exercise, laundry, a couple of errands, and then sitting down to figure out where my characters are going from here. They need to be smarter. The action needs to move the story along to a satisfying conclusion, which probably means I need to go less by the seat of my pants and give more careful thought to how we’re going to get there. I’m already making notes…and the DVR will be on in the car so I can keep thinking about it while I do other things.
Have I said lately how much I love having a critique partner? I do, especially my critique partner, who never hesitates to tell me when something’s not working, is always ready to help me learn to be a better writer, and who fights for me and my stories as hard as I do. Thanks, Sandy! You’re the best!