Acronym Soup

It always blew my mind when my husband would come home and say something like…

“After retiring from the USMC four years ago, I went to work for the DoD as a PM with a PMP cert and have managed elements of the MTVR, HMMWV, MRAP and MATV programs, all ranging from ACAT III up to ACAT ID according to the DoD 5000 and DAWIA standards.  We work to counter IEDs, EFPs, RKG-3s with BFTs, Armor, RWS as well as the TAK-4 suspension from OTC and have expended billions in IR&D, PMC and O&M funding over the past 9 FYDB.”

Anyone understand what I just said? I didn’t either for the longest time. I had to learn to speak acronym.

Many people use acronyms, and some of them are so imbedded in our everyday lives that we don’t even realize we are using them. Things like TV, PJs, NASA, NATO, OMG, BFF, TLC, LOL, AOL, UPS, TGIF, LASER, RPG, USMC, USA… Sorry for the examples, I live with two teenage girls and a retired Marine…Yep, enough said.

Translation without the acronyms: “After retiring from the United States Marine Corps four years ago, I went to work for the Department of Defense as a Program Manager with a Project Management Professional certification and have managed elements of the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected-All Terrain Vehicle programs, all ranging from Acquisition Category 3 up to Acquisition Category 1D according to the Department of Defense 5000 Order and Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act standards.  Countering Improvised Explosive Devices, Explosively Formed Projectiles, Ruchnaya Kumulyativnaya Granata–3s with Blue Force Trackers, Armor, Remote Weapon Stations as well as the TAK-4 suspension from Oshkosh Truck Company and have expended billions in Industry Research and Development, Procurement Marine Corps and Operating and Maintenance funding over the past 9 Fiscal Year Defense Budgets.”

This may still sound like a garbled message from beyond and be just as alien if you do not work in military circles, but we do the same thing in the writing industry.

My CP thinks the heroine in my WIP will never get her HEA, or even a HFN, because she’s TSTL.

Translation: My critique partner thinks the heroine in my work in progress will never get her happily ever after, or even a happy for now, because she’s too stupid to live.

We romance writers tend to speak our own language, and that can be particularly challenging for someone new to writing. If you don’t understand what a critique partner or an agent or an editor is trying to tell you, then it is impossible to improve your writing.

I am going to leave you with a few commonly used writing acronyms and I invite you to add any that I may have overlooked.

CP (Critique Partner)—This is someone who gives you feedback on your writing, hopefully, in a constructive way. Usually this arrangement works as an exchange where you are expected to critique the other person’s writing as well. Some writers have one critique partner while others are part of a group.

GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict)—This tells you what your main characters’ goals are, their motivation for achieving these goals, and the conflict that is preventing them from achieving these goals.

POV (Point of View)—This is who is talking in the scene. You usually want to decide who is narrating the scene based on who has the most to lose, or what you might be trying to hold back from the reader or other characters in the scene.

WIP (Work in Progress)—The story you are currently working on.

MS (Manuscript)—This is a complete story you have already written.

HEA (Happily Ever After)—This is your happy ending where your hero/heroine are in love and all of the major conflicts have been resolved.

HFN (Happy for Now)—If you are not wrapping things up with the couple getting married or making a life-long kind of commitment, you at least want to make it clear they are happy and together for the long term.

TSTL (Too Stupid To Live)—This is a character that makes so many stupid decisions that the reader wants the character to die, or at least have consequences for their actions.


13 thoughts on “Acronym Soup

  1. A couple of these are new to me (HFN and TSTL), so thanks, Dana! As for TSTL, all I can say is really? People actually use this as a criticism? So much so that it has its own acronym? Kinda harsh, don’t you think? If my CP said this about my heroine, I think I would cry.

  2. This is an example Pintip, not an actual comment given to me by my critique partner. Thank Goodness, because that might make me cry too. I was just trying to give an example with lots of acronyms. 😀
    I guess you don’t watch horror movies or read mysteries as much as I do. 🙂
    You know the girl in the horror movie or book that hears the noise in the middle of the night and goes to the top of the stairs and calls out, “Hello, anybody down there?” I mean really, what’s the bad guy going to say? “Yeah, down here. I’m just making a sandwich. Thought I’d grab a bite to eat before I come upstairs and kill you.”
    In a more contemporary setting this might be the person that continually makes bad choice after bad choice leaving chaos in her wake. TSTL is not necessarily a bad thing–it can be effectively used as comic relief, especially in a secondary character.

    1. Ha ha. I didn’t think you had actually received TSTL as a critique, but I was curious as to when such a term would be used! Thanks for the clarification!

  3. Hey, Dana’s CP here. And no I haven’t told her her heroine is TSTL, because her heroine is actually great. 🙂 But it reminds me of a rejection I got from an an editor, and while he didn’t call my heroine TSTL he did say she kept making the same dumb choices over and over. He probably wanted to say TSTL. He really didn’t get my heroine.

    This is a great post Dana. We do tend to talk our writers talk and forget that others may not know what we mean. Here are a few more acronyms.

    TBR – To Be Read (don’t we all have a tower of these books waiting)
    H/H – Hero/Heroine
    ARC – Advanced Reader Copy
    MG – Middle Grade
    YA – Young Adult
    LI – Love Interest
    POD – Print On Demand

  4. Hi Dana! Hubby is helping me respond to blogs today! Be warned, he’s a soldier.
    Here are two of his fave acronyms:
    CoC–Command Operations Center
    DAGBY–Dumb Ass Gun Bunny

    And I know it’s an industry term, but I have to say I wish we could come up with something a little nicer than TSTL! It breaks my heart that we call female characters that! I think anyone who’s ever been told anything close to “you’ll never make it” would take offense at that one!

    1. I hear what you’re saying Carlene, but the term is for ANY character. Not just female characters. As for your husband… I couldn’t print some of my husband’s favorites… LOL!!!

  5. I love TSTL, I need to have a character who fits those standards! I remember being startled by an editor using “meet cute” during a talk about a proposal I was shopping around. It said so much in just two words. I look for it now, and respect its use. Not kidding.

    For the interested, my 20-something kids like J.O.K.E. Which is not an acronym, but a firm reminder that they are being sarcastic. IMHO, a good reminder when I’m getting riled up about whatever they said.

  6. Thanks Susan! Living with two teenagers, a husband who retired after 21 years in the Marines, and surviving several deployments I find that I have to have a sense of humor about everything. Even if it’s moving pregnant, again, half way across the country with a two year old and no idea where you’re going to live when you get there. 🙂 Been there done that, bought the tee shirt! Ha ha!

  7. Scary, huh! My husband can have an entire conversation in acronym, and it drives me nuts… 🙂

  8. Lord have mercy — TSTL took me forever to figure out. HEA I got, but HFN eluded me. GMC I had never heard of. And isn’t CP also an acronym for something else? I think it’s that something else that always pops into my head, because “critique partner” never occurs to me.


  9. Te-he! OMG, I loved this. My fav acronym is IKR, which I like to think my BFF made up first. Everyone else in the world caught on later.

    So many acronyms, so little time. I work for a military organization as well so I’m all over the DOD, USMC, USN, USCG, etc. Then I have the writing acronyms plus the Twitter-verse. No wonder my head has been so fuzzy lately! 😉

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