This week the criminally minded are discussing the best non-writing advice we've received that we've actually applied to our writing. There's a bit of irony here because if I remember correctly, I suggested this topic...and I had no clue what to write. However, in between beating my head against my desk and gnashing my teeth in frustration, I found my topic.
I'm the youngest of six children so you can imagine sibling rivalry ran rampant through our house. Being the youngest, I often thought I was getting the short end of the stick, whether it was true or not, and in proper childish fashion would--loudly--proclaim "It's not fair!" My parents' response in a nutshell?
"Life isn't fair so suck it up and deal with it."
Their response wasn't from being mean or even overly strict, although they did believe in disciplining their children they also believed in personal responsibility and admitting to one's mistakes. They were, I think, simply tired. After all, they'd been through five other kids and didn't want to hear the whines, complaints, and excuses of a sixth, which only led to me being more creative with my whines, complaints, and excuses. But I digress...
Life isn't fair. There is always a guy with a bigger car. A bigger house. A bigger bank account. A bigger...you get the idea. We all have the choice of either being envious and bemoaning our postage-stamp size patch of brown grass, weathered paint and cracked siding, and car that barely makes it out of the drive before dying in the middle of the street, or we can suck it up and find ways to change our circumstances.
With those choices in mind, I've taken my parents' advice and I apply it to my characters on a regular basis. I admit I torture my characters. I stoke the fires of Hell and make them walk through barefooted. The Sword of Damocles is forever hanging over their heads. (I do offer carrots and chocolate and the occasional blood buffet, but that's beside the point here.) However, they don't whine...much. I don't let them. I hate to read whiney characters. So I make them suck it up and deal with whatever I'm throwing at them. They may have a moment or two to be emotional but then it's time to go to work and find solutions.
Once the crises are over, then they can freak out, melt down, or have their happy-happy-joy-joy moment. But it's only a moment because life isn't fair, and there's always a bigger, badder bad guy out to rub someone's nose in it.