Hello from the Land of the Morning Calm!
Over the past week, I've been put in some pretty stressful situations (not the least of which was navigating a two-day airport adventure), and it made me think about stress -- specifically how people act when they're stressed.
Some people lash out, becoming irritable and rude. Some people crack and curl up in a ball to cry. Others spiral into depressions and resort to lethargy and solitude to get by. Still others bottle up the stress, seeming to thrive under the pressure only because they are adept at compartmentalizing.
None of this is news. But, it's important to remember that not all of these reactions come from the people you'd expect. The toughest of men become weepers, and the meekest of children become terrors. Too often, I think, authors fall into the trap of stereotyping (or worse, completely ignoring) the reactions of their characters to stressors -- which, lets face it, are the majority of the elements that make up a story.
No two reactions are created equal, and sometimes the diversity of humanity comes from the surprising ways people have of coping with various situations. Keep that in mind the next time Jane Protagonist goes out on a date the same week she finds out her dog died and then has to give an important presentation at work the next day. I know I will.