My masochistic post, but I swear there is a writing lesson at the end.
There’s that ex. She dumped you for good reason, you became a changed man, and liking what she sees, she starts saying things like, “We should get back together…after I dump my boyfriend.” Those with wisdom get on a train and flee with the vigor of a halfling from a troll. Then there are the other ones. The guys like me.
The line is baited and we bite, fat and stupid fish ready for harvest. Hook after hook sinks into our flesh, but instead of saying, “Gee golly this hurts,” we say, “It must mean she’s interested.”
Then one of two things happen. She says just kidding and goes off with the boyfriend. Option two is your testicles finally drop and you snap. Hopefully not kill them snap, but I’m sure that’s far more fulfilling. You go off, you ask what’s the hold up. Startled by your sudden assertion, they walk away.
Either way, the result is the same. You are kneeling on the ground with your heart in your hands, bloody and ruined. The responses are countless, but generally severe. Some come out with depression, disorders, and other internal issues of general self-loathing. Others become jaded, steeling their heart against any fresh invaders. I went Hulk.
This pulls on something we experienced, and it is something we understand. We can pour emotion into it, and give the character authenticity. You got passed up for a promotion? Have a promising warrior passed up for knighthood. There are countless responses to any dashed hope, but they’re almost always severe. They almost always lead to poor decision making.
Set up something for your character to hope for, preferably something similar to what you hoped for. Let it play out. Make us think he will get it, since we are wired to think our novel characters will get what they want. Using Song of Ice and Fire, the series is based on dashing our hopes. We see Bran as a capable climber, and athlete at a young age. Crippled. Ned Stark could be the greatest and most honorable man ever in King’s Landing. Decapitated. Samwell Tarley is sent to the Night’s Watch to die. Survives. Remember, the success of one person’s hopes can dash another’s.
There are also a number of ways people respond to despair. Sometimes they crumble like paper in a strong wind. Other times they soar like birds through zephyrs. Play with it. Even pick a path you did not take. Perhaps you overcame and grew into a better person. What if you became jaded instead?
Go create some despair and pull some heartstrings. Purchase stock in Kleenex and get moving.