Monday, May 09, 2011

Rule of Three

NOTE: all copies have been claimed. But don't stop -- there's a lot about the Rule of Three below.

Yesterday's post mentioned my donating a percentage of my sales to Team In Training to honor mothers and my daughter's efforts (and she's training for an ironman, so her efforts are considerably more than simply asking for donations!) to help raise money for blood cancer research.

One reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, bought 20 copies of What's in a Name? She kept one for herself, but asked that I donate the rest.

If you'd like a copy of this e-book, simply email me, with What's in a Name Giveaway in the subject line, and tell me what format you'd like. If you have a Kindle, I will gift you a copy. If you prefer to shop via Smashwords, I'll give you a free coupon. If you want an e-pub format, I can send one your way.

First nineteen responders will get the book. As for writing. I've started another manuscript. In anticipation of getting rights back to two of my books, I've decided to write a third. There's something about the 'rule of three' that seems ingrained in us as human beings, from Three Little Pigs, the Three Stooges, to the Third Time's the Charm. (Did you notice the use of three examples?)

Repetition helps readers remember. Things presented in threes just seem to stick with us: Faith, Hope. and Charity. Winken, Blinken, and Nod. Blood, Sweat and Tears. Stop, Look and Listen. Stop, Drop and Roll. How many more can you name? Dozens, at least, I'm sure.

When writing, things that come in threes seem to flow better. We'll often list three things a character does or says. Somehow, it doesn't feel as "right" with more or less. Of course, you don't want to use this tool constantly, or it will get repetitive and lose its effect. The three act structure is the basis for plays and writing books.

Here are some examples of using the rule of three:

He took off his boots, sank onto the couch and stretched his legs out in front of him.

He flopped down beside him, drew him close, and was out.

Jungle noises filled Dalton’s ears. Monkeys chattered, birds sang, insects buzzed.

At the top of the stairs, a pair of double doors stood open. Classical music drifted down. Two men in black trousers, white shirts, and red jackets greeted guests.

Following the flashlight’s narrow beam, she rushed toward the voice, stopping two paces into the room.

Repetition shows you meant it. If you repeat a word twice in a paragraph or a short passage, there's a 'clunk' or 'echo' effect. However, using the word three times is effectively telling the reader you meant to repeat the word.

As a matter of fact, the US Marines found that grouping things in threes helped people remember training, which in turn, helped keep them alive. They experimented with a rule of four and retention and effectiveness plummeted.

Tomorrow, my guest is Kris Bock, who's going to talk about the love of writing. She's also giving away 2 books, so come back and leave a comment.


Unknown said...

is that why you had 3 kids? ;)

Terry Odell said...

Not going there, your royal twinness.

Wynter said...

How sweet! That's awesome. Pass mine to commenter #20 since I've already read the book (and highly recommend it)!

Susannah Sharp said...

I find that to be so true, especially when describing someone . . . he is always tall, dark, and handsome, isn't he? I read somewhere that odd numbers appear more "complete" to our brain, but I don't know that that's always true. I sure do notice it in writing, though.

Margaret Fieland said...

I'd love one of the free ebooks -- the story sounds great!

Beth Caudill said...

How about the Three Billy Goats Gruff. :)

Terry Odell said...

Susannah - I agree. My former photography instructor always said if you had two things, your brain would be trying to weigh them against each other, but three was more balanced.

Maggie - would love to send you a book, but you have to go through my email, not the comments. It's explained in the opening of the post.

Terry Odell said...

Beth - definitely would seem strange to have the Two (or Four) Billy Goats Gruff, wouldn't it.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Lots of 3s in literature---it really does seem to provide a resonance with the writing. Fairy tales are full of them...most noticeable in children's lit, but it's in all kinds of fiction.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - yes, and in humor, too. Lots of jokes follow a three part format (how many variations on the XX, YY, and ZZ walk into a bar are there? But it's always 3 of them.)

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

I'd love a copy of What's in a Name, if you have any left. Thanks so much for offering these books to your fellow writers.

Julie Robinson said...

Interesting about the 'three' concept. I wonder if it resonates with us on an unconscious Jungian level---something to do with myth, the Trinity, the cosmic concept of sun, moon, and sky . . .

Just in case you have a book left. I'll email you.
I'd love to read it.
Many thanks to you and your donor.

Julie Robinson said...

Oops, never mind, I now see the bright red NOTE above!

Terry Odell said...

Sue - they're still for sale, and I'm donating 10% for the rest of this week.

Julie - I agree, it must be something deep seated in our subconscious.

J.Q. Rose said...

Kudos to you for donating a portion of your book sales for charity. I know the three idea just sets up a rhythm in the writing. Three must be ingrained in us. Even when composing a photo, the picture is divided into three sections to be more pleasing to the eye.

Terry Odell said...

JQ - I figure if my daughter can deal with training for an ironman, I can do a little to help her make the pain worthwhile. And, yes I do remember those rules of composing photographs from my photography days.