Have you ever noticed the rhythm of an author's writing?
There's something about the "rule of three" that seems ingrained in us as human beings, from the Three Little Pigs, the Three Stooges, to the Third Time's the Charm. (Did you notice the use of three examples?)
When writing, giving three examples of things seems to make the narrative flow better. We'll often list three things a character does or says. Somehow, it doesn't feel as "right" with more or less. The three-act structure is the basis for plays and writing books.
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 I'm sure.
Here are some examples of using the rule of three in writing fiction:
He took off his boots, sank onto the couch and stretched his legs out in front of him.
He flopped down beside her, drew her 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.
However, as with anything else, overuse of any pattern can get monotonous. So go back over your manuscript and see if you've got too many things happening in threes.
And, after finding out that I'm finally getting rights back to two of my earlier books, I've begun working on a third. Readers seem to like threes—hence the popularity of trilogies.
|Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.|
Posted by Maryann Miller who loves the rhythm of words and writing.