Three is a big deal. The number, that is. Have you ever noticed? Especially in literary undertakings.
The Rule of Three is actually a writing principle, did you know that? Not just for characters, but also in phrases. E.G. “Go, Team, Go!” It’s also a memorization rule. Research shows people tend to remember things better if they come in groups of three. It’s also true in syntax, or sentence structure.
The Rule of Three is well documented. Let’s take a peek at some famous examples of the power of three in literature, recent and long past.
1. Harry Potter. Obvious for today’s society. Three main characters. Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It just works. And there are numerous secondary character threesomes.
2. The Hunger Games. Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. At times, Gale flickers out and other people replace him to complete the triad, but it’s still valid.
3. Twilight (blech). I despise Twilight, but it still follows the Rule of Three. Bella, Edward, and Jacob.
4. A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is visited by three spirits. Just enough. Not too many, not too few.
5. The Three Little Pigs. It’s all in the name.
6. Macbeth. There are three witches. They meet three times. They say things in three. (See what I did there? The Rule of Three in repetitive sentences).
7. The Three Musketeers. I know, I know. Technically, there are four, but the for the purposes of this list, it reinforces my point.
Well, what happens if you break that rule? Are you banned to the literary rubbish bin for all eternity? Are you black-listed from agents and publishers?
I sure hope not. Because I’ve done it.
I’m breaking the Rule of Three.
You heard me. In my MG fantasy books, there is one main character and three other secondary main characters, if that makes sense. Which means, for me, it’s the Rule of Four.
Although there is something inherently pleasing about the number three, it just isn’t always possible. Believe me, I tried to find ways around the four characters, but there wasn’t one. I’d have to completely gut the book to make it work. And honestly, I like the group of four characters. They’re all so different and bring unique traits to the story that it’d be like cutting off one of my limbs. Of which I have FOUR! Ha!
What do you all think of the Rule of Three? Is it a hard and fast rule for you? Can you think of any other examples? Do you follow the Rule of Three, or are you a rebel, like me?
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” W. Somerset Maugham