Saturday, July 30, 2011


The rule of three for characters: each plotline should have three central characters.  This allows for six relationships to be developed, plenty for a novel. Picture a triangle.
The rule of three for plot development: Things usually happen in threes in a story.  The first time something happens in a plot, it's an incident.  The second time it happens it becomes a pattern.  By the third time, the main character must recognize the pattern, learn from it, and do something to change it or risk being TSTL.
Other threes: Three items in a list is usually more than enough. Three descriptive words, if carefully chosen, are plenty: A long (1) black (2) silk (3) skirt swirled about her legs. With adjectives, less is more. It’s easy to overdo: The short polka-dotted pink silk skirt swirled above her knees. If you must use that many descriptive words, at least break the long string: The polka-dotted skirt made him blink; pink, short, and silky, it swirled above her knees. Try to find other ways to show something and avoid using a string of adjectives. If you want the reader to remember a detail, try using contrast. The muscular strength of her hairy legs offset the flirty pink of her skirt.

Any good lines to share? Any notable exceptions?


Cynthia said...

Great post, Ellis! *off to ponder*

Maryn Sinclair said...

It's an excellent rule, Ellis. Sometimes those descriptive series can get away from you, and you have to reel them in--find other places to tell the story if they're important enough.

Ellis Vidler said...

I think avoiding excessive description is something most people know instinctively, but they get hooked on trying to get too much into one place. Sometimes spelling it out makes me think about what I'm doing.

Darla said...

The last example had me laughing out loud. And I like the idea of the rule of three; my tincture of OCD revolves around three's. ;-)