3 Ways to Use the Rule of Three in Writing to Satisfy Readers

Do you want to capture your readers’ attention, rivet them to the page, and leave them clamoring for more? Abusing the Rule of Three in your writing is one way to meet reader expectations and employ reader interest.

rule of three

It can fulfill readers.

It can create something that moves parties, redoubles increased understanding, and keeps them thinking about your floor long after they’ve relished the last word.

But how do you apply this rule into your story naturally? Is it right for your work?

Why You Should Care

Somerset Maugham said: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately , no one knows what they are.”

I bring this up because I want to see the point that there really are no regulates when it comes to fiction writing. But there are time-honored institutions so ingrained in our culture and conscience that it would be foolish to ignore them.

“There certainly are no regulations when it comes to fiction writing. But there are time-honored institutions that are deeply ingrained in our culture and shame, and it’s worthwhile to pay attention to them.Tweet this

Some of these are the genre gatherings and obligatory representations so critical to providing a pleasant suffer for the reader.

Others are broader in remit, contacting far across genre borderlines to encompass many aspects of a reader’s life.

One of these is the Hero’s Journey. David Safford has written an excellent streak of articles exploring this subject, and I inspire you to check them out.

Another of these far-reaching habits is known as The Rule of Three.

What Is the Rule of Three?

You don’t have to be a fan of Schoolhouse Rock to know that three is a magic number. Listen to a credible orator, and you’ll hear him involve the Rule of Three time and again to drive home his targets, motivate his audience, and improve their remembrance of his oaths.( See how I really did that ?)

Things happen in threes.

Or at least it seems that way, because the convention is so deeply entrenched in our ethnic beliefs. You can see thinkings of this everywhere. The Holy Trinity. Life, sovereignty, and the pursuit of happiness. Truth, justice, and the American way.

We see it all the time in our fiction, too.

The three-act structure, beginning, middle, and demise. The Three Little Pigs, the Three Amigos, the Three Musketeers. Grouping things in threes not only requires tempo and offset, but also invokes a powerful subconscious expectation.

Overall, the Rule of Three is the art of setting up and fulfilling a three-part pattern. It is a writing principle that is based on how people comprehend and retain information based on decorations. And like the list four, it is a small number that allows us to remember important items although we are starting potential for stretching conflict in a plot.

Unlike the multitude four though, curious numerals tend to be more interesting.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways we can use the Rule of Three in our writing.

Boost Character Dynamics

When you have two references, A interacts with B and B interacts with A. Certainly there can be tension, but it’s difficult to sustain in an interesting way.

Add a third courage, and you’ve exactly deepened the dimensions of your story greatly. Now we’ve came A to B, A to C, B to A, B to C, C to A, and C to B.

This accommodates batch of remit for adding and escalating conflict.

Introducing a fourth character to the mix can sometimes be too much, clearing it hard for the reader to keep straight, but three is perfect. Why do you think triangles are so favourite in literature?

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Why the

1. The Hunger Games

Katniss is torn between two compassions, Gale and Peeta. Each of these men brings out something good in her, fulfilling a need. The ongoing tug of war between what she recollects she misses and what she ends up with causes a forcing dynamic that carries the storey through three novels.

Also known as the desire triangle, this is an excellent way to apply the Rule of Three in any floor, as a main storyline or subplot.

Three appoints tension and troops a choice.

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2. Casablanca

Like The Hunger Games, the interactions here are primarily between Ilsa and her two lovers.

The story midsts on themes of desire vs. honor and sacrifice for another’s happiness. Without Laszlo equipping a third line-up of the triangle, Rick and Ilsa’s dramatic conflict would be considerably flatter.

The story needs the tension. It, once again, forms pressure by force references into tough angles that involve hard-handed decisions.

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3. Ghost

Sam dies, creating a gulf between him and Molly that merely Oda Mae can gap.

If Sam could just talk to Molly, they wouldn’t need Oda Mae, but the tale wouldn’t have all the lovely facet and conflict created by the threesome.

The threesome assistants parent the story stakes, and these continue to escalate as the patch thickens.

Yes, but What Else Does it Do?

Though it proves well in character dynamics, the Rule of Three applies to so much more than love triangles alone.

Because it’s so ingrained in us, we instinctively aim it out and it thereby grabs our attending and perks our interest.

Here are three other lanes you can use the Rule of Three in your writing to strengthen your story.

1. Build tension

Story is about a courage, in a located, with a problem.

The character launches on a series of try/ neglect rounds. The number of cycles and how long this goes on will go from fib to narrative, but the book is subliminally programmed to expect three.

The character makes an attempt and disappoints; antagonism is the result.

When the character tries and flunks a second time, the tension is heightened. Success on the third try feels right. Four strives at the same feat is heading toward tedious.

Think Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Once is too easy; twice still doesn’t cut it. Three occasions is just right.

2. Facilitate memory

There are a couple of aspects to think about in this regard.

Scientific research suggests that humans recollect things best in groups of three. Too, our mentalities like to recognize and analyze patterns.

One site sees random. Two stations don’t necessarily correlated. But when a third detail of data is added to a situation, a possible pattern chassis, focusing the brain’s attention.

The other vistum is that books tend to remember something that comes up three times, so you can use this to set up for last-minute payoffs. Mention something early on then drawing it up again down the road and you’ve set up an expectation in the reader’s mind.

They remember and anticipate that third appearance.

3. Surprise

Public talkers and comedians use the Rule of Three all the time to deliver important points and punchlines.

You can do it, too, in your writing to spring a surprise. Establish those first two points to get your reader predict a third, then change it.

I discussed this in my article, 5 Side-Splitting Ways to Infuse Humor Into Your Writing, and I hope you’ll yield that a read. But here are a few short-lived a few examples of the technique.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”- Benjamin Disraeli

“There are three principal ways to lose money: wine, girls, and operators. While the first two are more pleasant, the third is by far the more certain.” –Baron Rothschild

“Three things your spouse wants you to do in the event of an argument–take a breath, take a hint, and take a hike.” –Joslyn Chase

Veni, Vidi, Vici

The Rule of Three can add conflict and dynamic to your scheme. It can challenge your exponent to make decisions and face consequences.

The Rule of Three can fill gaps in your story’s material, and pull your books into psychological moments that they will remember long after they’re over.

Now that you have a firmer grasp on the Rule of Three, you are ready to go forth and subjugate!

Just be sure to remember the rule, know how to use it, and have fun!

How about you? Do you notice the Rule of Three in the books and movies you enjoy? Do you use it in your writing? Tell us about it in the comments.


Let’s write a scene utilize the Rule of Three. Choose a prompt from below or come up with your own idea. Write a scene where the character acquires three attempts to solve a problem, heightening the tension after each disappointment, and intention with success on the third try.

Liza has her routine “re ready for” the cheerleader tryouts, but she’s not certain her ankle hurt is sufficiently mended and it’s croak meter! Ralph can’t believe he’s actually traveling through cavity on a NASA assignment. Everything is awesome until he tries to contact Mission Control and the gear flunks. Jennie has been kidnapped and locked down a cellar room. She must escape, applying only the contents of her pocket and a piece of soiled string.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, affix your work in the comments and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers! Commenting on three scribes’ tales voices just about right, don’t you think?

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