Monday, June 2, 2008

Three Times is Charmed

Saturday found me driving here and there. I was doing whatever you do when you're driving, concentrating on a tricky hairpin corner, when whoa! I hit the brakes. There was a deer standing right in the middle of the road. It gave me a good look and then sauntered off the road and into the bush. The kids and I thought that was pretty neat.

So then I'm actually driving down my driveway when suddenly a deer springs right in front of my car and bounds into the bush. It all happened so fast I pretty much didn't have time to blink. You can bet that caused a lot of marvelling.

And then that same day I was returning home from yet another trip (kids!) when, just off to the side of the road, I see a streak of brown rushing towards the road. I slam on my brakes. Out in front of my car races a—wait for it—a coyote! (Or some other such canine type creature.) Wow!

So when I got home safely and without further incident I pondered those encounters. Deer, deer, coyote. Hunh. Taken as a whole they seemed sort of completed, and not only because after three close calls I was still un-dinted. I think the feeling came from the element of three. Three feels like a significant number. It feels complete; like closure.

This three thing resonates in stories (in religion too but I'm not going there). Here's how it goes:
The First incident is the setup. What is the situation? It's shown to readers.

The Second incident is a repeat of the first and so it sets the pattern. Readers will now expect that the situation will be repeated, or that it's part of a regular pattern.

The Third incident similar but it's changed somehow. While the reader expects to see what's come before, this time it's different. This is the twist or the unexpected conclusion.

And that's what I experienced with my deer, deer, coyote encounters.

Look for the pattern of three in stories. Would it work for yours? Try it and it might just be the charm you need.

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