How do you write comedy? It’s hard to say, but there are certain rules that can help. Similarly, if you are not writing comedy and something isn’t working, consider the Rule of Three.
Wikipedia describes the Rule of Three as:
A writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.
The Rule of three often creates a progression in which tension is created, built up, and finally released.
I believe, this may stem from the root of our core, The Holy Trinity, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Other examples include: Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, and the Three Amigos. The Three Stooges, The Three Wise Men and Snap, Crackle Pop.
Here’s an example from one of my favorite books, Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.
The main character, Will, a child, just barely escapes death after a train runs over him. (He ducked.)
By the time I got it loose, the clickety-clacks were plain as day and getting louder, louder, LOUDER!
And then it was “Thank you, Lord, thank you, God, thank you, sir…”
Boy howdy, boy howdy, boy howdy!
Still and all, that was what kept reminding me, I wasn’t dead.
But boy howdy, I was alive! Thank you, Jesus.
If you look at each sentence…. louder, louder, LOUDER! What if she had used two?
“By the time I got it loose, the clickety-clacks were plain as day and getter louder, LOUDER!” Doesn’t have the same emotional impact. Or the next sentence, if we used four.
And then it was “Thank you, Lord, thank you, God, thank you, sir, thank you, Jesus… It not only takes away from the sentence, and it’s not as funny.
Boy howdy, boy howdy, boy howdy, boy howdy! Four is redundant. There is a beat to three, not four.
Then she wraps it up by incorporating the entire paragraph.
But boy howdy, (one) I was alive! (two) Thank you, Jesus. (three)
In the movie, The Great Escape. Three characters taste their potato moonshine.
Steve McQueen delivers a surprising “Wow,”
James Garner delivers his affirming, “Wow,”
and Jud Taylor delivers an exasperated, “Wow.”
The scene is repeated when they drink a sample rather than just taste it.
There are countless examples, but I’ve only listed some. If you are trying to write comedy, avoid going overboard and stick to three. If you are not writing comedy, use the rule of three to create tension, build it up and then release it.
Visit Rhonda M. Hall http://rhondamhall.wordpress.com/