Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing,  workshops

The Rule of Three

Most Writers Don’t Understand It or Use It…

Today, at lunch, Kris and I were talking about a ton of ideas we have for Pop-Up classes we wanted to do for the Spade/Paladin Kickstarter we will launch next week. We like giving writers Pop-Up classes in the stretch goals if the campaign hits a certain amount. And we liked them to sort of match the genre of the campaign, which this time is mystery.

We decided and laid out some really good Pop-Ups. For example, a Pop-Up titled HOW TO GET AUTOMATIC DEPTH. Yes, there are ways to do that. Honest. And they are fun and it is perfect size for a Pop-Up topic.

Another one that fits with the Kickstarter for Spade/Paladin mystery is HOW TO MAKE YOUR RED HERRINGS INVISIBLE. That will be great fun.

Another is HOW TO USE AN EXISTING SYSTEM TO CREATE TENSION. Existing system could be something like a Tarot deck or a game or anything. Amazing tension builders if you know how to do it right.

Along the way, Kris said, “Why not the rule of three?” (We had just witnessed two spills around us and both of us were waiting for the third.)

My response was, “Way too much for a Pop-Up. I seldom talk about it in any class because it is such an advanced technique.”

“So we do it as a Special Three-Week Workshop.”

So that’s what we are doing. There are now two Special workshops in this coming Kickstarter, both starting a week after the last Pulphouse Kickstarter special workshop ends, so no overlapping.

The new special workshop is called THE RULE OF THREE AND HOW TO USE IT. Special three-week workshop only available through the coming Kickstarter.

When you type in Rule of Three into Google, you get a Wikipedia definition.

The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. The audience of this form of text is also thereby more likely to remember the information conveyed because having three entities combines both brevity and rhythm with having the smallest amount of information to create a pattern.[1][2]

Slogans, film titles, and a variety of other things have been structured in threes, a tradition that grew out of oral storytelling.

And that is only a tiny bit of the use of THE RULE OF THREE in writing.

Stay tuned. Some really fun Pop-Ups and two great special workshops coming on Tuesday.


  • Connor whiteley

    Sounds great. I remember really learning about the Rule of three in the information flow workshop and my creative voice likes to use it. It’ll be interesting to see the floors above it.
    I’m also launching a new kickstarter Tuesday. Looking forward to the workshops and pop ups.

  • Mary+Kennedy

    That was a lightbulb moment, just having you mention this.

    I learned the rule of three years and years ago when I learned oral storytelling, but I hadn’t consciously thought about it with my writing. But my subconcious remembered – I realize now that choices I made in the last book “for balance” were actually about the rule of three.

    Oh my gosh. This will be a great workshop.

  • Thomas Bennett

    Hey Dean,

    I don’t know if this would fit a pop up But “How to create a fictional town” might be fun. I guess a lot of the world building stuff applies, so there is definately overlap. But I’ve been journaling about everything going on this holiday weekend and I was just thinking, “I wonder if there are any tricks to creating fictional towns beyond depth.”

    I still need some practice with depth, but I understand those techniques and how to use them decently well for where I’m at.

    Anyway, excited for the new kickstarter. Thanks for all you do.

    • dwsmith

      Note many I can think of Thomas. Pretty much depth and opinion of the character about the place. Making Place a Character special workshop coming up in the new Kickstarter might help as well.

  • Linda Niehoff

    These all sound fantastic! Very excited for the next Kickstarter. Automatic Depth sounds quite intriguing…

  • Emilia Pulliainen

    Very exited for the pop-ups and especially Rule of Three. I think I’ve bee periphrerally aware of it for awhile. I noticed if you wanted a sentence to have a lot of impact you’d write:
    And the last one would have more impact. Always excited to learn more.

    I also heard on a home imrovement show that a group of three decorations looks better than a group of two or four. The rule of three works in even in decorating ones home.

  • David Anthony Brown

    I saw the rule of three big time when I typed 25k words from one of the Diving books (The Falls). She uses the rule of three literally everywhere and was completely invisible when I read the book for enjoyment. Only when I was aware of the rule and went to the effort of typing the book did I see it.