Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Mentionables: Avoid the "Threes"

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Have you ever heard that expression, "Bad things happen in threes?" I actually looked up the origin, and here's what I found: This is a well-attested folk superstition on both sides of the Atlantic: [1891 Notes & Queries 7th Ser. XII. 489] . It does seem to happen that way, doesn't it? We twist our ankle going downstairs, run out of gas on the way to work, and then wait for the third lousy occurrence to happen later that day, whether it's dropping lunch on the floor, losing a client to a competitor, or even missing the elevator so that we're late to our favorite class at the gym.

Consider this: A sequence of threes is not a good thing in writing either.
I've been spending the last couple of weeks proofing the audio files for my books One Night in Boston (my first) and One Night in Napa(my fourth). Both are coming out as audio books in early 2013 within a few weeks of each other, just sort of the way the timing worked out with the narrators. First off, I'll say that it's interesting to revisit books I haven't read through in years. Interesting and cool, too. It's also obvious that my writing has grown since that first book, most notably in my reliance (or lack of reliance these days) on the use of series of threes:

"I need that list. I need a map of Boston. I need to find out if anyone named Dillon Murphy is listed in the phone book."
"He should have known better. He should have waited for Sam to leave. He should have locked the door behind his friend."

"What do you need to say? That you're going to whisk her away from her life? That you're still in love with her? That everything will be just like it was back in college?"

See? After awhile this pattern of threes becomes sort of like the adage's "bad things" - you want to avoid it. So for newer writers, especially, keep an eye out. Do you fall into patterns, like the use of a series of threes in your descriptions? Consider cutting and varying those patterns whenever you can. I found that there are hardly any in One Night in Napa, and I do think it's better for that.

It's cool to see your own writing mature over the years and over the soldier on, fellow writers! Keep writing and keep learning :)

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