Monday’s Friend: Charles Bowie
Today I am pleased to welcome Charles Bowie to the blog to talk about why the number three is so significant to his writing. Take it away, Charles!
The Power Of The Three
By Charles Bowie
Three. It’s the second prime number, not even the first one. Yet it holds sway over us with a mystical power that cannot be denied. It’s big in religion, just ask The Father or The Son or…you know. It’s big in the corporate world. Every director and manager knows, or think they know their staff can only retain three main facts from any meeting. And it’s massive, when writing.
Earth, wind and fire. Food, clothing and shelter. The Earth, the skies and the heavens. I could go on but, well, I’ve used up my three examples. Suffice it to say, in the human mind, the application of three to develop a concept has been employed through the ages. This is never truer than when telling a story.
Beginning, middle and end. Have I not just described, simply, every story you’ve ever heard, seen or read? (There I go again; sorry.) Let’s say you agree with me. What can you do with this revelation? There are simple and complex applications to this, from a writer’s perspective.
To start, let’s look at the beginning, middle and end aspect of writing. It occurs to me if one was to divide their story into three elements, each one had better hold a special significance. There’s a saying that originated from Western movie writers. ‘What’s the secret to a great duster? Shoot the sheriff in the first five minutes.’ Did you get the viewer’s attention? You bet. You have a beginning. Now take the middle. Is it filler? Is it okay to go straight from the beginning to the climax (end)? No. Not good enough. You have to have massive amounts of goodness in the middle, in the form of character development, exposition, dialogue, atmosphere, not to mention a damn good plot. Fill up the middle with meat, you have my permission. Now for the end. I was chatting with my friend Victor this morning. He’d read a manuscript that contained no climax, and felt robbed. If you’ve taken the reader that far, shouldn’t there be a crisis, perhaps a culmination of the journey being taken? All three elements of the story—any story—have to be respected.
What else can we writers use this numerical phenomenon for? I personally adore working with three distinct storyline arcs, when writing my thrillers. This isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. If you think about the classic love triangle: two guys and a girl; a man, a woman and her career; the power of the three cannot be denied. In classic writing, you have the protagonist, antagonist, and something called nemesis. Nowadays, writers have great success having the protagonist, as well as his or her antagonist, also known as the bad guy. It can be helpful to have someone—the nemesis—arrive on the scene, solely as a catalyst for action. They could be the tech guy who delivers the critical information. They can be the wise mentor, who imparts something to the hero. They can be the comic.
Next time you read a book—hopefully later today—look for the power of the three within it. See how you can exploit this in your writing. I did. I do, and I will.
Chuck Bowie’s latest book Three Wrongs is available right now as an eBook and it comes out this fall in print.
The second novel in the series, AMACAT, drops October 17th.
Chuck Bowie is a Canadian writer who lets his experiences in wine and travel influence his taut, well-written suspense-thrillers. His first two: Three Wrongs and AMACAT have already set the scene for Sean Donovan, a thief for hire. His newest offering, Steal It All promises to keep you wanting more.
Chuck writes for MuseItUp Publishing. You can find him on Twitter as @BowieChuck. His website is http://chuckbowie.ca