Monday, August 30, 2010

The Power of Three

So three is the magic number for picture books, right?  Well, so is seven.  And twelve.  It depends on the story.  For my latest story, I used 6 attempts to solve the main character's problem.  I could simply add one more, but since the story is already so long, I am choosing to condense it down to the simple powers of three.  Oh, the powers that be, is three, three, three.

In the book I'm reading, Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, she truly explores the different ways of Holding Your Story Together (chapter 10):
  • days of the week
  • months of the year
  • the four seasons
  • a journey
  • circular (back to the beginning)
  • comparison
  • alphabet
  • counting
  • repetitive phrases
  • question and answer
  • and a story within a story.
I would venture to say that the majority of these methods would not be used on the "average" story.  The most popular ones are probably:  journey, circular, and repetitive phrases.  The ones I have used are months/seasons combined, and alphabet.  I'm thinking of combining a journey story within a story.  Endless possibilities!  Just go get the book.  She really discusses what they are, how they work, and gives published examples.  I'm merely listing them here.

I just discovered another great blog:  Two Writing Teachers: Teaching Kids. Catching Minds. 565 Miles Apart.  In their blog post on August 27, 2009, they talked about the power of threes, as well.  Here is what Stacey posted about how threes often show up in books:

  • Commas in Lists (a little grammar-teaching bonus): Whether it’s a simple list of three items or an elaborate list, many writers create lists of items, character traits, etc. in threes. Tuck in the teaching of commas in lists when you teach your students how to create a long or a short list.

  • Internal Thoughts: When a character thinks about what do, sometimes the options come in groups of three.

  • Same Start:  The author begins with the same word or phrase in three separate, consecutive sentences for emphasis.

  • Same Word Repeated:  Done for emphasis (e.g., really, really, really or yes, yes, yes).

  • Setting Details: Often revealed with three vivid adjectives or three vivid phrases that describe.

  • Visit their blog to read the entire post.  She also includes a list of books that include some threes.  

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find three of your own books (not that you necessarily OWN, but that you thought of) to list as an example for picture books with the power of threes.  Here are my three:
    1. Purplicious by Victoria Kann
    2. okay, it's a lot harder than it sounds
    3. Defer to mission #2.
    Mission #2, should you choose to accept it, is to analyze every picture book you own and write down what aspect that holds the story together.  Come to think of it, I think I'm really up for this challenge.  Would make a great blog post.  It'll be a long one.  And I'm adding that to the list of how to analyze a picture book, too.  

    This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds.  So choose a mission and hurry up about it!

    1 comment:

    1. Three is powerful, and not just from a writing perspective. The best, most convincing orators also use threes (veni, vidi, vici). Just long enough to create a pattern, but not long enough to seem repetitive. Thanks for the reminder!


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