- How many times have you seen a movie or read a book in which you see a character attempt things three times… fail the first two times, and then succeed on the third try?
- How many times have you seen a character cluster of three?
- How many times have you seen the three-in-a-row pattern of a joke?
It’s a rule of advertising, of rhetoric, of politics: “I came, I saw, I conquered.” “Faith, hope and charity.” “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” “Location, location, location.”
Call it religion, call it astrology, call it numerology… however, whyever - this pattern of three is somehow intrinsically satisfying to us as human beings.
It’s often this pattern: Same, Same, Different. One is the set up, Two establishes the pattern, Three breaks the pattern with a twist.
In the Three-Brother or Three-Sister Structure, it’s Fail, Fail, Succeed. In The Godfather we see older brothers Sonny and Fredo are not up to the task of running the Corleone family, but unlikely youngest brother Michael is. In Jaws, we see scientist Hooper and ship’s captain Quint go up against the shark and fail, but in the climax, very unlikely Sheriff Brody actually kills the beast. In Cinderella, the two eldest stepsisters fail utterly with the Prince, then youngest stepsister Cinderella wins the crown. Sorry, I mean prince.
Think about character names: Dumbledore, McGonegall, and Hagrid. Flora, Fauna, and Meriwether. Do you see that change in rhythm? Same, same, different. Serious, serious, joke.