Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Aside

Items of Interest: Ep. 16

Phew. That was a close one. I almost didn’t find anything that I was interested in this week.

It’s been rough.

But, enough about my mental instability.

Items of Interest: Ep. 16

The Power of Three. Or, Rule of Four.

Find a need, fill a need.

You’re all familiar with the four humors, right?

Okay, crash course. Look at this.

All right, now look at the group of friends you hang out with.

Chances are, there are four of you. And, each one of you fall into one of those categories very specifically. Before you get all huffy and jump to another feed, hear me out.

You rotate. There are shifts. Things change. But, if Simon shouted “Stop!” in the middle of a rotation, these four basic types would still be filled. Almost like there’s a need to fill the basic personality types. If it works in real life, it must work in story.

Examples!

Sex and the City. Will and Grace. Frazier. The Electric Mayhem (sans Dr. Teeth).

Why does this work? No idea. Just thought it was interesting. Moving on.

The Power of Three

It’s like someone saw this trope and thought, “All I have to do to be different is get rid of a humor.”

This was a great plan because it adds a layer of previously unreachable conflict. The group of three is unnatural. It lacks balance. We are always trying to find the fourth humor to complete the picture. This is a gut-conflict. It has nothing to do with the story, or the action. We the audience feel┬álike something is wrong and needs to be resolved. We just don’t realize it’s the fourth humor.

Example!

Harry Potter. Throughout the series, we see Ron, Hermione, and Harry rotating through the four humors. Hermione stays pretty solid as phlegmatic while Ron is pretty stable sanguine. The dynamic of the group changes every time a fourth member is added. Neville is melancholic. The Weasley Twins are choleric.

Harry remains the wild card, which helps the audience empathize with him. Like us, he is not always aware of what role he needs to play in the ever-changing dynamic.

And, all this in a world of fours!

Four Houses, four Marauders, four Founders.

We’re happy. In the end, we get our fourth. Ginny. The roles are set, the group dynamic stops spinning.

That’s why you have an epilogue. To prove you’ve stopped searching for the fourth.

This stuff is visceral. It’s not about defeating Voldemort. It’s about finding where you fit in context of four.

That’s simplified, of course. And, as all things in the real world, it’s not necessarily true all the time. But, that’s what stories are, right? Trying to find their way to a universal truth.

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