Be Specific. Follow the Rule of Thirds

A fan of writing books, I’ve recently gotten my hands on a copy of Oakley Hall’s How Fiction Works which is filled with many great techniques. I will share two here.


how fiction works     oakley hall


According to Oakley, “Fiction lives in the specific, the particular. It dies on the abstract and the general.” His example (makes everything clear) : Local man appointed to post.  Greeted with a sentence like this, the ordinary reader would feel nothing. But change a few words and then everything becomes clear. Intriguing.

Usain Bolt appointed to Mayoral post (in Jamaica).
Former President Bill Clinton appointed to UN post.
Patrick Manning appointed to Presidential post (in Trinidad).

usain bolt

Usain Bolt

If you know any of these men, then maybe right now, you are feeling something. If not, substitute the he for another public figure who interests you. Is the sentence better now? Good. (And in case anyone was wondering, none of these sentences are true.) Instead, they are merely examples used to get the reader interested. To make them read on. So thank you Mr. Hall, another writing technique learnt.

Next, we are told about the rule of thirds, which in this case means that if we speak about someone or something we should present three things that makes them unique, or causes them to stand out. Here Hall, considered a few examples. The easiest one to add here is J.K Rowling’s presentation of Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy hair, and rather large front teeth.

Although I can’t remember the last two pieces of information, the first one definitely sticks out. Try to do the same for your characters. Make them memorable and like me, experiment with specifics, follow the rule of thirds and have a Terrific Week!

2 thoughts on “Be Specific. Follow the Rule of Thirds

    • Yes, there is more where that came from. But I’m only up to chapter three at the moment, which focuses on words. And if you’re not in a rush to buy the library might have a copy. (Part 1: The Dramatic Method (Specification, The Senses, Words, Symbols and Indirection, Dialogue, Authority/Point of View, Characterization and Plot), Part 2: Forms of Fiction (The Short Story, The Novel)). Cheers!

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