Next Time

A portmanteau word is a word that combines words, such as brunch, which is a combination of breakfast and lunch, but since a portmanteau is a large trunk, it would make more sense for portmanteau words to be those that carry extra weight and meaning.

Such as “next time.”

I’d never thought of those particular words — they are so common as to be almost meaningless — but a character in a novel I just finished reading believes “next time” are the two best words in the English language. “Next time” is not exactly mellifluous — others words are much prettier, such as ethereal or serene — but the more I think about “next time”, the more I can see what the character means.

“Next time” tells a story. Something didn’t happen the way you planned, you made a mistake, you weren’t quite good enough, but another time will come around where perhaps things will happen the way you planned, you didn’t make a mistake, you were good enough.

“Next time” is actually the premise of most stories. The story of the three bears comes to mind. The first time Goldilocks sits at the table in the bear’s house, the chair was too hard and the porridge too hot. The second time, the chair was too soft and the porridge too cold. But the next — oh, the next time everything was perfect. As simple as the story line is, it’s the basis of many tales, especially the hero’s journey. He tries, doesn’t succeed. Tries a second time, giving it his all, and still doesn’t succeed. But he undergoes a transformation, becoming the hero — the person who can succeed. And the next time he tries, he accomplishes his task. (Technically, I suppose, the middle try is also a “next time,” but in a way, instead of disproving my point, it shows that there is always another next time.)

“Next time” isn’t just about stories. “Next time” carries within itself a whole trunk full of possibilities, of hope, even of miracles. Anything can happen the next time because . . . well, because it’s not this time when so many things are going wrong.

“Next time” offers a promise of a second chance.

“Next time” gives us a chance to be better. To be kinder, more thoughtful, more careful, more whatever we need to be next time.

So, no matter what happens today and in the next several days, take heart that there will be a next time.

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Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published! Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Three

Three is a powerful number that satisfies our deepest needs for symmetry. Three gods ruled the earth—Zeus, the god of heaven; Poseidon, the god of the sea; and Pluto, the god of the underworld. People worshipped the moon goddess as a triad, representing three phases of the moon. There were three Fates, three Furies, three Graces, three Harpies, three primary colors. Three times three was also a mystical number, hence the nine muses.

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A few obvious threes from popular culture:

Three wishes. Three bears. Three little pigs. The Three Stooges. Three outs. Best two out of three. Three Faces of Eve. Three Days of the Condor. The Three Musketeers. Third time lucky. Love triangle. (The triangle itself is a divine symbol signifying the power of three.) Three is also a visually pleasing arrangement. And the number three signifies harmony.

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So, to make your stories more powerful, harness the power of three.

1. When describing a character or scene, mention three attributes. Also, if a particular attribute needs to be fixed in the reader’s mind, mention it three times (and only three times) during the course of the book, and it will stick.

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2. When devising a plot, follow the storyline of The Three Bears. The first time the hero tries to reach her goal, she fails but learns the risks. The second time she tries, she confirms that she’s doing things wrong, but she learns from her mistakes. The third time she tries, she gets it right. three bears

3. Look for patterns in your story. If your character has given his love flowers and perhaps made love to her in a flower garden, mention flowers once more to solidify the pattern.

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I could give you more ways to make your stories more powerful, but since I’ve given you three suggestions, that should be enough. And if it isn’t, you can find more uses for this powerful tool here: The Most Powerful Tool at a Writer’s Command

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+