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How to write Narrative Triplets – referencing Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse

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I’ll be writing about the video How To Use Narrative Triplets #2 – Writing hacks – SPOILERS – Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse from the writing advice series I’m doing on YouTube with Jonathan McKinney.

To explain how and why you use Narrative Triplets in your writing, I am referencing the film Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse, so this post does contain SPOILERS if you’ve not seen that film. I’ll cover key moments in the film and how these Narrative Triplets make the entire plot stronger.

This is my second post on Narrative Triplets, because the more you see it, the more you understand it, and the more you’ll be able to use it. The first time I wrote about this was referencing the Narrative Triplet in Joker, so check that post out for more useful reading around the subject.

The Narrative Triplet in Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse that I’ll be explaining is “the shoulder touch.” The shoulder touch was a flirting technique taught to Miles by his Uncle Aaron, used as a bonding moment between him and his uncle, to teach him how to flirt with the girl he’s interested in, Gwen.

The second use of the shoulder touch comes about when Miles attempts to use this flirting technique on Gwen, but it’s at a really bad time as it’s just as he’s starting to develop his Spider-Man powers. He has no control over his new powers, so the shoulder touch goes terribly wrong as Miles gets stuck to Gwen’s hair by his Spider-Man hands, leading to Gwen getting the side of her head shaved, which fortunately looks very funky but is not what she had wanted to do.

This is a really good example of the Narrative Triplet because both of the instances it has been used in so far are story relevant, and it could have just been left there and still worked well. The first time he was bonding with his uncle, then he’s bitten by the spider, so the second time he fails in his attempt at using it because of those new powers which is an excellent demonstration of what the character is going through. Both are plot relevant, and they set up and pay off in and of themselves.

Before the third use, several important key plot points develop:

1) Uncle Aaron is killed by King Pin (dead Uncle, classic Spider-Man), and revealed to be working as a villain, so the bonding with his Uncle over this move has a greater meaning in Miles’ life.

2) Miles has been struggling to use his powers and unable to get control of them, meaning the rest of the characters from the Spiderverse are convinced that he is not yet ready for the responsibility of being Spider-Man.

3) Miles develops a power to electric shock his enemy by touching them, which is a new Spider-Man power that hasn’t been seen before in the Spiderverse.

If you’re familiar with how and why Narrative Triplets are used, you might predict the use of the third instance of the shoulder touch in advance, and when the electric shock power by touch is revealed it is a pretty good hint at what’s to come.

So the third instance of this Narrative Triplet is when Miles uses the shoulder touch as the surprise element that allows him to overcome the King Pin. He electrically shocks the massive villain, successfully using and controlling his power, and as a hark back to the thing he bonded over his uncle with prior to his murder.

The Narrative Triplet in Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse is incredibly satisfying for all the things it pays off. It shows Miles new ability to use his power, it avenges the death of his beloved Uncle, it turns what was taught to him and uses it in a different way, and it makes his win more of a complete moment than had he just won the fight by bouncing around. It ties everything together in a neat little bow.

To recreate this in your own writing, try and put a moment into the first, second and third act of your story which is story relevant each time, escalates each time, and builds to a satisfying ending. The third time should take the previous two and slightly change the experience of them, showing the progress and what the character has learned or experienced. It takes time and effort to perfect this writing technique but it really is worth it, and if you go back and seed these into your writing during the editing process, you’ll find your book or film is elevated because of that effort.

You can find more writing advice on our YouTube channel where we’ll be releasing a piece of writing advice every day to help you become a better and more confident writer. If you have any writing questions, comment below and we will try to do a video for every question we get!

Click the picture to find details about all the books written by JJ Barnes and where to buy them.

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2 thoughts on “How to write Narrative Triplets – referencing Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse

How To Edit Your Book – JJ Barnes 12th February 2020 at 9:58 am

[…] do this I utilised a narrative triplet. I created a matchstick house for her, something she had made in her childhood and that her ex […]


How To Write Narrative Triplets – Serenity Edition – JJ Barnes 15th February 2020 at 8:08 am

[…] written about Narrative Triplets before, giving examples from SpiderMan- Into The Spiderverse, and Joker. This time I’ll be referencing an example from the film Serenity. The more you […]


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