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.
Shoulder Touch – 1
The Narrative Triplet in Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse that I’ll be explaining is “the shoulder touch.” The shoulder touch was first used as a flirting technique taught to Miles by his Uncle Aaron.
It’s taught to Miles in a bonding moment between him and his uncle, to teach him how to flirt with the girl he’s interested in, Gwen. It demonstrates how close Miles is to Uncle Aaron, as it’s him who he talks to rather than his father, and advice given with care, as Aaron obviously loves Miles.
Shoulder Touch – 2
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.
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.
Shoulder Touch – 3
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.
Why This Is So Effective
The Narrative Triplet in Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse is incredibly satisfying for all the things it pays off.
Both of first instances of the shoulder touch being used are story relevant, and could have just been left there and the story would still work 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.
The third use, which finalises the triplet, is really satisfying for all the moments it pays off. Itshows 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.
How To Write Your Own Narrative Triplet
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.
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