Written by JJ Barnes
Narrative Triplets can be a fantastic way of tying the beginning of your story to the climax. It works as both foreshadowing and as a way of rewarding your audience for paying attention. I’ll be referencing The Shoulder Touch in Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse.
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. He teaches 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. The advice is given with care, as Aaron obviously loves Miles too.
Shoulder Touch – 2
The second use of the shoulder touch comes about when Miles attempts to use this flirting technique on Gwen. It goes badly 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.
Plot Developments For The Narrative Triplets
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. The bonding with his Uncle over this move immediately has a greater meaning in Miles’ life.
2) Miles has been struggling to use his powers and unable to get control of them. 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. This 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. 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 Narrative Triplets Are 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. They 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. 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. It shows Miles new ability to use his power. It also avenges the death of his beloved Uncle by using what he taught him in a different way. This 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 Triplets
To recreate this in your own writing, try and put a moment into the first, second and third act of your story. Something 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. 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.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose