Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Golden Thread

Week of February 13—From Beginning to End
Thursday, February 17—The Golden Thread

Since we're talking about beginnings and endings this week, I wanted to include one of my favorite writing crafts--Golden Thread. My writing teacher friends and I don’t know where we first learned about Golden Threads and when we started incorporating them into our lessons, but we do know we love them. (If you know the source of Golden Threads, please let me know!)

Golden Threads appear from time to time to picture books. The Golden Thread is a phrase, sentence, or series of words that is woven throughout the story—from beginning to end—and holds the story together like a thread woven through cloth. It’s “golden” because the thread provides a valuable contribution by not only holding the parts of the story together but also by reminding the reader of an important theme or element in the story.

Some folks might use the term “refrain” or “purposeful repetition” for what I’m calling a Golden Thread. The term itself doesn’t matter as much as the effect this technique can have on our writing.

Let me give you a few examples of Golden Thread.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
Golden Thread:    I’ll love you forever,
                             I’ll like you for always,
                             As long as I’m living
                             my baby you’ll be.

This lyrical refrain forms a Golden Thread throughout the book and even is altered a bit when the son begins to care for the mother at the end of the story. The Golden Thread keeps us focused on the story's central truth of the commitment of mother to child.

The Web Files by Margie Palatini and Richard Egielski
Golden Thread:    DUM DE DUM DUM.

Here the Golden Thread moves the reader through the text, wraps up scenes, and points out important information—just like the music did in “Dragnet.” Kids love this Golden Thread. They anticipate it and are ready to chim in each time the phrase is repeated in the story.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
Golden Thread:    It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The purpose of this Golden Thread is to constantly remind the reader that Alexander’s day is off track, going downhill, and getting worse fast. Just went it seems things can't get worse, well, of course, they do!

Bad Boys by Margie Palatini and Henry Cole
Golden Thread:    Oh, yeah, we’re bad. We’re bad. We’re really, really bad.

Are the characters trying to convince us they’re bad, or themselves? Either way, the Golden Thread is successful.

Home Run by Robert Burleigh and Mike Wimmer
Golden Thread:    He is the Babe.

Burleigh keeps reminding the reader of the main character—Babe Ruth. With each use of the Golden Thread, Burleigh grows our awareness and the Babe’s reputation.

In November by Cynthia Rylant and Jill Kastner
Golden Thread:    In November, . . .

Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester L. Laminack and Chris Soentpiet
Golden Thread:    Every Saturday . . .                                      

In both these books, the authors use the Golden Thread to ground us in a time and to hold us there. We anticipate the phrase and there is a certain comfort and familiarity that comes from it.

It’s Your Turn!
1. Look for Golden Threads in the books you read. As you discover each thread woven through a book, study it and see why the author chose to use it.
2. For fun, write a Golden Thread for a story you’re working on. Insert the Golden Thread in the story and see what affect it has on your writing.

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