The chain pattern of narrative is exactly that: overlapping or interlocking pieces of action where each leads to the next and then the next.  It often includes a visceral sense of folding in on one’s self and then stretching out again. Some sources view it as a cumulative tale.  But where the cumulative tale keeps adding to the first line or action, each action/situation in a chain tale propels the story forward and leaves the past behind.

The classic example in folklore is LAZY JACK where a boy is always applying the wisdom he should have used last time to his newest situation.  And, of course, each new situation requires its own specific solution. In this instance the narrative interlinks at the same time it leads to a typical tale of problem, tension, and tension resolved.

Another folk example is found in THE STONECUTTER and WHO’S THE STRONGEST ONE OF ALL.  The protagonist is on a journey to find the strongest one.  Each attempt to find the strongest leads to another one who is stronger. Here, the chain is also a circle that leads back to the protagonist discovering that he/she is the strongest one of all.

All stories are a chain of events, but sometimes we discover the chain by going in reverse.  Any parent or teacher who has attempted to unearth the facts is familiar with this pattern of slowly unfolding information. It is a form well established in jokes and folklore, and the pattern used in the popular THE DAY JIMMY’S BOA ATE THE WASH by Trinka Hakes Noble.

LAZY JACK and THE DAY JIMMY’S BOA ATE THE WASH include a rhythm of cause and effect.  Or, cause and incorrect effect.  But this internal pattern is not always needed or appropriate for what a writer wants to share.

At its most minimal, the chain pattern becomes pure pattern as in BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? by Bill Martin, Jr.  Each stanza or passage shares something with the passage that came before and the one coming after, but there is no story narrative.  These passages are like the colors on a color wheel.  Whether experiences or objects, everything in life in linked with others and, in turn, with others.

  Sample Books With a Chain Pattern 

BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? By Bill Martin, Jr. Illus. by Eric Carle. Holt, 1967.

THE DAY JIMMY’S BOA ATE THE WASH by Trinka Hakes Noble. Illus. Steven Kellogg.  Dial, 1980.

EPOSSUMONDAS by Coleen Salley.  Illus. by Janet Stevens. Harcourt, 2002.

THE GIFT by Isia Osuchowska. Wisdom Publications, 1996.

LAZY JACK by Tony Ross. Andersen Press, 2002.

THE QUARRELING BOOK by Charlotte Zolotow.  Illus by Arnold Lobel. Harper, 1963.

THE STONECUTTER by Demi. Knopf, 1995.

WHO’S THE STRONGEST ONE OF ALL told by Mirra Ginsberg.  Illus. Aruego & Dewey.  Greenwillow, 1977.