The Golden Rule and Writing Style

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By Lenora Livingston

Everyone has their own writing style. When writing Where’s Stephanie, my writing style was influenced by my age – seventy six. Although I hate to admit it, this “old gray mare ain’t what she used to be.” Because I have experienced certain frustrations that many senior citizens experience when trying to read a book, I used “The Golden Rule” when writing my novel.
Where's Stephanie
Lately, when reading dialogue in novels, I have been noticing more and more conversations are written back and forth without telling which person is speaking, except perhaps at the beginning of the conversation. Styles like this makes reading extremely difficult for senior citizens with decreasing short temp memories. After reading a few exchanges in dialogue that doesn’t identify the speakers, the reader can easily lose track of who’s taking which stand in a conversation. Because I know the frustrations this can cause and because I believe in “The Golden Rule”, when I wrote the dialogue in Where’s Stephanie, I wrote who was speaking with each change in dialogue. Plus, I included how or why each character spoke. To me this was a subtle form of character building, because how and why a person responds to a situation tells a lot about that person’s character. This style later helped me when my book was adapted into a screenplay.

Also influencing my style of writing was what I call the social impact of my topic, adoption. Where’s Stephanie was about a situation in 1983, when a child was born out of wedlock and released for adoption during the heart of the very strong adoption movement that began in the 1940’s and began to wane in the 1990’s.

The backgrounds of the babies placed for adoption knew no barriers. They represented all regions of the United States and some foreign countries, plus different ethnicities, religions, and socio economic classes. Because of the lack or barriers, I wanted all my readers, regardless of their backgrounds, to be able to relate to the characters, whether it was with members of the biological family or the adoptive family. Therefore, I avoided giving detailed description of the characters and settings. so that my readers without barriers could put themselves in the shoes of the characters who were experiencing a situation without barriers.

I also considered “The Golden Rule” when selecting print size for my novel. I know firsthand the frustration of trying to read a book when the print size is too small. I’m not a candidate for large print editions yet, but am beyond the tiny print that is in so many books. When purchasing a book, if the print is too small, it doesn’t matter how highly the book is recommended, I put it back on the shelf. E-books are great for increasing the print to whatever size is most comfortable to a reader, but not everybody likes e-books Personally, I love the feel of a physical book in my hands. I also like to “own” my books, underlining passages and dog-earing special pages. Because of my personal preferences, I selected a comfortable print size for Where’s Stephanie in the traditional book format. However, because other peoples’ preferences are important too, I also made it available in e-book and audio formats.

The Golden Rule means considering other peoples’ points of reference and treating them how you would like to be treated if you were them.

Lenora LivingstonBesides having written books, Lenora Livingston has written short stories; school programs, including a Character Education Word of the Month program; numerous newspaper articles and community newsletters. She earned her BA in history and English and her MAT in Geography from the University of South Carolina, plus continued post masters studies in psychology and counseling at The Citadel. Visit her webpage and Facebook page.

Comments 0

  1. Lenora, good advice, whether the author is our age or of another generation. We, as writers, don’t want to shut out a segment of our target population because we failed to follow the Golden Rule. Thanks for sharing.

  2. That’s a good rule to follow in whatever we do. I’m 80 and I am annoyed with too many “he said, she said”, but I do like the beats that have a character doing something that lets the reader know who is talking and like you said, that gives more insight into the character.

    Thanks for your input, and keep on writing. The Lord isn’t done with us yet. My 17th full length novel was released this month, but I still have lots more in my head. 🙂

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