Review of Writer's Guidebook: CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction by Karen S. Wiesner

Wednesday, March 17, 2021
CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction: A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships
will soon be a writer's handbook that all of us will want on our shelves. Lucky for me, I received a review copy from Karen S. Wiesner, the talented author of a few writing craft books. So let's talk about why you may want this book on your shelf! 

If you like writing craft books that make you feel like the author is in the room with you and teaching you how to make your stories and characters better, then this book is perfect. While reading it, I felt as if Karen was in my living room, giving me advice with her helpful and easy to remember acronyms to keep me from boring my readers into falling asleep instead of turning the pages. 

Here's a great example:
A L I V E, and those letters stand for: Animated (evidence of a spark of life in your characters), Living (not just existing, but living a life full of external and internal conflicts), Interacting (dynamic and believable relationships), Vitality and Voice (3-dimensional character attributes), and finally Engaged (characters with objectives and purpose in the story with defined goals and motivations).

So think of some of your favorite characters in the books you read. Are they ALIVE? Now think of your main character--does he or she fit those five characteristics? This is what Karen's book will do for you. Give you helpful tips, like how to diagnose if your characters are ALIVE, and then help you write better characters and plots.

The book is divided into seven chapters, plus an intro and conclusion, and then something very valuable--an appendix full of worksheets. I know this is every writer's dream--at least it is mine. Karen includes worksheets for both plot and character development help. Then there are also worksheets on relationship development between your characters. If you are writing a romance, you'll especially want to check out the "Links in the Chain of Romance Relationship Development Chart." If you don't have those links, then your romance readers will not be happy with you! 

Back to the seven chapters--I think one of the most helpful chapters for any writer at any level is at the beginning of the book, chapter one, where Karen helps you with "ten ways to spot dead or lifeless characters, plots, and relationships." And by dead characters--she's not talking about the dead body on page one of a murder mystery. She means your character is just there, existing on the page. With chapter one, you receive 10 points to look for in your manuscript to diagnose what may be wrong with it. 

Then she goes on to chapter two, where she introduces you to three-dimensional writing and scenes. Karen has a previous book where she talked about those concepts more (Cohesive Story Building). But in CPR, she reviews these strategies for writers, as she gets ready to really dig into your characters (chapter 3), plot (chapter 4), and relationships (chapter 5). 

I like this book so much because of the relationships' sections. A lot of writing craft books about plot and characters don't spend as much time on examining the relationships in the book. But think about it--when you watch a movie or get hooked on a book series, aren't you very interested in the characters and their relationships? I'll just answer for you--Yes! Han Solo and Princess Leia, Ron and Hermione, and Katniss and Peeta...insert any of your favorites in here, and you'll see what I mean. You want the relationships in your plots to stick in readers' minds like these previous ones did for me. 

This writer's craft book helps you diagnose what's wrong with your manuscript, and then fix it with tips and advice from Karen. If you're a fiction writer looking to improve your craft as one of your 2021 goals, then CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction is for you! 

Review written by Margo L. Dill,


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--It DOES seem like this would be helpful when writing fiction. I agree. The relationships between the characters is what lingers. Also, a how-to book with worksheets would be perfect. I'll have to check it out.

Margo Dill said...

I also think there are more worksheets that she gives to readers of the book for no cost. JUST FYI :)

Karen Wiesner said...

Sorry if I confused you about that, Margo. The worksheets aren't free. But they are available. Here's more information:

Available now in RTF, PDF, and print formats
The worksheets, tables, and charts from CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction are available here in a usable digital format! Additionally, for those who prefer a printed version, a paperback booklet is also available.

PDF and RTF editions available from Writers Exchange E-Publishing
(scroll down to choose RTF or PDF format)
Print available from soon

Karen Wiesner

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