Story CPR

Janet Lee Carey teaches a class at Writer’s Workshops called Story
CPR. I won’t give away all her secrets, but here are some of the
highlights. The CPR stands for:

Premise, Plot, Pacing
Reader Satisfaction, Renewal, Revision

If your story is sinking, delving into these concepts can help pull
the story back out.

First, take a look at your main character. He has a conflict, a
problem to solve, an obstacle to overcome. As he moves through the
story, how is he dealing with this problem? Are the obstacles too
easy? Or so hard he can’t get past them? Does he make mistakes, or
simply skate through them without a backward glance? Finding a balance here could help resuscitate your story and get it moving again.

Stories lose momentum when the plot strays too far from the central
conflict, and too many subplots may confuse the reader. Focus
carefully on the main plot. Is it too predictable? Can the reader ‘see
what’s coming’ long before you get there? Is your character intimately
involved with the conflict, or is it too far removed from him? The
closer the character is to the conflict, the more sympathy the reader
feels, and the better the story moves along. If your story isn’t
moving along, maybe your plot needs to be adjusted.

Lastly, revise any weak writing in the story. Look for redundancy: is
your narrative repeating what your characters are already saying and
doing? Look for exposition overkill: do your action scenes droop with
too much description? Look for style predictability: do you have too
many long sentences? Do your dialogue tags disappear? Do you rely too heavily on adverbs? Alter your patterns and see if that helps.

For what it’s worth.


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