3D Fiction Fundamentals Series, Volume 5: CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction 3d cover

3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 6: CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction: A Writer’s Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plots, and Relationship bys Karen S. Wiesner

3D Fiction Fundamentals Series, Volume 6: CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction 2 covers

Characters: Do your characters have no obvious signs of life, nothing that gives them unique personality, perspective, and passion?


Plots: Are plots and conflicts created spur of the moment with no set up, build up, curiosity, or tension?


Relationships: Are your characters merely going through the motions with each other?


All of these and more are signs of dead or lifeless stories. The three core elements of story–Characters, Plots, and Relationships (CPR)–need to be developed three dimensionally. To truly be living, characters aren’t simply existing and going through the motions. They possess fully developed external and internal conflicts. They’re interacting in dynamic, realistic, and believable relationships. They have multidimensional character attributes that give them both vitality and voice. Finally, they’re engaged in what makes life worthwhile with definable goals and motivations.


This resource teaches writers how to identify dead or lifeless characters, plots, and relationships; establish proper setup; plant the seeds early with in-depth sketches; and pinpoint weak areas in CPR development.


The only one-stop, everything-you-need-to-know 9-1-1 for deep, multifaceted Character, Plot, and Relationship development!

GENRE: Non-Fiction Writing Advice   Word Count: 89, 999

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Based on 2 Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Fiction Writers Especially the Focus on Relationships

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. 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! (One picture with this review shows an example of the Appendix worksheets.) 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!

Margo Lynn March 19, 2021


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Bonus Companion Booklet for CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction ebook reader

Bonus Companion Booklet for CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction Print PileBonus Companion Booklet for CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction

CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer’s Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plots, and Relationships} Bonus Companion Booklet contains all the blank worksheets, checklists, charts, exercises, and/or other aids from the main book along with detailed examples. This companion booklet is provided as a supplement, assuming readers have a working knowledge of the methods discussed in Volume 6 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection by Karen S. Wiesner.

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Continue the Series:

3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 1: First Draft Outline continue the series 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 2: Cohesive Story Building continue the series 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 3: Writing the Standalone Series continue the series 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 4: Writing the Overarching Series continue the series 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 5: Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing continue the series 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 6: CPR for Dead or Lifeless continue the series 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection, Volume 7: Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell! continue the series


5 stars!5 Stars!

“Highly recommended new book to bring your novel writing ‘ALIVE‘! Karen S. Wiesner has yet again written a stellar book for writers at all stages looking for new energy in their storytelling with CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction: A Writer’s Guide to Deep and Multi-Faceted Development of Characters, Plots, and Relationships (Writers Exchange Publishing, 2020).

Every paragraph teems with good points to savor and use in planning a novel or revising a manuscript-or even resuscitating an author’s career if a series becomes stale. The list of ten ways to spot dead or lifeless characters, plots, and relationships is a book within a book and priceless.

I also loved her thoughtful, useful ALIVE acronym for ‘Animated, Living, Interacting, Vitality & Voice, Engaged’ plots and characters. She of course goes in-depth with tips on how to achieve every one of those letters in ALIVE. This is a book on writing that is alive with wisdom. In this well-researched and carefully crafted handbook, Wiesner uses plenty of examples, worksheets, and lists to create what amounts to a Master Class in writing a more satisfying novel.  Highly recommended.” ~Christine DeSmet, mystery author (Fudge Shop Mystery Series) and Distinguished Faculty Associate in writing, University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies, and director, Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & RetreatMore Reviews



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The Basics of CPR Development


Three-dimensional Writing and Scenes


Deep, Multi-Faceted Development and Progression of Characters


Deep, Multi-Faceted Development and Progression of Plots


Deep, Multi-Faceted Development and Progression of Relationships


From-the-Ground-Up Techniques to Develop and Progress CPR Elements


Writing in Stages to Avoid Missed Opportunities for CPR Development


Using CPR Development to Resuscitate Dead or Lifeless Stories


CPR Development Worksheets


Arrested Development

“I misjudged you. You’re not a moron. You’re only a case of arrested development.” ~Harvey to Cohn in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

In the field of medicine and psychology, the term “arrested development” means a premature stoppage of physical or psychological development, or the cessation of one or more phases of the developmental process resulting in a lack of completion that may produce potential anomalies. Arrested development can be applied to many situations, including writing. It’s something that happens often in fiction with the three core elements of every story–Characters, Plots, and Relationships (CPR)–becoming arrested in their development.

We live in a publishing era that can easily be viewed with growing concern given that the absolute requirement of developing CPR in a story is being sorely neglected in books made available for purchase. In the ideal, a reader wants to immerse himself in a glorious story that pulls him into a fictional world so realistic and populated with three-dimensional characters, plots, and relationships he never wants to leave. He’s paid for that, after all, so why shouldn’t he get it? Instead, he’s saddled with a story that starts bad and only seems to be getting worse. Why would anyone keep reading? The author obviously didn’t care to do it right nor did the editor, if there ever was one involved. Despite the time and money invested in this endeavor, it’s just easier to walk away. Whether subpar writing is done out of laziness, a lack of skill in crafting, or simple ignorance, having a reader drop a bad book and never come back to it (or to the creator) is the last thing an author should want or allow.


Deep, multifaceted development of characters, plots, and relationships can only be achieved through three-dimensional writing, something I’ve written in-depth about in my reference Bring Your Fiction to Life: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity. All of those concepts are crucial to character, plot, and relationship (which I’ll call CPR often from this point on) development and we’ll go over them briefly in this book as well.

What makes a person alive? According to WebMD, the three organs that are so crucial to life that you’ll die if they stop working are the lungs (breath), heart (blood and oxygen), and brain (functionality). The three work together and without them (or life support), a person is either comatose or deceased.

I would add a fourth component that may not bring around true death to live without: A person needs a soul to live and do more than simply exist–and that means there’s an objective or purpose in being. Arguably, a lack of soul can steal all the joy out of living and/or never provide the “spark” that exemplifies life.

If you noticed the CPR Signs of Life Acronym Chart I included at the beginning of this book, we can certainly say that it’s possible to see the animation in a character that provides evidence of functionality, breathing, heartbeat, and the spark of life. To truly be living, characters aren’t simply existing and going through the motions. They possess fully developed external and internal conflicts. They’re interacting in dynamic, realistic, and believable relationships. They have three-dimensional character attributes that give them both vitality and voice. Finally, they’re engaged in what makes life worthwhile with definable goals and motivations. I also created a poster of this that you’ll find on the last page of this book. You can print or cut it out and put it next to your work space for ease of reference.

Characters, plots, and relationships need to be breathing, blood and oxygen flowing through their veins in order to function, or they’re in a vegetative state or just plain dead. The soul of the character is what turns an ordinary paper doll into a vibrant, memorable personality.

In fiction, the potential for zombies is only too common, and I don’t simply mean zombie characters. Plots and relationships can be just as zombie-like. Who wants to read about something that’s alive (i.e., not dead) but not really living either? Even in books about zombies, it’s the heart-beating, breathing, functional characters, plots, and relationships that make the story come to life. (By the way, if your zombie is living–as in iZombie style–and not simply alive, it’s not a true zombie by definition.) As we said, a soul–providing unforgettable character traits, conflicts, and interactions with a very definite “life spark” that makes a reader care and immerse himself in a story–is imperative to make the characters, plots, and relationships compelling.

The CPR development technique we’ll talk about all through this reference is a two-step process.

1) Establishing: Foundation begins in plotting and planting the seeds of development for the CPR process right from the very first scene in a book. You wouldn’t just plunk down a plant you want to flourish in an area where it won’t get sun, rain, or the nutrients it needs to survive, would you? Plotting and planting are all about properly setting up before setting out, anchoring and orienting readers before leading them with purpose through your story landscape. That’s something that needs to be done in every single scene of a book with the basic grasp of setup. The longer it takes for a reader to figure out where he is and what he’s doing there, the less chance he’ll engage with the story and agree to go along for the journey.

2) Progressing: The one thing a story can’t and should never be is static. Development isn’t something that stops with the foundational introduction or establishment of threads. Development keeps happening throughout a story. Every single scene that follows the first must show a strong purpose in developing, revealing and advancing characters, plots and relationships in a wide variety of facets. Progress must be made to push past the point of plotting and planting seeds to cultivating the core element “blooms” that pop up into the landscape in every scene. The only way to achieve three-dimensional development of characters, plots, and relationships is to actively take each opportunity to establish and advance the elements that–if properly sketched–should appear in an organic way along the path to telling the story.


The purpose of CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction: A Writer’s Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plots, and Relationships is to show writers in any stage of their career, whether unpublished or published with a single work-in-progress or a dozen under their belts, the distinctive core elements of a story and how to build three-dimensional aspects into them through all stages in the writing process. As you saw in the table of contents, this book is broken down into an introduction, seven chapters, and a conclusion followed by an appendix. Below is a more detailed overview of what each chapter will cover:

Chapter One includes ten telltale ways to spot dead or lifeless characters, plots, and relationships. While analyzing evidence of whether a character is dead or lifeless may seem obvious on the surface, getting down deep may call many things into question, so here you’ll see ways of identifying barren or apathetic elements.

Chapter Two goes over three-dimensional writing. These concepts are absolutely crucial for CPR development, requiring that we cover the basics here. We’ll also discuss three types of scenes–namely opening, resolution, and bridge–that make up a well-developed story. This chapter has a crash course overview of three-dimensional writing.

Chapters Three through Five explore how to develop deep and multifaceted, three-dimensional characters, plots, and relationships and progress them steadily throughout a story. The Three-dimensional CPR Development sketch worksheets provided in each will ensure that your character, plot, and relationship development covers all dimensions.

Chapter Six offers from-the-ground-up techniques for ensuring your story has the required CPR development and steady progression. We’ll cover the simplest approach to evaluation of CPR development in a modified form of a back cover blurb with a Heart of the Story Blurbs Worksheet. If more help is needed, I’ll provide a Scene-by-Scene CPR Development Chart that gets down to the scene-by-scene nuts and bolts of CPR development in a story. By analyzing in this manner, you’ll see for yourself how three-dimensional CPR development is revealed, established, developed, advanced, and resolved scene by scene, and the chart contained in this section will help you pinpoint down to the exact scene where lack of CPR development and progress may hinder your story.

Chapter Seven goes over why some form of pre-writing is necessary to ensure proper development and steady progress. We’ll also talk about writing in stages to avoid the missed opportunities for CPR development that are so prevalent in writing styles that avoid any sort of pre-writing before the writing actually begins.

The Conclusion provides a view of the current and future state of the publishing industry as well as a sum up of what we’ve learned about the vital role development and advancement play in producing deep and multifaceted characters, plots, and relationships.

The Appendix contains all the materials we’ve used throughout the chapters so you can work your way through the CPR developmental process with blank worksheets and charts.


Virginia Woolf said, “As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing it till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall.” This quote precisely describes how a story should grow in the author’s mind until it absolutely has to be written. The best case scenario is always, always, always to start a story only after you have a lot of story ideas, vivid characters, settings, plots, and relationships, etc. to work with.

A writer starts with a solid story that’s ready to drop into his hands like ripe fruit. While you can do the same for an idea that’s not ready, it’ll be a lot harder. In fact, it might take the author decades to get an unripe story off the ground. In Chapter Seven, we’ll talk about methods to get a story to the point of “ripeness” and what to do when you have a ton of ideas vying to be worked on at the same time. I don’t recommend undertaking the CPR development technique or any other until you have a story that’s ready to be developed, so keep that in mind.

A couple of notes before we get started: Throughout this book, for consistency, I’ll refer to characters in the female point of view (hereafter referred to as POV). To offer distinction, I’ll refer to readers and writers in the male POV. Clearly, characters, readers and writers can be of either sex and this gets a bit awkward in some specific situations, but, to prevent an erratic jump from one to the other, I’ve done it this way all throughout this manual.

One other thing to take notice of is that a great number of the examples used throughout this book are from movies or even videogames. The reason for this is because those mediums are so much more visual and also because the sad fact is that there are more movie-goers and gamers than readers these days. Safe to say, the fiction in movies and games may be better known than that in books, although those reading this reference probably do plentiful reading. Ultimately, all the examples are fiction, so I saw no reason not to use some from all mediums.

Additionally, I’ll note upfront that I believe a series name is part of its branding (see my book Writing the Fiction Series). Not only should the series title be included everywhere the name of a book is spoken or written about, but the world “series” or “trilogy” should be capitalized in order to further solidify the branding. In other words, I never refer to my series Family Heirlooms as simply that. Always, I refer to it as the “Family Heirlooms Series” because that’s the full title and most effective way to brand it to my readers. That’s why you’ll see every series mentioned in this book with the word “series” or “trilogy” capitalized, even it’s not the way publishers or distributors normally do it.

One final note of clarification: Keep in mind that you don’t have to perform every step in this or any other writing method. Authors are all different, we all think and perform differently, and ultimately it makes no sense to do more work than you need to. The goal for each writer should be to find what works for you personally, as an individual. Most of the time that means finding what doesn’t work first. My motto is, utilize what works for you; discard or revise the rest to fit you personally. The point of sketches, worksheets, charts, and checklists is to give help in pinpointing problem areas. If you’re not having a problem in a certain area, go ahead and skip the in-depth processing.

In my writing methods, in particular, my goal is to make sure authors have everything needed to learn to write instinctively. What I mean by that is that through laborious amounts of practice, usually over the course of several years, your brain begins to grasp the basics of crafting characters, plots, and relationships, and even some of the harder concepts of writing, like writing these elements three-dimensionally. This means you can fill out fewer worksheets before you outline a story, as in, you may not have to do endless character or plot sketches, etc. You may instinctively inject just the right amount of dimension that has definite purpose beyond simply conveying information or you know exactly where tension is needed.

After having more than 130 books published, I write instinctively, so my story crafting (including building three-dimensional CPR development into every scene) is done in the course of outlining each and every book I write. Those things come automatically, without the need for filling out worksheets. If you don’t feel like some or any of this is instinctive for you, go through the steps as I’ve set them down. Every author’s endgame is and should be instinctive writing.


If your characters, plots, and relationships that make up each scene in your story are truly three-dimensional and properly developed and advanced, your book will be so vivid, readers will be haunted by the unforgettable, vibrant world conveyed through your words even after they finish reading. My hope is that CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction gives you a solid plan of action from start to finish through in-depth discussions and examples with leave-no-stone-unturned aids, and a layering process that covers all the bases, allowing you to take the CPR development technique into your own writing.

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