Does Your Story Need CPR?


By Kay Springsteen

As a healthcare professional, it’s part of my job to know CPR. They used to teach the ABCs of CPR – airway, breaths, compressions – as in check the airway, give two breaths, start compressions. It has now been determined that the more appropriate acronym is CAB. That is, compressions should be performed first as they are more important than the breaths. With all this in mind, I began to wonder if I couldn’t make a quick rule for fiction writing based on CPR techniques. With the help of my writing and editing partner, Kim Bowman, I came up with the following:

C: CONTENT.  Check your content. Is everything you included critical to the story? Does it all fit with the story? Does it drive your story forward? If you removed it, how would your story change? Is it appropriate to the heat and graphic level of your intended target publisher? Do your time lines make sense? Have you done your research so any facts you state are true? Does your historical contain time-appropriate language, dress, mannerisms?

A: AVOID common mistakes such as filler words (too many adjectives), filter words (putting distance between the reader and the character through the use of telling words (heard, felt, smelled, saw, etc.).

B: BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS? Are your characters people you might expect to react in the way you’ve written them as reacting to the events in your story? Are they people you could meet and greet on the street? Or are they unintentionally over the top? Too perfect? Too flawed? On the other hand, are they so believable they’re mundane and a bit boring?

What methods do you use to tighten your writing?

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3 responses to “Does Your Story Need CPR?

  1. What a great idea. I love having a system and this one sounds really usable.
    Thanks.

  2. Great post, Kay! and all very true.

  3. An interesting perspective. The big eye-opener for me was reading the Six Sunday Sentences and Sweet saturday samples and discovering how much information and tension can be packed into very few lines.

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