Magna Carta

The first time I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I did one of the exercises called Magna Carta. I don’t remember exactly how they worded it, but it basically came down to making two lists. One list was supposed to be everything you find appealing when reading a story. The second is everything you find unappealing in a story. The idea was that if you can identify strong traits in a story you can work to include those in your own work and avoid the bad traits. Here are my two lists:

Magna Carta I (the good)

strong, but flawed female protagonist(s)

difficult romances

moral dilemmas


irreverent characters

understandable villains who are present in the story

sexual tension

happy endings (or at least bittersweet)

betrayal by a loved one

pithy, authentic dialogue

beautiful language use that serves the story

clear, clean storytelling

cliffhanger chapter endings

protagonists getting their hands dirty


Magna Cart II (the bad)

whiny and/or stupid main characters

purple prose

stiff, clunky dialogue

“perfectly beautiful” main characters

saintly characters

sad endings

lovers not ending up together

elves, fairies

bad or no description

over description


ham-fisted moralizing/religiosity

overuse of expletives

lovers falling instantly in love/bed

stream of consciousness

confusing/unexplained jumps in time

information dumps

villains who make their first appearance at the climax

deus ex machine rescues


What would be on YOUR Magna Carta lists?


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