Novel Magna Cartas

This was one of my favorite concepts from the book No Plot?  No Problem!

The idea is to make two lists, one of the things you love to find in your novel reading, the other things you absolutely hate.

As I recall, he pointed out that we tend to think in terms of the yuck stuff being good for us, and when we feel that what we’re doing is not ________ enough we reach into the yuck pile and act as though that can fill in the blank for us.

How true any of that is can be saved for some indeterminate point in the future.  What I want to do is share the lists I started before I began writing my Lindorm story

Magna Carta I (The stuff I like)

  1. Physical (especially trans-species) transformation
  2. Music as part of story
  3. Well behaved animals (impeccably trained or sentient)
  4. “Convenient” sleeping and awake times from the babies/kids
  5. Mysteries that go deep into folklore
  6. Making necessary elements of folk/fairy tales natural
  7. Genuine peril
  8. Threatening villain
  9. Uncertainty of friends (sometimes)
  10. Genuine friends (other times)
  11. A thinking character watching the process of his or her thought.
  12. Mixing folk elements from various cultures and seeing it “work”
  13. Complexity (lack of obvious predictability)
  14. Surprising twists and secrets that the reader discovers with the protagonist
  15. Cleverness
  16. Characters out-thinking one another
  17. Courtesy among enemies
  18. Truth-telling as a form of riddling and testing
  19. Witty banter
  20. Good conversations
  21. The protective defender
  22. Dramatic rescues
  23. Endurance through fear
  24. Acts of evil are shocking offenses to the way things should be.
  25. Misunderstood identity/”fish out of water”
  26. Build on characteristics the protagonist(s) have to begin with, but doesn’t imagine any of them are already complete
  27. Overcoming an old enemy through what they’ve learned on their journey
  28. More than one character changes
  29. Acknowledge (and explore to some extent) the power of relationship
  30. Thought-provoking observations

Magna Carta II (the stuff I don’t like)

  1. Not-talking being the reason something bad happens
  2. Smart characters acting clueless
  3. Sex without significance (i.e., without the benefits or the consequences)
  4. Defiant/disobedient/“mischievous” children being portrayed as cute and entertaining (I find them irritating)
  5. *Angst*
  6. Daily details that don’t advance the story (setting is fine, day-in-the-life-of, not interested).
  7. Over-hinting
  8. Dragging the There’s-something-important-you-don’t-know wait too long
  9. *everything* stacked against the protagonist
  10. Too much time is spent on the meaningless, to no end
  11. I can tell where this is going, it will end badly (and frequently was utterly avoidable)
  12. Cruelty (a villain chooses a particular evil *because* it strikes so hard and deeply into his/her victim’s psyche) — honestly I go back and forth on this one; I see its usefulness, too.
  13. The fate/destiny/end of the characters is utterly outside of their own control–can’t be changed or improved by wise choices or good counsel
  14. Conflict simply to wrack up the tension
  15. How do your likes/dislikes line up? If you make a set of your own lists, leave a comment with a link– I’d love to read it.

4 thoughts on “Novel Magna Cartas

  1. Use the ‘Write to my blog’ link in the “writing related” section on the left.

    That’s what I do when I want to try anything fancy. You see I still couldn’t make the columns even.

    (ETA: I finally dumped the columns. They didn’t transfer well between templates.)

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