USEFUL - The M.I.C.E. Quotient

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Thread: USEFUL - The M.I.C.E. Quotient

  1. #1

    USEFUL - The M.I.C.E. Quotient

    Orson Scott Card's M.I.C.E. Quotient

    It helps with beginnings! Endings! Tying up loose ends! Connecting middles! It makes mountains and mountains of coleslaw!

    All right, that last one isn't true, I admit. However, M.I.C.E is both nice and a helpful device for planning stories.

    Here is a good podcast explaining the M.I.C.E Quotient on Writing Excuses and its role in identifying the type of story that you're telling as well as figuring out how to put and end to it (something I have always struggled with).

    M.I.C.E. stands for: Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event

    The same story (such as a fairy-tale) told as a milieu story can be vastly different than the same general story told as a character story.

    Where this helped me out with endings was to understand that the overarching question from the beginning was what I was shooting to answer by the end. Being able to identify what I was starting off with was the key to figuring that out.

    There is much more to this which you can unlock by visiting the link above and listening to the podcast (I also strongly recommend doing the suggested exercise) and/or find Orson Scott Card's books, Character and Viewpoint or How to Write Science Fiction

  2. #2
    Good explanation. I have heard of this before, but you explained it better that he did. I own his book but due to my reading difficulties and learning style I put it away. That and my mom likes to store things away since she thinks I make a mess. This gave me several ideas. Thanks for sharing this. Its excellent advice for world building or making a character. Take any character obsession and make a world based on it based on a fairy tale is my interpretation. For example in the story with Hansel and Gretel you could always make a world based on candy, or a character obsessed with candy.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  3. #3
    Hey, glasshouse! You mean you listened to the podcast? If so, I could only wish that was me, Mary Kowal is very good at explaining.

    If you take the story of Hansel and Gretel and look at it from each of the four factor standpoints it might be like this:

    Milieu (location/context)
    The original fairy-tale is pretty much a milieu story. Hansel and Gretel leave or are taken from their home and are lost/abandoned in the woods. They meet the cannibalistic witch with the house made of sweets and turn the tables on her, kill her, and return home with treasure.

    Leaving their location means that by the end they will either return to their home or become more content/or resigned to being in a new place in order to close the loop.

    Hansel and Gretel hear that in the woods there is a mysterious house made of sweets but it is considered a Bad Place for some reason. They go to investigate, find the house, solve the mystery of the terrible witch, kill her, and go home with the treasure.

    The idea story can't be ended until the idea is completely revealed.

    Hansel is a selfish fat kid and Gretel has a pathological fear of ants. They are taken from their home and abandoned in the woods, find the house of candy which Hansel immediately fights his sister for and tries to eat while she freaks out about the giant ants that patrol the neighborhood. The witch swoops into the confusion and can only be stopped from eating them if they overcome their character flaws /or grow /or somehow turn their characteristics into something that will help them (Hansel eats the witch, Gretel screams at such high intensity when the next ant arrives that help arrives in the form of seven annoyed dwarfs)

    As you might be able to tell, I need to work on this one...

    An asteroid hits Hansel and Gretel's village and the ground cracks, sending them hurtling into the woods where they end up trying to shelter in a house of candy that's leaning dangerously and melting. In a race against time they must save or vanquish the witch and make it to safety with as many woodland creatures as they can. They either are successful or everyone perishes horribly.

    From the explanation in the video this kind of story either ends with a solution or everyone dies.

    These are admittedly silly examples but I hope they're helpful, too.

  4. #4
    I heard the podcast a few moments afterwards from which I made the post and I did click on the link. They discussed the fairy tale that has a troll and a goat with a bridge. The m.i.c.e. quotient sounds very useful way to breakdown a story. In that story the goats the bridge is the world. And I kind of forgot the rest but I will listen again if needed. The character problem could be if rewritten that the goats get lost. If the fairy tale were rewritten which is what they were doing.

    Idea is the mystery in the story if I am not mistaken or I could be corrected. Event I don't remember verbatim what they said other that what you mentioned of the asteroid being an example. Every story is made of all four elements. A short story only has one. A novel has 4. A novella has 3 according to them.

    Milleu is where the story takes place, when you enter the space and exit it and is the setting. Idea stories you start with a question. It ends when you answer the question. A character story can be reconciled. An event story when something bad happens to the status quo and ends when things change.

    And to help imagine a story by using the separate 4 parts of a story to write a new story. You gave a good example. By writing each part, we can expand one of those four elements. Novels have usually all 4. But the way I see it is that you can borrow parts of the mice equation of a fairy tale to create a new story. So with that summary of the plot, you can then rewrite it into a different genre and thus the story changes if desired and if needed. So you don't need to think long and hard on how to begin a story. So the the hobbit is more a character centered story they were trying to say. Not sure on this. But I read that book and would think so. Compared to other fantasy works. A character story is a result of some kind of weakness the character has to overcome. While the event is something that happens. The idea I am not so sure. The milleu is the world. But you explained it better than me with the context and example. It's a very useful writer's tool.

    Thanks I plan on listening to this podcast. I feel I know a lot more now. It definitely helps a lot more than what I have been reading.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; June 19th, 2020 at 01:44 AM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Theglasshouse View Post
    Every story is made of all four elements. A short story only has one. A novel has 4. A novella has 3 according to them.
    That's a good point that I didn't include in my explanation, too, that many stories and even chapters and scenes contain these factors. Also a good point that the longer the piece, the better chance there is to include more of the factors.
    Thanks I plan on listening to this podcast. I feel I know a lot more now. It definitely helps a lot more than what I have been reading.
    I'm glad you're finding it helpful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
    Mary Kowal gave an interesting lecture/workshop on writing flash fiction (SF), she explain the MICE quotient and how to use it to create the right kind of conflicts :

    “Your job as a writer is to figure out what your character needs to do and then systematically prevent them from reaching the goal.”

  7. #7
    Thanks, Kensa! Looks like a good one to watch!
    What comes after the NaPo storm of poetry?
    Hidden Content
    Send your potential partner a fruit basket and start begging!

  8. #8
    I am in awe of Card as a writer. Second, his advice book is maybe the best I have seen.

    But when I tried to see how he had applied M.I.C.E to his stories, I couldn't see it. If you take the start to Wyrms, it is a wonderful job of milieu AND character. I think it creates an Idea. I would be surprised if you could apply M.I.C.E to Ender's Game.

    But if you did have a book that rested mostly on one of these, it makes a lot of sense to make your start about that, or at least include that. My three categories are character, setting, and problem. I saw one book that based on an unusual and interesting setting, and the author only had to change one or two sentences of the start to bring that out -- so that the reader knew that the problem the MC was having was common.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content


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