MICE Quotient

Orson Scott Card’s MICE Quotient is an interesting Structure Device brought to my attention. Above is a simple chart but I’m adding notes for myself. MICE Quotient is particularly useful with short stories as it notes what to focus on and what mistakes to steer away from.

MILIEU: A milieu story concerns the world surrounding the characters you create. Focus on world and setting.

Start: The story begins when the main character enters the strange new world. Drop the reader directly into the world.

End: The story ends when the main character comes back from the strange new world.

DON’T DO THIS MILIEU MISTAKE: If you draw the reader’s attention to a character, even your main character, you are taking their attention away from the milieu.

IDEA: An idea story concerns the information you intend the reader to uncover or learn as they read your story. Focus on the problem or the idea of how to solve the problem.

Start: The story starts by raising a question – when your main character meets an obstacle. They have a problem that must be solved. This gives rise to a question: how will they get around the obstacle?

End: The story ends when the character has answered the question and removed the obstacle.

DON’T DO THIS IDEA MISTAKE: Your characters DO need to be entertaining, but do not let them steal the focus away from the idea.

CHARACTER: A character story concerns the nature of at least one of the characters in your story. Specifically, what this character does and why they do it. Focus on main character and any character that involved in the main character’s change in social status; they must be fully characterized. Characterization is a technique, use it to enhance your story, if it doesn’t enhance then don’t use it.

Start: Your main character is unbearably dissatisfied with their role in society and sets about changing it.

End: Your main character either finds a new role, is content to return to their old role, or despairs.

DON’T DO THIS CHARCTER MISTAKE: Do not short-cut your characters; they must be well-rounded and fully characterized. The character change must be justified for the reader to sympathize with the decision.

EVENT: An event story concerns what happens and why it happens. Event grows, use as much characterisation as you want.

Although events happen in every story, the world in an Event Story is out of whack. It is out of order; unbalanced. An Event Story is about the struggle to re-establish the old order or to create a new one.

Start: Your main character tries to restore order to the world.

End: Your main character either succeeds or fails.