Writing Excuses: M.I.C.E. Quotient


Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Linda K. Strahl, an editor-in-training at the Jet Fuel Review. Her full bio can be found at the end of this post.

This weeks’ podcast stars the topic of M.I.C.E. Quotient, created by Orson Scott Card. Orson Scott Card is a favorite topic, and for good reason — he knows writing. Mary explains to the audience that Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. stands for the elements each story needs when you look at a scene, chapter, or the entire work: Milieu; Idea; Character and Event. These help identify the story, the author, plans to tell and how to tell it.

The group defines the types, “Milieu is where the story takes place. The story starts and ends in the same place… like Alice and Wonderland.” Though I was thinking of Winnie the Pooh, where every adventure ends when Christopher Robin goes inside. This type of story concentrates on the setting.

Idea stories are about answering a question, mysteries are an example. The story’s purpose is to answer that question. A universal question, “Why is this body on the floor?” This along with an orphan’s life-driving question, “Who are my real parents?” are what make an audience stay with the story til the end. Whether or not we get that answer is entirely up to the author’s attention span. That being the shortened version of examples given in the podcast.

Character stories are centered on a character that isn’t satisfied with their lot in life. Like Cinderella, the story ends when the character is satisfied, as in becoming a princess. Or in some cases reconciled that they’re life will never change, a twisted version of Cinderella, or a contorted take on the story anyways.

Event stories are focused on solving a problem. Mary’s example, “There’s a black hole in the middle of the earth.” Is how a story begins, the story ends when there is a solution, or everyone that matters within the plot dies, like Edgar Allen Poe’s Mask of the Red Death. Mentioned in one of  my previous postings, the audience is introduced to the problem that there are people that want to survive a plague. In a Dr. Mustafa’s class it was pointed out that Death was being cheated his victims, so the solution to both terms of the “Event” death won.

How can these be considered helpful? You can structure not only a story, but chapters and the many fractious plots that create the story to begin with. The best way to categorize the type of story you are writing is to see how many of these elements are present at any given time within the work. Dan quotes Hugo Rules, “Novelette gets two, Novella gets three and Novel gets four.”

Book of the Week: Orson Scott Card’s, Enchanment. A fairytale retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

The rest of the podcast gives phenomenal and more than enough examples on how to deconstruct a fairytale and make other versions of it, so I suggest you, dear audience listen to the podcast, because there are more than enough examples and I lack the entertaining qualities of Dan, Brandon, Howard, and Mary’s brainstorming techniques.

Prompt: Make a M.I.C.E. Quotient of Little Red Riding Hood, you are obligated to write a page for each version.

You are out of excuses. Now, go Write!

Editor’s Note: Linda K Strahl is a transfer student from University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, where she was studying Archeaology and minoring in Creative Writing. She came to Lewis University in Fall of 2010 to major in Creative Writing. After participating in the production of two plays at Phillip Lynch Theater she has become an enthusiastic dramaturgist, and is contemplating a career as a researcher and playwriter.

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