Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fiction Friday: The M.I.C.E. Quotient

Developed by sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card, the M.I.C.E. quotient says that every work of fiction has four cornerstones:

Milieu - a society or environment. Milieu stories often begin with the arrival of a stranger (who will see the environment with different eyes than long-time residents)or the departure of the protagonist from his home (to compare the new environment/society against the familiar).

Idea - the premise of the story. Mysteries and thrillers are idea stories.

Character - stories about how the main character changes in a way that allows him to become happier (or less happy, if life is okay at the start). Any piece of literary fiction is typically a character story.

Event - where one world order gives way to another. Historical novels are generally event-driven.

In most works, one of these will dominate.


Milieu: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar -- most sci-fi and fantasy, actually.

Idea: The Da Vinci Code, anything by Mary Higgins Clark, or Robin Cook -- any book where you can sum up the plot, "What if...?" Like: What if someone started trafficking in the body parts needed for transplants? (Blindsight (Cook))

Character: Silence of the Lambs(Hannibal Lector), The Catcher in the Rye (Holden Caulfield)

Event: Schindler's List, Titanic

The really great books, though, are strong in multiple areas: Gone with the Wind (milieu, character and event), The Handmaid's Tale, (milieu and idea), A Clockwork Orange, (milieu, idea and character).

Last Week's Winner:
Jeanie, at Living Consciously: most vivid childhood memory is of the bootlegger coming to our house every Thursday night bringing Jim Beam and Gilbeys Gin. He was very fat, drove a black 1953 Chevrolet and I was scared to death of him.

Next Week's Prompt:
Create a piece of flash fiction (click here for the flash fiction contest rules) that is weighted toward one of the MICE principles. Let's see, without your telling me, if I can figure out which one.


  1. An interesting theory, which I shall dwell upon for some time to come, I think.

  2. I learned it a little differently- Plot, Setting, Character development, etc... Anyone of which can make a story, blended correctly. Steven King is a master of making characters come to life.. Starts a book clear and fast.. He bogs in the middle of his stories- wordy and not vital to the story line, but finishes strongly darn near every time..

  3. How flattering and encouraging, Jeanne. Thank you so much.

  4. This is very helpful; characters always dominate my fiction, but my favorite fiction always inevitably shares this.

    I'm not quite surfacing for air yet.. but soon. (:

  5. Wow I never heard of the M.I.C.E. thing. Your posts are always interesting and informative. Love your examples. Holden Caulfield is one of my all time favorite characters. Don't you wonder what literary works are left behind by J.D Salinger? Are there more Holden's?

  6. Love Story

    For a moment, one could almost feel pity that it ended in such sorrow. They had been married for just a short time, when he realized it would be over for her soon.

    He couldn’t save her this time. No more formal dinners, elegant parties, or expensive champagne. Their wealth was gone.

    Almost like sweet Juliet, she swallowed poison to end her agony, and he wept madly when real death silenced her.
    Without a flinch, he bravely took his own life immediately.

    But, no one cried for this Romeo. For his lady was named Eva, and he, Adolph.


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