Beginning The Story
Orson Scott Card’s wonderful MICE quotient is a great tool for fitting your story into specific context. MICE stands for Milieu, Idea, Character and Event. Card’s theory is that the nature of a story’s conflict can be codified for big picture study. Once dropped into the MICE quotient, the beginning, end and nature of the conflict of the story are simple to determine.
In a Milieu type story, characters will explore a strange new world, whether that be physical or metaphorical. Whether a fantastic land of dragons and sorceresses or an alien planet with symbiotic entities, the key to this story type is that the protagonist is a stand in for the audience. This story is really about the audience exploring the world you’ve created. The protagonist can be as stunned as we are, and need all the questions answered about this world that we do. This story type is about the world you’ve built.
This Type of story begins when the protagonist leaves her normal world and enters the other. The conflict is an attempt to come back to her original world. The story ends when she comes back home, or elects to stay in the new world.
In and Idea type story, there is an unanswered question. Why was the victim murdered? What is the purpose of this alien technology left buried on Mars? Who left those letters than seem to predict the future? An idea type story is a puzzle. The puzzle is the audience’s to solve. The protagonist will work to solve the mystery too. The key to this story is to play a game with the audience where there are enough clues for them to solve the puzzle before the protagonist.
This type of story begins when the mystery is discovered. The main conflict is that of solving the puzzle and the story ends when the protagonist solves the puzzle or fails to solve it.
In a Character type story, a person struggles with wanting to grow. They are in an insufferable state and need to change from within. While all stories are character stories, the key to this type is that the character growth is the main story, rather than the B story. Will the boxer stop being a violent abuser? Can the degenerate learn to love their self?
This story begins when the character decides to change, the conflict is the attempt to complete that change and the ending is when the change is successful or when that change fails to take hold.
The last peg on the MICE board is an Event story. The event story occurs when something in the nature of the protagonist’s world goes terribly wrong. He must try to solve the problem, kill the evil emperor, stop the machines from enslaving people, or return Zod to the Phantom Zone.
Who’s story is this?
Orson Scott Card provides more ground work for building the story by codifying any character.
You’ve conceived your story and classified it into the MICE framework. That framework helped you define the beginning, ending and central conflict. But who’s story is this? What character has huge stakes in this story? Pick that person, if you haven’t already, and begin building them.
Your main character should have a weakness built in. Without a weakness, there is no challenge for her. Her weakness will be incorporated into the plot, as she will have challenges related said weakness.
Emotion A vs Emotion B
Your character may be generalized as a jumble of one emotion versus another. Selfishness versus Curiosity. Magnanimity vs Fear. Your character will mainly consider these emotions when confronting major change.
In addition to internal emotional strife, your character, like most humans, will need ways of obtaining the following essentials:
- Response in others.
Define how your character goes about obtaining these essentials physically in the world.
What is the B story? The A story is the protagonists tangible goal, as laid out by the MICE framework. The B story addresses the his spiritual goal. The most common b story involves “the girl.” Another common B story focus is the mentor. The protagonist, through a series of encounters in the B Story, will meditate on the theme of the story. This theme will enable your character to transform internally and overcome the A story’s difficulty.
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