16.36: Deep Dive into “Milieu”

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal

The M.I.C.E. Quotient is an organizational tool which categorizes story elements as Milieu, Inquiry, Character, or Event. In this second  episode we cover “Milieu,” and how stories can be driven by a sense of place.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson


Pick a fairy tale, and strip out every element that is not Milieu.

The Zero Chronicles, by Dan Wells

6 thoughts on “16.36: Deep Dive into “Milieu””

  1. I think My Neighbor Totoro is the best example of a story driven strictly by milieu. Every conflict in the story is about navigating the new home or trying to get to the hospital to see their Mom. It ends when they finally get to the hospital as a family together.

  2. This week, Dan, C.L., Charlotte, and Mary Robinette hit the diving board into the deep waters of milieu, the M in the MICE Quotient. A spaceship, or a cross-country drive? A heist story? What can you mix a milieu story with? How can MICE help you write the story? When is it just a storng setting, and when is it really a milieu story? Lots of discussion of how milieu can help your writing, available now to read in the transcript in the archives.

  3. One thing you didn’t get into is what “quotient” means when talking about the “MICE Quotient”. I’ve been thinking this whole time that there’s some magic ratio of the different abbreviations, but that’s not it.

    Can you go a little bit into the word, “quotient”. Is there a better word you could use?

    1. I have previously asked this and my ubderstanding is that stories usually have more than one of these elements, so the quotient is just the ratio of how much of one element do you have relative to the others. Mostly I think it originated as Orson Scott Card wanting it to sound a little bit more like a cool science-fiction thing so he threw “quotient“ in there.l to create a better mnemonic. Also, calling it “the MICE” makes it sound like some highly unpleasant crossover between something Disney and that 80’s show with the pastels and Don Johnson.

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