16.39: Deep Dive into “Event”

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

Our fifth M.I.C.E. Quotient episode focuses on the “Event” element, and explores how to use disruption of the status quo as the driving element for story. From plumbing problems to alien invasions, event stories are often structured by telling how difficult it is to return to normal, whether you’re getting the aliens off the planet, or the water back into the pipes.

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


Use the same fairy tale as last week, and strip out every element that is not Event.

When Sorrows Come, by Seanan McGuire

18 thoughts on “16.39: Deep Dive into “Event””

  1. I think of the MICE quotient a bit differently.

    Event has to be tied in to the goals of the protagonist and antagonist. One wants it to happen, the other wants to prevent it. And it’s a binary thing, either the event has happened or not, or is permanently prevented. If the big event that happens isn’t tied to someone’s goal, you’re telling the wrong story.

    Idea/Inquiry has to be reflected in the plan the antagonist and protagonist are trying to enact or stop.

    Character stories have to reflect the mindset the protagonist and antagonist have when following their plans and moving towards their goals.

    The Setting is about the protagonist and antagonists’ relationship to the physical or social settings, such that that relationship provide a motivation that drives them.

    So the minimum you need to write any story is a character with a motivation, goal, mindset and plan. Any of which can change through the story arc.

  2. Goldilocks as an event story:
    She’s playing a game in the woods with her family, falls asleep while playing hide, go seek. Wakes up and the world is different, doesn’t recognise anything. Sees a path, follows it. Sees a cottage.
    Goes to the door, knocks, no answer. But it smells so good, and she’s so hungry.
    Opens the door, calls out. No answer. She sees the table of food, and there is enough. She’ll just have a little, and wait for the family to return.
    She eats (the usual part of the story), and drinks a glass of milk.
    Maybe this world isn’t so different. Maybe, as she’s so tired, it’s all a dream, and if she goes to sleep, she’ll wake up in the real world with everything as it was.
    She sleeps (the second usual part of the story).
    When she’s rudely awoken by Bears! and not people, she runs away. This is not a dream, it’s real, she’s stuck in it and about to get eaten for her bad manners. Sees the forest where she’d been playing, runs in, hides. A hand touches her arm. She squeals! Spins around. It’s the game. She’s ‘it’ now.

  3. Would it be an event story if Goldilocks went into the bears’ house to escape from a witch? Especially if the witch came at her while Goldilocks was doing her regular morning tai-chi?

  4. Goldie Locks and the three bears as an event story: Goldie Locks lives by the forest and happily plays there everyday. One day bears move in to the forest.

  5. Goldilocks as an event story:
    Goldilocks experiences a brain injury (or other debilitating episode) while she is alone in the middle of nowhere. She finds a house, but since it is unoccupied, she needs to manage her basic needs without triggering her heightened sensory issues on her own. She manages to get some food in her and attempts to ride things out until help arrives in the least uncomfortable chair, but when breaks and sends her plummeting to the ground, her symptoms skyrocket. She then tries to move herself to any place that doesn’t make things worse, eventually finding a bed where she hunkers down. As she starts to lose consciousness, she hears someone coming home—finally, someone who may be able to take her to the hospital to receive proper medical care.

    1. Oh wow, I did not do a grammar check on this when I wrote it. Let me fix that.
      Goldilocks experiences a brain injury (or possibly has some other form of debilitating episode) while she is alone in the middle of nowhere. She finds a house to take shelter in, but since it is currently unoccupied, she needs to manage her basic needs on her own—without further triggering her heightened sensory issues. Goldilocks manages to find and eat some mild food and attempts to ride out her symptoms (sitting in the least uncomfortable chair available) until help arrives. However, when the chair breaks beneath her, she plummets to the ground and the shock of the fall causes her symptoms skyrocket. Goldilocks then tries to move herself to any place that doesn’t make things worse, eventually finding a bed where she hunkers down. As she starts to lose consciousness, she hears someone coming home—finally, someone who may be able to take her to the hospital to receive proper medical care.

  6. Goldilocks as an event story from her POV:
    Goldilocks IS an event story, especially told from her POV.
    The inciting incident is her getting lost in the woods. She gets tired and hungry trying to find her way home. Then she comes across a house and she chooses to go in. Once having broken into the house, she makes all her additional choices trying to overcome hunger… which works but then he exhaustion hit her, then tries sitting, but the chair breaks and finally chooses to sleep which leads to a bear attack. She runs back into the woods where she returns to the Status quo of being lost. It is a tragedy because she never does find her way home.

    If you include bears in the story, the instigating even is that the porridge is too hot, or alternatively, it begins with them coming home to an intruder.

    Either way, the classic tale already is an event story. Not really about Mileue (neither the house nor the woods are focused on more than a setting). As omniscient readers there is no Inquiry. The characters in no way change. It is all about event…

  7. Goldilocks’s family died to the plague, and no one else will take her, because she will be another mouth to feed, she can be contagious, and she’s too young to do any work. So they expelled her from the town.

    She has been barely surviving in the woods for a month, but she’s exhausted, cold and starving, and constantly longing for her parents, her brother, her sister.

    Then she finds a curious house, and thinks she can beg for some water, maybe even a loaf of bread. But there is no one inside, and it smells so good, and there is a fire, and even a comfy chair were she can rest her wounded feet…

    So she begins to think. These people don’t know who she is. They don’t know about her family. They probably don’t even know there is a plague outside the woods. Maybe she can convince them to let her stay? Maybe she can have a family again?

    But then they arrive, and they aren’t even human!

  8. Event story: the house is the Bears’ summer house. Goldilocks finds the house in the winter. So she lives there all winter and spring—but then the bears come out of hibernation and want the house. The story starts with the bears coming to the house. The story ends with someone getting the house.

  9. Goldilocks could be an event story if the reason for her breaking into the house is expanded on. Maybe she shares the same background as Snow White where a huntsman (Or a wicked wolf, evil step-parent, etc) just tried to kill her, forcing her to run away from home.

  10. This week, Dan, C.L., Charlotte, and Mary Robinette had a meteor hit the podcast? No, the three bears tromped through the middle of the recording studio! Well, actually, the quartet tackled the fourth M.I.C.E. element, event! With problems here, disruptions there, and the status quo running for shelter… You can read all about it in the transcript, available now in the archives.

  11. Fun episode! I’m enjoying the MICE deep-dive, and looking forward to seeing where you go from here!

    I think the easiest way to make Goldilocks the protagonist of an Event story is to make it about her vs. the bears. Say, she needs to kill them, or neutralize them, or earn their trust. To be an Event story, it needs to be not about escape, not about the house — instead, all focused on external conflict.

    You could start with her waking up, in the bears’ bed, with the bears over her. She panics and runs, and hears them growling revenge. It’s kill or be killed; she’s gotta get rid of them — bam, you’ve got an action story.
    Or a gentler variation: she wakes up, hides, spends the rest of the day sneaking around the house fixing what she’s broken, and befriending Baby Bear without getting caught.
    All Event conflict; a series of external obstacles and challenges.

    I do think some of the difficulty here is how Mary Robinette
    defines Milieu. Because, depending on focus, “I am trapped and need to escape” can ALSO be a very external, action-oriented conflict. It can be almost a sub-category of Event. (The alternative, I think, is a Milieu story focused on exploration, where the focus is getting to see and explore the setting. “Escape” can absolutely be a vehicle for that — but doesn’t have to be.)

    Imagine two stories:
    In one, the bears are chasing Goldilocks through the house, and she needs to escape.
    In another, the bears are chasing Goldilocks through the forest, and she needs to escape.

    The second version could start and end in the forest — she just needs to lose or incapacitate them. Does that make the first story Milieu, and the second Event?
    They seem awfully similar. The second just doesn’t have that threshold/boundary framing that the first does. :shrug:

    …OTOH, it’s not exactly a *problem* to have some overlap! When you have a borderline case, you can tools and ideas from Event AND Milieu.

  12. Goldilocks event story from her perspective.
    Goldilocks is in the three bears’ house and is hungry. So she is eating the bears’ porridge. After she finishes all three helpings, she is too tired to do anything other than rest. So she sits on the chair in the living room. But because she ate so much porridge, the chair breaks and the only other place to rest is in the bed. So Goldilocks goes and lies down on the bed and takes a nap.

  13. I absolutely loved When Sorrows Come, but it’s absolutely a character story at heart. Toby is trying to change something about herself, and the story ends when she finally succeeds. The fact that the character story is being supplanted by the event story is treated as the primary obstacle to the character story.

  14. I think I’ve got the extra homework riddle solved – Goldilocks and the Three Bears as an event story from Goldilocks’ point of view.

    A heist story (one of Brandon’s favorites) is primarily an event story. So, what if Goldilocks was coerced in some way to enter the Three Bears home in order to maintain or revert things back to the status quo?

    Maybe bullies have taken her favorite doll and are threatening to rip it to shreds if she does not enter the Three Bears’ home and steal their porridge for them.

    Maybe she’s simply running from something (the Big Bad Wolf?) and enters the Three Bears’ home to escape, but now she’s trapped in the house and needs to find a way out where here pursuer(s) won’t catch her, but also the clock is counting down until the bears return.

    Or maybe the porridge has some sort of restorative property and she needs to steal some to save her ailing mother’s life.

    A couple of different it ways it could work. Let me know what you think!

    Nathan (first time poster, long time listener, huge fan)

  15. This MICE deep dive master class is amazing! Here’s my idea for Goldilocks as an event story. Goldilocks is a approached by a person claiming to be a lawyer and they tell Goldilocks that her distant relatives all died in a freak accident and that she has inherited the property (in this scenario, Goldilocks is distantly related to the three bears). So she goes visits her new property to check on it, she even stress tests the furniture to make sure that it can be sold.

    However, somebody enters the house. It’s a home invasion. Goldilocks has to figure out how to escape before these invaders find her and hurt her. Mishaps ensue and then she learns that the dead bear relatives are actually alive. The bears are calling the police to arrest her. She is arrested for home invasion. The lawyer can’t be found and Goldilocks has to face time in prison.

  16. Goldilocks as an event? She is living her normal life in her own little home when all of a sudden ghosts of the three bears are now in her home as if it is theirs. They are eating her porridge, sleeping in her room, breaking her own small chair, etc? Interrupts her status quo….. That is all I have and I’m not sure if it works!

Comments are closed.