Tag Archives: MICE Quotient

16.37: Deep Dive Into “Inquiry”

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

Our third M.I.C.E. Quotient episode asks about the “Inquiry” element, and the ways in which we can use this element to structure our stories—whether we’re writing murder mysteries, thrillers, or anything else in which the turning of pages asks and eventually answers questions.

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

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

Even Though I Knew the End, by C.L. Polk (a noir fantasy novella available in 2022)

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

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

The Zero Chronicles, by Dan Wells

16.35: What is the M.I.C.E. Quotient?

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

The next eight episodes are a deep dive into the M.I.C.E. Quotient, so we’ll begin with a definition. M.I.C.E. is an organizational tool which categorizes story elements as Milieu, Inquiry, Character, or Event. It helps authors know which elements are in play, and how to work with these elements effectively.

Obviously there’s a lot more to M.I.C.E. than that, and in this episode we’ll lay it out in a way that makes the subsequent seven M.I.C.E.-related episodes much easier to navigate.

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

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Seriously… watch The Wizard of Oz, and take notes. Track the M.I.C.E. elements, and how they nest in the story at every scale.

The Wizard of Oz (the 1939 film)

15.25: Using the MICE Quotient for Conflict

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

The MICE quotient is a tool for categorizing story elements—Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event—and we’ve talked about it quite a bit in the past. When a listener asked how we might use the MICE quotient to create, inform, manage, and otherwise help us “do” conflict in our stories, we were excited to start recording, and a bit bewildered that we’d somehow not already done this episode.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Free write a character doing something. Identify the MICE elements. Pick one, and build additional conflict around it.

Escaping Exodus, by Nicky Drayden

15.15: Dialog

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

Listener questions drove this episode, and there are only two of them but they were pretty good drivers.  Here they are:

  • Is it a problem that all my dialog ends up as logic-based debates between characters?
  • What can I do to create more variety in my dialog structure?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Remove all description. Now remove every 3rd line of dialog. Now rebuild the description replace with body language

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, by Natasha Pulley, narrated by Thomas Judd

13.49: How to Finish

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Amal, and Maurice

Last week we talked about character death. This week we talk about other, less fatal ways in which a character story can be finished, and how we, as writers, can tell when we’re done with a character arc.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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You’re about to cut into a cake… and it speaks.
(Note: the phrase “the cake is alive” might qualify as “low-hanging fruit.”)

This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El Mohtar and Max Gladstone
(note: Between the time we recorded and the time this episode aired the publication date was pushed back. The novel is, however, available for pre-order.)

13.23: Internal Conflicts

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice

Internal conflicts, simply put, are problems your characters have with themselves. In this episode we address the ways in which writers can build stories and subplots around internal conflicts, and how we can tell when it’s not working.

Notes: the MICE quotient is Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. Mary’s relationship axes are Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Use the Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence axes to define one of your characters. Then determine how each of these creates conflict with the one following it in the list.

An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

12.32: Structuring a Short Piece

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

We begin our exploration of short story structure with a re-cap of the MACE quotient (Milieu, Ask/Answer, Character, Event). Then we apply that tool to how we structure the pieces we write—specifically the short ones.

Liner Notes: Here’s “Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal

And here’s a handy MICE quotient chart!

MICE

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Instructions:

  1. Pick one of the MACE elements (Milieu, Ask/Answer, Character, or Event)
  2. Describe, in three sentences, how your story’s primary plot will use that element.
  3. Pick a second element.
  4. Describe, in three sentences, how your story’s sub-plot will use that element.
  5. Nest these sentences, creating a six-sentence outline for your story.
  6. Nest the sentences in a different order, outlining your story with the sub-plot’s element now functioning as the primary plot

The 2017 Hugo nominees for Best Short Story:

¹ Available in the Hugo Voter packet