Tag Archives: Story Structure

16.41: Middles and Conflicts with M.I.C.E. Structure

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

With the M.I.C.E. elements (Milieu, Inquiry, Character, and Event) explained, and the concept of nesting, or braiding the M.I.C.E. threads, we’re ready to dive into that most difficult part of the story: the middle.

Enough of us dread (or at least struggle with) middle-of-story writing that the promise of a structural tool to make it easier is kind of glorious. Our seventh  installment in M.I.C.E. Quotient discussions talks about how to use M.I.C.E. elements to inform try-fail cycles, ask/answer sequences, and conflicts in general.

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

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Examine the conflicts in the middle of your fairy-tale project (the same one you’ve used for the last six episodes of homework.) Ask yourself if those are the conflicts you want to engage with. If they are, add a try-fail cycle that fits the MICE elements you’ve employed so far.

Rainbringer, by Adam Berg

16.40: Nesting Threads in the M.I.C.E. Quotient

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

Now that we’ve drilled down into each of the M.I.C.E. elements (Milieu, Inquiry, Character, and Event) it’s time to explore nesting them. This sixth installment in our M.I.C.E. Quotient series focuses on the “FILO” (first-in, last-out) or “nested parentheses” method for symmetrically creating a story using M.I.C.E. elements.

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

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Using the same fairy tale you’ve been using for this series, pick any two of the MICE elements, and nest them neatly. Then flip them and nest them the other way.

Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal

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)

16.34: Novels Are Layer Cakes

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

Novels deliver a lot of information, and it’s helpful to consider that delivery in terms of layers. Novels are layer cakes, and we’re not talking about a three-layer birthday cake. We’re talking about a dobosh torte, or a mille crepe cake. And if we’ve made you hungry for stratified pastry, that’s okay, because we made ourselves hungry, too.

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

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Remove your entire 1st scene from your draft. Rewrite it from scratch, using the tools we’ve covered in the last eight episodes. Once you’ve done that, revise it by highlighting the elements readers really need to know, and then put all of those ideas into a single paragraph.

Legend, by Marie Lu

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.)

12.40: Structuring a Novel

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

What makes something a novel, rather than just a serialized collection of stuff that happens? How do we use structure to turn collections of stuff into something more cohesive? What tools do we use to outline, map, and/or plan our novel writing?

Reference Note: “Scene and sequel” comes to us from Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writerfirst published in 1965 (52 years ago.)

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

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Take a film or TV program, which you like, and which was NOT based on a book, and plot the novel that it would have been had it been a novel before being on screen.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

12.36: Structuring a Mid-Length Piece

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

Larger than a short story, smaller than a novel… there’s quite a bit of space between those two thresholds, and in this episode we discuss the ways in which we go about filling that space with a well-structured story.

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

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Take your idea for a novel, and structure it as a novella.

Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale

12.25: Hiring an Editor, with Callie Stoker

Your Hosts: Howard and Dan, with special guest Callie Stoker

Callie Stoker joined Howard and Dan at the World Horror convention to answer our questions about hiring an editor, which is part of the process by which self-published authors build the team of people who will make the manuscript far better than they can make it by themselves.

 

Credits: Mastered by Alex Jackson

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Finish your story. Go back and remove 1000 words. Now go back AGAIN and remove ANOTHER 1000 words. Keep doing this until the story falls apart. Now edit it and ADD 1000 words.

Vicious, by V. E. Schwab, narrated by Noah Michael Levine