One of the best things I’ve done in the past year was to take a writing workshop from Mary Robinette Kowal. It was 2.5 days of rewarding work, and I got to meet the wonderfully talented and supportive writers who also participated. One section—on the MICE Quotient—was self-contained enough that I decided to share a version of it with my local writing peeps, The Writing Journey.
I’d read about the MICE Quotient years ago, in Orson Scott Card’s book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Short version: stories can usefully be structured as one of 4 different types. A story may principally be about the milieu, an idea, character, or an event. For the longer version, see the presentation I link to, below.
The MICE quotient was interesting in the book, but after Mary explained it in her workshop, it became much clearer to me. She had gained a terrific understanding of the concepts from taking Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp, and after her explanations, writing exercises, and the group’s critiques, I think I understand better, too. It’s made structuring stories much easier than it used to be.
The workshop I ran for my writing group was an attempt to share that understanding, and now I’m passing it on to you.
You can access the main presentation here. There are places in the PDF where I suggest participants upload their writings to a shared story folder on Google Drive, but that folder is private and won’t be available to most readers of this blog. I’d love to see what you wrote for the exercises, though. If you’d like to share, please feel free to post in the comments below.
Since our time was severely limited, we weren’t able to do the second exercise as fully as I might have liked. We were divided into groups of 4, and each person within the group chose a different story type, rather than getting to do all 4 types. Still, the participants were able to share and learn from each other. And now, without time constraints, they (and you) are free to spend enough time to try writing all 4 types: milieu, idea, character, and event.
It was fun to revisit these concepts, and I believe many people come out of the workshop feeling as if they’d gained something useful to add to their writing skills. However…I should probably mention that I’m not the award-winning writer that either Orson Scott Card or Mary Robinette Kowal are. If my presentation doesn’t make sense to you, you probably want to look at their work on the subject before giving up on the MICE quotient.