Filtering with MICE: What Story is Really Being Told?


All four aspects of the MICE quotient will be in every story your write.  Practically, however, stories tend to prioritize one or two aspects at the expense of the others.  For instance, each installment in the In Death series by JD Robb, a police procedural murder mystery, is primarily idea-event story.  Depending on how you approach the books, you could make arguments for them being more about character, after all, Robb goes through a great deal of effort to get into the heads and pasts of her killers.  With this argument able to be made for any book, how do we begin classifying?

Personally, I examine three aspects of the work, the initiation, the protagonist motivation and the climax.  Each of Robb’s books begins with a murder, an event.  Her protagonist, investigates to uncover and apprehend the killer, seeking to answer to the question posed by the initiating event.  The story will climax with the discovery and arrest of the murderer, bringing closure to both the event and the idea presented at the initiation.  Character and milieu are both weaved through each of her books, but the driving force of most her works is the discovery and capture of the murderer.

On the other hand, I would argue that Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is primarily a character-milieu story.  In this case, there arguments could be made for the initiating event being Shadow’s release from prison, his meeting of Wednesday or the death of his wife.  However, I think that the real initiating event is Shadow’s decision to enter Wednesday’s employ, a character choice.  Shadow’s motivations are to understand and fit into his new role not only relative to the world that has changed while he served his sentence, but also the new supernatural world he finds himself in.  The story climaxes when he discovers the truth of his past, accepts the roles he has made for himself and chooses to do something about the events surrounding him.

As close to a pure event story as I can imagine, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade initiates with Indiana being informed that his father has gone missing while searching for the Holy Grail.  Indiana begins to retrace his father’s footsteps not to answer any questions about his father’s motivations or actions, but rather to find the man himself.  He fights Nazi’s, reunites with his father and in the movie’s climax picks the correct Grail after his less clever enemies fail.  He then heals his father and then literally rides off into the sunset with the rest of the good guys, the Nazis defeated.  Any character changes or ideas explored are relatively minor when compared to the action packed nature of the rest of the movie.  The story explores some interesting milieus, but almost as a side note to the gunfights and trap evading.  Assuming that Spielberg wanted to tell an excellent adventure story, he succeeded, including only what was needed of the other MICE components to support his intent.

Beginning the Discussion: What do you do when you find that a MICE aspect you didn’t plan to be a major part of your story is prominent to the point of “taking over”?


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