The MICE quotient is one of my favorite storyteller’s tools, four filter lenses through which I interact with written works. Because of how effective it is for me to think of stories in this way, I keep them in the top drawer of my toolbox and will frequently use them to examine not only what I am writing, but also that which I am reading.
MICE assists with the high level view of a work, keeping me honest about what kind of story I am telling. Through experience with the tool, I am able to see commonalities to the throughlines of milieu, character, idea or event driven stories. When I start noticing patterns common to one of the aspects in my own work, I cross reference against my intent. If my story is intended to be a character-idea tale, but the plot seems driven by the exploration of milieu, do I need to tone down the milieu elements? Or does the milieu angle add to the story? Will my work be more effectively told as a milieu-character or milieu-idea tale? This is the concept of the mixing board in action.
Another way that the MICE quotient’s high level nature helps me is during prewriting. The elements of MICE are key to any story, providing a basis through which I organize my thoughts. When I prewrite, I will define the scope of the book and then focus on the work through one filter at a time. The most directly used elements are the milieu, which I world build, the characters, which I test drive, and the events, which I plot. Instead of intentionally tackling ideas, I will instead use them as framing for the other aspects. For example, instead of working with the idea of racism and persecution of others, I would set up the backstory of a country bordering my protagonist’s home such that it has a culture that values group identity and pride, expansionist tendencies, and xenophobia. Show, don’t tell ideas. This way, I am able to avoid being preachy, something that irritates me in what I read.
Equally important to what value MICE brings to my toolbox are the circumstances for which I need to reach for another tool. To me, the MICE quotient is four filters, not a hammer, a screw driver or a chisel. They are ways to look at my story and as such are useful in guiding how I use my other storyteller’s tools. Filter lenses aren’t effective as a hammer, but they are effective in guiding your hand when using a hammer.
Because of the value MICE has brought to my writing, I keep it on the top shelf of my storyteller’s toolbox. It is up to each writer, however, to evaluate MICE for what value it brings to them and their works, then figure out the best place for the tool in their own toolbox.Tags: Sequence 01: The MICE Quotient