Sunday, March 08, 2009


Ha, I bet that got your attention! I'm talking about Orson Scott Card's four-cornered story foundation, not four-legged cat food.

MICE stands for: Mileu (or setting), Idea, Character, and Event. Novels need to have all of these in place to be a well-rounded story. (I'd like to say they'd have to have all four to be on a store shelf, but I'm sure someone could point to an example of a book that doesn't!)

What I'm curious about these days is: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The rage these days is for character-driven stories. Trust me, I totally understand that. I like nothing more than to get right in there in characters' heads and experience life through them. It's why I prefer novels in tight third POV or even in first to pretty much anything in omniscient.

But is it necessary to have the character appear in the writers' mind first for the story to be character-driven? I'd like to think that, no matter what the starting point, an experienced writer can pull all the parts of MICE together seamlessly so that it isn't obvious to the reader where the story came from originally.

That said, I tend to come up with ideas first, then audition characters to find the ones who'd like to explore my ideas. What comes first in your mind?


Meg said...

Characters first, usually as a like screen shot in my head of a scene.

Karenee said...

Uh... Mileu is coming first for this one, along with larger Events, and ... (isn't Idea all of them?)

Anyway, I have Characters sitting around, also. They're impatiently waiting to find out what Mileu (that's a fun word) they are going to play in. But the Characters started out trying to be in different Milieus and I shanghaied them. Yeehaw!

Um. Maybe that means I'm doing it all at once. Eh?

Valerie Comer said...

It's possible we don't acknowledge the idea until more than one of those begins to have flesh. After all, they're all needed for a well-rounded plot.

Alexander Field said...

I love the idea of coming up with a milieu first and then "auditioning the characters" as you say, to join the story. Fantastic! : )

Valerie Comer said...

I'm wondering if Anne McCaffrey's Pern series might not have started with a planet on which rained Thread. Which would make it seeded by milieu. Which came first, the dragons or the thread? :P

fiorinda said...

I tend to think of characters first and then they tell me their story. Which is why I struggle with plot and conflict.