Have you heard of MICE? I mean the writing kind, not the rodents that invade kitchens.

MICE is an acronym for the four important elements of story – Milieu, Idea, Character, Event. Let’s take a look at them and how they fit together.

Milieu might also be called ‘setting’. It is everything about the place where your story is happening. It might be indoors or outdoors, wilderness, city or in an airplane. It includes surroundings such as furniture, type of buildings or traffic patterns and the population whether it’s dog walkers, aliens, farm animals, historical characters in costume or office workers. It includes weather and even belief systems if hey are going to be part of the story.

Idea is the question, idea or issue underlying the story. In a mystery the question is ‘Who killed whatshisname?’ In any story it is the underlying thought or message the writer wants to share, and this includes sheer fun and entertainment. Right at the start of planning the writer will choose the characters, milieu and events that most effectively convey his ideas

Character The characters are the people who are going to carry the story for you. They will have goals, problems and interactions with others in the story. In the process, in spite of mistakes, interference and disasters they will have grown and changed. You’ll have a small number of main characters including the protagonist, his opposition and those who help him.

Event – Everything that happens, what leads up to it and what follows. There might be an inciting event that sets the story in motion. Events that follow are scenes showing the protagonist trying to reach or regain the world as he would like it to be. Usually, but not always, the characters create the events by their actions and reactions.

Some stories are action-oriented and full of events, others delve more deeply into character. You might find yourself drawn to writing stories that explore ideas or stories set in a fantasy world. But while one aspect will probably be featured more strongly the other aspects still need to be considered and given careful treatment.

It’s all part of the writer’s juggling act – keeping all the balls in the air at the same time.