MICE & LOCK
Some authors refer to it as the MICE quotient.
Milieu, the setting or location, the diegetic (fictional) world of the story
Idea, the concept, question, or topic being explored
Event(s), the plot
Other authors refer to it as LOCK
Lead, protagonist, POV character
Objective, goal or motive
Confrontation, obstacles or opposition
Knockout ending, clearly establishing whether the lead succeeded or failed
Types of Stories
Stories contain all of these attributes, but many stories focus on one or two aspects.
Idea stories use a simple plot and straight forward characters. If the idea is a philosophical question then the characters each represent one side of a debate. The plot maneuvers characters to highlight the question and leave the audience to decide the answer.
Puzzle or mystery based idea stories rely on the question “how will/did they do it?” Many crime stories rely on this structure. The question is either how will a criminal perform a crime, or how will the detective solve the crime.
Character stories feature a protagonist set on changing themselves, either by finding a new identity or escaping their current one. Some of the strongest character stories involve a protagonist who tries to redefine a relationship without completely breaking away.
Characters are complex, with many sides. The plot reveals the inner tension between these conflicting sides, until the character changes themselves and finds a new balance.
Plot stories focus on the events, using a fast pace to keep characters moving and making choices. Often there is an imbalance, a breakdown of order or a general problem with the world. The story tells how characters work to restore the old order or create a new one. The story ends when the protagonist succeeds or realizes it’s impossible.
Setting stories focus on where the story takes place; the details observed by the five senses and the various cultural and social aspects of the region. Setting stories typically feature an outsider as the protagonist. Gulliver’s Travels and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court are examples of this technique. Setting stories often use generic characters, stereotypes. The conflicts can be extended or resolved and replaced. The story ends when the audience has seen the entire world, or when that world becomes lost.
Plot vs. a Character’s Journey
Stories feature the plot, a series of events that represent a change which affects all primary characters. A character’s journey is how the character changes over time.
A short story rarely has the time to tell more than a single character journey in conjunction with a plot that relates to the character’s journey.
A novel usually involves multiple character journeys. Each character journey has peaks and valleys as tension fluctuates. The novel blends character journeys together. As one journey dips into a valley and reduces tension, another journey rises in tension towards a peak. This helps maintain audience interest in the long term. It’s also important that the various character journeys feature some unifying aspects, combining to offer different perspectives on the same ideas, questions, and themes. This gives a novel cohesion.
Developing the Story