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Character, MICE, and the Science of Storytelling

The central question to your character's stories.

I've been thinking about MICE and character stories lately. To get some perspective, I returned to an article from Orson Scott Card, the idea's originator.

Early on, he states:

Character stories focus on the transformation of a character's role in the communities that matter most to him.

However, I'm not fond of this definition. It may explain what it is, but it doesn't help to show how we can make it happen as writers.

However, he says later:

the story begins at the moment when the main character becomes so unhappy, impatient, or angry in her present role that she begins the process of change

I appreciate this version more, not only because it gives us an actionable piece to work with (create a problem of discontent) but also a means to solve it.

It also doesn't limit the character's problem to just community. A character could be trying to redefine an understanding of who they are.

This version brings me to Will Storr's The Science of Storytelling:

If there's a single secret to storytelling then I believe it's this. Who is this person? Or, from the perspective of the character, Who am I? It's the definition of drama. It is its electricity, its heartbeat, its fire.

In Storr's version, the character has a flawed understanding of themselves. This flaw leads to the central question: Who am I?

However, this also works with MICE. A character is aware of something inside themselves that makes them unhappy, impatient, or angry and wishes to change. And in trying to make sense of this, they will also ask: Who am I?

If their definition of self doesn't align, then the next question is: How do I change it?

All of which leads the character on their journey through the story.


Of course, this is all early reflections and something I hope to revisit later. But for now, this is a solid beginning to exploring character stories.

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