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Short Fiction, MICE Quotient, and Nesting Codes

At the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in October 2014, I attended a workshop called “Short Fiction Explained (to Novelists)” led by Mary Robinette Kowal, a longtime friend of the conference and co-host of the fabulous Writing Excuses podcast.

Mary’s workshop approached short fiction using a concept originated by SFF author Orson Scott Card, called the MICE Quotient. M.I.C.E. stands for Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event, and the mnemonic is a way of identifying what kind of story you’re telling, where that kind of story starts and finishes, the kind of reader expectations you’re setting up and need to satisfy, and what you need to include, and what to exclude, to tell your story while keeping it tight. (What you need to include is conflict that delays or prevents the ending; what you need to exclude — from a short story — is anything that doesn’t support that kind of conflict.)

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