Craft Fantastic Fiction in Four Easy Steps | Dr Julie Le Blanc | Skillshare

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Craft Fantastic Fiction in Four Easy Steps

teacher avatar Dr Julie Le Blanc, Teacher / Editor / Storyteller

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (19m)
    • 1. Introduction: What is MICE?

    • 2. M is for Milieu

    • 3. Milieu Example

    • 4. I is for Inquiry

    • 5. Inquiry Example

    • 6. C is for Character

    • 7. Character Example

    • 8. E is for Event

    • 9. Event Example

    • 10. How to Choose Your Letters

    • 11. Final Project

    • 12. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Join published author Julie Le Blanc for a look at how to use the MICE quotient in creative writing.

Each video provides actionable tips and advice that will help any writer, no matter if you are already a pro, or are just setting pen to paper for the first time.

She’ll walk you through the four nested concepts with clear examples, and get you started writing stories of your own.

These lessons explore:

  • What is the MICE (and MACE) quotient?
  • How can I use it successfully and professionally?
  • Where can I find examples and resources?

If you write, you are a writer!

Whatever the length of your work, no matter the genre, this course will give you the tools to transform your structure and craft more captivating stories.

There’s no software or special equipment needed, just pen, paper, and your imagination.

Meet Your Teacher

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Dr Julie Le Blanc

Teacher / Editor / Storyteller


Julie Le Blanc is a published nonfiction and fiction author with a background in medieval Irish literature and children's books. She earned her PhD from Trinity College Dublin in 2017, and her academic articles have been published by Brepols and Wiley-Blackwell. She is currently working on a nonfiction book about the Irish war-goddess, the Morrígain, in modern children's stories.

Her recent speculative fiction has been published in Paper Lanterns Literary Journal and Channel Magazine, and her flash story “Tended” won the Irish Writers Centre's "Writing for a Change: Flash Fiction Competition" in 2020. Her shortest publication "They Took the Trees", a penny fiction of just 21 words, has been published by Haunted Waters Press.

Oh, and she loves to crochet.... See full profile

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1. Introduction: What is MICE?: Hello and welcome to this class on how to use them mice or mace quotient. And you're writing, finding this really look like. And I'm an English teacher and writer from Rhode Island. What we'll be doing today is learning about each of the four letters in the mice quotient and how you can use different combinations of these letters to inform your writing. With the mice quotient is made of four letters that each individually describe four different parts though the story. It was invented by a science fiction author, Orson Scott Card. And those four letters stand for milia, inquiry, character and event writer marry robin AT cobol also expanded on this idea of the mice quotient to make it into the mice quotient, the variant where instead of i for inquiry, you have a four ask cancer series, regardless of which one you decide to use in your writing. This is a really great way, especially for new writers, but also for seasons writers to make sure that they are fulfilling the promises they set out at the beginning of their story. Let's take a look at these four letters now. 2. M is for Milieu: So to explore the quotients together, I'll be referring to a wonderful infographic that the folks at Writing Excuses have posted on their page. There will be links to all my resources and references in the resources section. So with m, We begin with media and milia. When you really boil it down, is about setting. This is a story that is based around entering a room. And the story ends when you exit the room. Perhaps one could say the saw movies are New Year stories. The characters have been placed into a terrifying situation and they're trying to escape. If you look at Homer's The Odyssey, Odysseus is trying desperately to get back home. And so the story begins with Him setting out for his home only to find that the gods are against him. And he goes on all these adventures until finally the story ends with his return. Let's take a look at a short story I've written called the professional to see how many are can be used in short fiction. 3. Milieu Example: In the professional, my protagonist Johnny Brown, is a young middle school student who's School Marching Band has been invited to compete in a musical competition in German, the bulk of the adventure happens once they have arrived on the competition grounds, and most of it ends by the time they leave. You can see it here actually one page into the text. It had all come to a head six months ago when the St. paralysis School Marching Band was invited to participate in a European showcase in Dusseldorf, Germany with a selection of other teenage ensembles from around the world. Now the Browns didn't have a lot of money. He famously pond her great grandmothers Prohibition era, pearl handled revolver to buy Johnny's instrument. But 17 bake sales later there they were waving Johnny goodbye at Temple Town airport and praying to God, his bag met the weight restrictions. And at the end, the rest of the trip was a blur of her Johnny, even the phone call home felt like it took place under water and it was only when he saw his parents standing on the other side of the gate back in the safety of his hometown, did his breath catch in his throat? This is a good place to say that min, the euro doesn't mean you have to end as soon as a person live SAT, torture chamber like in saw. As soon as Odysseus arrives home. But the bulk of your storytelling should be happening within that window. You will have maybe a little bit of information in your story leading up to that threshold moment, for instance, of Johnny getting on the plane. And then you will have the denouement at the end, the closing of the action as you fall from that climax of your story. But then the media is acting as a pair of bookends to help you get there. 4. I is for Inquiry: In cards, mice quotient, we now reach the second letter of AI for inquiry. And in Mary Revenant coal walls, Mice Quotient the ask answer series, you are opening and closing questions that must be answered in order for your story to be satisfactory to the reader. You don't want to plant an idea in their heads. Who killed Mr. Boddy and then not to resolve that by the end of your story, as you can tell from my reference to clue, the eye or the, a quotient is often what we find in mystery novels. So Sherlock Holmes, something like knives out. These are going to be those questions stories, even thrillers can have these eye or a quotients in them where we're wondering what happened, who did, who committed this crime? And will our hero or heroine find them in time? One of the great things about using the eye or the a quotient and your story is that you can introduce what are called red herrings. So these are those Garden pathways that don't actually lead you to the correct answer for who stole the Hope Diamond or who murdered Mr. body. In all of those wonderful Scooby Doo cartoons, we have so many red herrings where we think, well, it could be Mr. Smith, the janitor. He was acting very shifted down by the doc's this morning. Or it could be the rich millionaire that has actually invited us to come solve the mystery. There's lots of these in mystery novels and I think that's part of what makes the eye or the, a quotient so much fun because you are constantly trying to figure out what information is useful to finding a culprit and what information is actually not important at all. Just like with milia, the IRA, the quotient is going to end when you solve the puzzle, Sherlock Holmes is able to discover who done it. And that's when this particular thread of our story draws to a close. 5. Inquiry Example: In the professional were actually presented with what is in fact the end of the story. First, we see little Johnny Brown walking around his Middle School with an enormous sense of accomplishment and confidence that we're told he didn't have before the competition. So our question is, how did this very ordinary person become, as the narrator says, the best sousaphone player in the world. So this part of the story begins and ends when we discover that information. So you can see right at the top, when we take a look at the story, here's that description. Little Johnny Brown was never the first child to be picked for teams at school. He was not a very popular kiss her. Heck, even them athletes who are a little wary of the forefoot to chunky pink child with mosaic of acne. You could read your horoscope in. But little Johnny Brown had a secret? No, not really. It was too enormous to be a secret. He was the best sousaphone player in the world. So then it goes into a description of Johnny and his sousaphone. And we're left to wonder, you know, how, how did it happen? And you can see that wonder than in his parents at home, his parents could not be more baffled. Their son, a prodigy. So this is all setting the stage for that inquiry question. So then when Johnny finds himself in the position of being able to compete in this competition. And he actually finds that he is one. It is this moment where he almost doesn't, doesn't even realize what's going on. He sees so stunned. And so that answers are inquiry question, this is how he becomes the best use phone player in the world. 6. C is for Character: The third element in our mice are mace quotient is of course, character. So this is probably the most common one that you've heard of before. The idea of the character. We want our hero to perhaps be lacking something. And we want the end of that story to be when he or she or they find it. Perhaps a great example of this would be Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and New Hope. You have young Luke on tactfully and with his aunt and uncle and he's deeply to satisfied with his lot in life. He does not want to be a moisture farmer forever. And so, of course then by the end of the film, we find him a hero and the Rebel Alliance. And he's found his purpose, and he's found his sense of self. This of course, comes at great cost. But we see his character arc as he steps into the person that he wants to be. The character arc is not just about accomplishing something. It shouldn't really be about ticking off actions on a list. It's more about facing internal conflict. Luke is unhappy and he doesn't know who he is in the beginning of the story. He doesn't know who he wants to be as he grows up. And by the end of the story, that conflict, that internal conflict is resolved because he has found his purpose. 7. Character Example: As we step into what is actually the beginning of Johnny Brown's story, we see that he, like Luke, is deeply dissatisfied with who he is and how his life it's going. He is not popular and he really doesn't have any friends. The only thing that he really has going for him is a very happy family life with his parents who are also musicians. Ultimately, what is lacking here is not his skill with a sousaphone, but his self-esteem. And by the end of the story with Johnny winning against all odds, this worldwide competition, heat gains that self-esteem. And so the character arc can close. So we can see if we just scroll down a little bit, we have what is the beginning of the story, but not the beginning of Johnny's journey. In these opening paragraphs. And if we go down, we can see Johnny in the moments before he competes. So this is Johnny before he finds that confidence. And he's shown nervous, Johnny stomach hurts so bad he thought he might pass out, twisted the corner bus sheet music into a sweaty, torn nothingness. He looked around the bubbling sea of competition. We can see this part of his character arc complete them, both in the opening chapters of the story when we see him walking around his school being very competent. But it's reiterated in this final paragraph. And so school life had changed greatly for Johnny and the browns, nightly concerts continued with even more gusto. Now that their world champion was home, a couple of colleges had already called and one of them was even from out of state. And while Tilly and Earl resolved more than ever to make sure their son completed every bit of his schoolwork. They never minded if he said he had to do a bit of extra sousaphone practice. Just to say on-point, he'd say, you know, for next year. 8. E is for Event: This brings us to our final letter in the mice are mice quotient and that is e, four event. An event, as you would imagine, is something that disrupts your characters day-to-day life that kind of spurs them on to have this journey. A great example of an event style story is the film Pacific Rim. What bigger event can there be then a bunch of alien kind you coming up through the bottom of the ocean floor to attack major cities all around the world. This is an event that immediately spurs heroes and heroines into action. An event story ends when the status quo returns. So this is basically the idea of peace restored using multiple events can be very useful because it builds up that momentum and gets us excited about the final battle, that climax of the story, which will decide whether or not we can be successful in returning the monster back to its slumber. 9. Event Example: For Johnny Brown, the big event in the story is actually something that is quite quiet. Johnny is preparing to go onstage with his classmates and 15 minutes or so and realizes that he has to use the toilet. And because he gets lost on the way to the bathroom, he finds himself on another stage able to compete in a totally different competition. And that moment of being in the wrong place at the right time helps him to fulfill his dream and win a gold medal. So as I mentioned in the character arc section, there is this moment where Johnny is so nervous and his mouth is really dry. He decides he has to find the bathroom to get a drink of water. Can I get a drink of water, please? He's asking his teacher. Teacher is a bit exasperated. But he lets johnny Go and see if you can find the bathroom. And because Johnny is in another country, he didn't speak the language, he gets a bit lost. And he came out the other end of the tunnel not having seen any more useful signs. And for a moment, all he could do with stand still at Stone, blinking in the bright light was only then that he realized why the lights were bright and why the crowds look to expected, and why the announcer was rifling through his cards and mothering and German cheeks red. And he realizes that I've actually stumbled onto another stage, into another competition. And so that, that accident, that moment where he's looking for the bathroom and can't find it. He's actually what puts him, as I said, in the wrong place at the right time. And you could almost view this event as maybe a mini milia within Emilia because he's on the stage and he has that moment. And when he leaves, when he's returned to his teacher, there you are Mr. Richardson shaped where he's like, oh my god, where have you been? You know, I lost a student. I'm so angry. We have this kind of moment within a moment media within Emilia, this event that happens to him, that closes in the center of the story. And ultimately as what spurs on that actual character arc where you have the event portion impacting and supporting the character portion. And that's when I think the, the pieces of mice or mesa really shine. We know when they're working together and supporting each other. This is a great example of how you can use something that's actually quite small and kind of banal and needing to find the bathroom to actually spur on a character to achieve great things. 10. How to Choose Your Letters: This brings us to what is perhaps the most important question when it comes to using something like mice or makes to structure your story. How do you decide which letters to use alone or in combination? In my story, I do have elements from all four mice, mice quotient by two. You don't have to use all four in your stories. In fact, if you're writing shorter form fiction, like Flash or even short stories, it would be unwise to use all four of them because you're never going to be able to resolve each of those letters in a short enough word count. I would argue that the two letters that I feel are the main stars of the show in my story are at the ask answer cycle and character. We want to know how does Johnny become the best sousaphone player in the world? And how does Johnny Fine has self-confidence, though I do have milieu and I do have event. These other two are, I think the real heart of the story, Mary Robin at cola has a great way to kind of nest your letters, which I will link down below. She uses almost coding language to visualize how you're going to open one of your letters. For example, millenia, making sure that you've closed your letter by the end. If you are someone who is a planner and maps out your story from start to finish. This could be very useful to slot into your process because you'll be able to see, oh, wait a minute, I've got this open bracket here with milia. I haven't actually completed it at the end. I have to make sure that I addressed that by the end of my story. And even if you are a panther or a plants or like me to use the nano Remo terminology. This is still something that can really help you make sure that you're not leaving a bunch of loose ends at the end of your story. 11. Final Project: Now we come down to the exciting part, your project. So your mission should you choose to accept it, is to choose two of the letters from the mice or maize quotient to use in a short story. It can be in any genre of your choosing, from science fiction to literary fiction, to horror, to fantasy and everything and anything in between. You should aim for something because it's a short story around 1000 to 3 thousand words. Short stories can be a lot longer, but for the sake of us being able to give you critiques and to be able to read all of your wonderful stories, let's keep them under 3 thousand. And having said that, please, please don't feel you have to wait until you're done with your story to post it in the project section down below, we would love to see your coding lists with your open and close brackets, your outlines, your first paragraphs, and even any ideas that you're simply looking for feedback on all of your fellow writers myself included, will be there in the project section to help you every step of the way. It's good luck. 12. Final Thoughts: Ultimately the mice are mice. Quotient is not the be-all and end-all of successful writing. It's going to work for some writers and not so well for other writers. And should simply be viewed as one of the tools you have in your toolkit to help you construct the bones of your story. It's there to help you make sure that you don't make any promises in the beginning of your novel, you fail to keep 500 pages later. Sometimes leaving a loose end are two can make for an exciting cliffhanger, especially if you first see a SQL in the works. But leaving too many of these threads unbound can make the experience feel a little bit unsatisfying because we as the reader, don't actually end the story without much more information than when we began. I hope this short class has given you a taste at least of how the maze or the mice quotient can help you in constructing your next story. Good luck to all your writers out there and happy writing.