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MICE Quotient Flash Fiction & The Jockey

February 17, 2022
Photo by: Pixabay (

In my efforts to explore more about writing, I’ve been reading blogs by other writers. I came across this gem the other day from Matt D. who referenced a favorite author of his, Priscilla Bettis. Priscilla had a link to this great YouTube Video, citing that it helped her write a flash fiction piece called “Cordelia’s Curse” that got published. The video is a guest lecture by Mary Robinette Kowal for Brandon Sanderson’s Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy class at BYU where she talks about the MICE Quotient. It’s fabulous, so I wanted to share.

MICE stands for Milieu, Inquiry, Character and Event, and it can describe the trajectory of a story. Milieu describes a story where a character enters a physical place and the story is over when they finally exit that place. An Inquiry story traces the asking and answering of a question. Character stories include arcs where characters change the way they define themselves. And an Event story traces, you guessed it, an event that only ends when the status quo has been restored. Stories can have multiple MICE threads in them, but the more pieces, the longer the story. For those of you who want a little math with your stories, you can follow this formula to figure out how long a piece should be (approximately):

L = ((C + S)750 x M)/1.5

L = Length of piece, C = number of characters, S = number of stages (scenery), M = MICE threads

Mary Robinette Kowal takes the entire class through a flash fiction writing exercise as she describes her pattern for story creation. I had some time, so I worked my way through the exercise along with the class and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!

Ishan tucked himself into the plexal bubble of the crows nest as they soared past the orange coasts of Edune. He took deep breaths as Penny, the ship’s AI, helped by playing the soft Ithraki tunes Ishan frequently used to settle himself before races. He’d been in this position before, a hired jockey, but the stakes were higher this time around. One step at a time, Ishan told himself.

First, Ishan needed to convince the Edune inspectors that he was a legitimate racer. As agreed, Ishan was arriving alone and had gone to the best forgers in Dihou to get his landing papers. When he arrived, Ishan took a deep breath before lowering the cargo bay door, greeting the inspectors, and handing over the folder of forged documents. Ishan heard Penny say through his earpiece, “Their heart rates have sped up. Stay calm, we know the drill.” He wasn’t surprised when the lead inspector turned to his radio and ten blasters swung toward Ishan’s head.

“What is this crap?” The lead inspector spat out in his native Trusk tongue.

“I have located and connected to all of their neural implants. Do I have permission?” came Penny’s voice in his ear again.

Ishan gave a slight nod. The lead inspector’s eyes fell to slits, the only evidence that Penny was overwriting his neural network. When she finished, his eyes went wide and he lowered his weapon in confusion.

“We are so sorry for the delay. Welcome to the Races and enjoy your stay,” the inspector addressed Ishan in the formal tongue now, and even offered a tight bow.

Ishan turned back aboard, the toughest part of his plan completed without bloodshed. His confidence grew as he made his way back to the plexal crows nest where he could see the tower the President was being held in. He wasn’t just a jockey, he was the best jockey in the four universes, and if anyone could save President Elara it would be him.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 17, 2022 9:43 pm

    Thanks for the shout out.

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