My second favorite episode of Writing Excuses for all time was season six, episode ten, when they talked about the M.I.C.E Quotient.
The M.I.C.E Quotient was created by Orson Scott Card. M.I.C.E stands for Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. Millieu is setting, so basically if your story revolves around a fantastic, neat, or meaningful setting, it may be a Millieu story. Stories like The Hobbit, or Chronicles of Narnia fit into that category. An Idea story revolves around a unique idea, something like Animal Farm or Brave New World would be an idea story in my opinion. The unique *thing* happening in the book outweighs everything else. Character is obvious. Event stories are stories where the thing that’s happening outweighs all. Like a volcano erupting.
While all stories have setting, character, ideas, and events, there’s a difference between having those elements and those elements being the defining trait of the story. A short story may focus on just one of the aspects, possibly two. A novel will have three or four, but in determining the focus, Mary suggested looking at it like nesting code or an equation. If your setting is ( the equation needs to end with ) and everything else needs to nest and resolve in-between. So if your story begins with your character stepping through magical portal to a new world, it needs to end with them stepping back into the ordinary world. Everything else needs to be introduced and resolved inside those brackets in the order they were introduced.
It’s a really interesting way of looking at story building! Have a listen here or read the transcript here.