Of M.I.C.E. and Wolves

With apologies to John Steinbeck.

The other day Wendy Barron blogged about a workshop she attended on short fiction:  Short Fiction, MICE Quotient, and Nesting Codes.  I found it quite interesting and especially enjoyed the podcast she linked to which you can check out here.  At the end of the podcast there was homework given.  Take a fairytale, say Little Red Riding Hood, and rewrite it using the elements of the M.I.C.E. Quotient.  I don’t have time to reinvent the wheel here; if you aren’t familiar with Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient go check out Wendy’s blog post; she illustrates it very well.  The podcast is icing on the cake (and only about 15 minutes).

The assignment was to write a one page story based on each element.  Below is my attempt for the first element – milieu.  I hope to work up posts for the other three elements: idea, character and event.  We’ll see how it goes.


The forest was too quiet.  Usually the birds were chirping or there was rustling in the bushes along the path as some small animal scurried through.  But today not even the tree limbs creaked.  Red, normally very comfortable walking through the woods to Grandma’s, was a little unnerved.  The silence was so complete her breath resounded in her ears.

As she neared the Great Oak which marked the halfway point Red paused and held her breath as though that would allow her to hear better.  The silence was unnatural, she thought.  When all the animals and birds grow still it’s because they’re frightened.

“Cut that out,” she scolded herself sharply.  “Get a move on or you’ll be late to Grandma’s house!”  Adjusting her hooded cape, she set off again and if her pace was slightly faster no one except she knew.

Leaving the forest behind a few minutes later, Red entered the clearing where her grandmother’s cabin stood.  Smoke curled from the weathered chimney and Red felt herself relax.  To one side lay Grandma’s carefully weeded garden with its neat rows of vegetables.  An ancient tree shaded the other side of the cabin and Red had fond memories of climbing it with her older brothers.

Crossing the clearing, Red let herself through the gate and started up the walk.  Odd, she thought.  Grandma was usually waiting on the step.  She knocked on the door and it swung inward, startling her.  Red hesitated on the threshold, suddenly afraid.  Stepping inside, she started to call out but inexplicably stopped herself.  If there was an intruder she didn’t want to alert them.

Walking as lightly as she could, Red entered her grandmother’s cozy living room, pleased to see it looked normal.  The squashy sofa and oversized chair were as inviting as ever.  The other furniture gleamed as though Grandma had just finished her dusting.  Beyond the living room, the kitchen was empty but she’d evidently been busy in there earlier.  Grandma’s favorite deep blue mixing bowl was on the counter and the aroma of her peanut butter cookies lingered.  So where was she?

Red started to turn toward the hallway leading to Grandma’s bedroom when she heard a noise behind her and everything went black.

Consciousness returned slowly and painfully.  Red opened her eyes and had a moment of panic when she couldn’t see anything.  Once her eyes adjusted, she could see that she was being carried along like a sack flung over a man’s shoulder.  A mountain of a man, she thought taking in the breadth of his shoulders and how high off the ground she was.

Outraged, she pounded on his broad back.  “What is the meaning of this!”

“I saved you from a certain, horrible death,” said the man without stopping.  “You nearly walked in on the Wolf.”

“What,” she choked on the word.  “What happened to my Grandmother?”

“She’s at peace now.  No sense dwelling on how she got there.”

Red felt her eyes prick with unshed tears.  In the distance she could see the smoke curling from Grandma’s chimney and realized they were back on the trail through the forest.