Story Types – Milieu

This week marks the beginning of my blog miniseries on story types!

Every other post for the next few months will be focusing on one of Orson Scott Card’s story types that he outlined so well in Reader’s Digest nearly a decade ago. He’s a well established sci-fi writer who was made famous by his book, Ender’s Game. These types are a great way to look at stories in any medium and I’m excited to introduce this concept to anyone who hasn’t heard this yet.

To begin, OSC identified 4 story types (or structures) that can be found in any creative writing piece. They are as follows – Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. While there are elements of every type in any story, there’s always one that dominates the others. This would be whichever one the writer is caring to discuss the most. Today, I’ll be focusing specifically on Milieu.

Oh, what? Never heard of that fancy sounding word? It’s okay, neither had I when first hearing about this. And I live in a bilingual English/French country! To be clear, this IS an English word but originated from the French.

Milieu is the setting and world of your story, however minimalist or grandiose you’ve made it. If you’ve created a milieu-type of story, your main character tends to be introduced to the world around them just as the reader does. It could be a house, town, country, galaxy – anywhere the scene takes place within. The story begins when they enter it, and it usually ends when they leave.

For a good (well-documented) example of this, I would refer to something like The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy leaving her normal life and into the land of Oz. And her little dog, too! As well, many Westerns begin with the protagonist arriving by train to this strange new place, filled with plenty of memorable town folk. Traditional fantasy books tend to be more milieu-focused as well, emphasizing the world-building components.

My thoughts on these types of stories? I really enjoy them, even wrote a soon-to-be-published Milieu story that takes place in a village. There’s difficulty in balancing out the setting while also moving your characters along but the end result can be very enriching. They don’t tend to be as intuitive, however, and usually require more research by the writer to feel detailed. As writers, we may intuitively know character actions but not necessarily how a windmill works, or how governments operate.

Next up will be Idea!

In other news – Very excited to say that I’ve had not one, not two, but three short stories picked up by publishers over the last month! As more details come out about each, I’ll be sure to share these and provide links. Safe to say that I’m ecstatic and can’t believe these three stories all found homes in such short order. Stay tuned!

Keep turning the page,


One thought on “Story Types – Milieu

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