But I’m getting ahead of myself. Did you notice the capital C I put for Character story? No, I wasn’t being cutesy, or playing around with orthography, e e cummings style. I was actually referencing a very interesting theory about writing: Orson Scott Card’s MICE quotient.
Basically, the MICE quotient states, that there are four elements to every story: Milieu, Idea, Character, Events.
Every story has different levels of each, but there is usually one that predominates. So in other words, all stories have one element in the driver’s seat. One element gets the most attention. Any story could be any of them, but the MICE quotient illustrates how we, the writer, tell it.
In these stories, the setting is the most important element. The writer spends a lot of time focusing on the various wonder/horrors/hilariousness of the world. A lot of fantasy stories, including the great Lord of the Rings, fall into this category. (LOTR as milieu story. Discuss.)
This could be called a concept story. These stories often start with a question: What if snakes got loose on a plane? What if every adult in the world suddenly vanished? Mysteries also fall into this category. What drives the story is the question: whodunnit?
Now, obviously, every story should have strong characters, but again, the MICE quotient is about what the writer focuses on in the expanse of pages. In Character stories, the developments and workings of the main character take up the most space. Often, the stories quest is internal.
These stories focus on a problem/problems that will be resolved in the course of the story. Action stories and thrillers fall into this category. These stories often have a ticking time bomb feel to them.