According to Orson Scott Card, there are four types of stories: milieu, idea, character, and event. This is called his MICE quotient. When reading books, sometimes it’s helpful to get yourself in the right mindset.
Milieu is setting. As far as I can see, the only reason Card didn’t use the word setting instead of milieu is that he wanted MICE, not SICE. Milieu stories are mainly concerned with showing the reader the setting. The Lord of the Rings is a milieu story. Social commentaries are milieu stories. You can tell by the in-depth description of just about everything.
Idea stories are about single ideas and finding out everything about them. Mysteries are idea stories. Not much character development goes on in an idea story.
Character stories are about characters (gasp!). The story begins when the main character decides her life is unbearable and sets out to change it. Lots of character development goes on.
Event stories are about the world in general. Usually, something is wrong with the world and the main character tries to change it. Potential exists for character development.
I don’t think analyzing every story this way is crucial to enjoying the story, but it can be. If you’re reading a milieu story, isn’t it nice to know that and pay attention to the scenery? Otherwise, you get bogged down by explanation that you don’t think should exist. Similarly, if you’re reading an idea story, isn’t it nice to know not to look for character development that won’t come?
Sometimes, we classify stories unconsciously. I’ve never read Agatha Christie waiting for Poirot to suddenly pity the killer. Nor have I read The Silmarillion (milieu) for story alone. I rarely succeed at classifying the other kinds of books consciously, and I don’t know what I’d do if I knew how.
So my point here is, I’m brain dead and in need of a post. So sorry! But I have a challenge for you: classify your favorite books according to the MICE quotient, and give me an example of character and event stories.