Intro Music by Fretts!

Our intro and our outro music is Your Government Loves You and Wants You to be Happy, by Fretts! If you love it as much as we do, you can find more beautiful music at!

Milieu: Finding Your Story’s Place.


What We’re Drinking: Tequila! Gracias a dios! This is only the second tequila we’ve had since starting the podcast, which is crazy since it’s both of our favorite. We’re drinking Cazadores Tequila Anejo. I tend toward reposados more because they don’t have such a heavy oaky flavor, but this was good. There was a slight hint of vanilla, which complimented the natural sweetness of tequila.

What We’re Saying: Milieu. The world, the setting, the place where your story takes place. Specifically, milieu stories. Milieu stories are stories in which the setting is a vital character or an otherwise indispensable part of the story.

In a Guide to a Happier Life, the desert set the tone entirely, for both the harrowing scenes and the restful ones.

Milieu stories have a very simple plot arc, generally speaking, and the plot itself will be very much driven by the setting. An example is Mad Max: Fury Road. The plot there is extremely simple and very focused, there’s not a lot of subplots or red herrings or anything like that. A lot of what the story is doing is allowing us to explore the world through the eyes of Max. Max himself is the main character, but his character arc is pretty much flat. Because Fury Road wasn’t a character driven story.

Despite all of that, we follow Max throughout the entire story, regardless of the fact that he’s not really the protagonist. And it works; it is thrilling and satisfying. But it wouldn’t have been without such a detailed and textured world.

We don’t really see a lot of milieu style stories in fiction these days, because they’re not popular anymore. But we do see the milieu functioning as a kind of sub-genre in fiction, especially in fiction with fantastical settings, like horror or sci-fi.

We see it more in film these days than in literature, I think because it can be difficult and time consuming to describe the setting well enough and yet also unobtrusively enough to keep the reader interested. Setting in a film is done simultaneously with everything else without you even having to pay attention to it.

The setting can be used in this way to communicate not just the tone, though that is really important, but also themes in the book.

James talks about how a sense of place frames traditional Apache storytelling in a way that is both brief and yet essential to the form. This is particular to teaching stories, so that the lesson can be connected with the place, and the land itself could serve as a reminder of that lesson.

So we can look at how setting is used in other kinds of stories and stories from other cultures and we can learn from that. Because that’s what we’re all here for, right? To become better storytellers. Another tool in our toolbox always helps.


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