The story begins when the main character enters the strange new world. Drop the reader directly into the world.

The story ends when the main character comes back from the strange new world.
Orson Scott Card writes:
Characterization is not a virtue, it is a technique; you use it when it will enhance your story, and when it won't, you don't.
If you draw the reader's attention to a character, even your main character, you are taking their attention away from the milieu. In a milieu story it's fine to describe the setting just for the sake of elucidating the world. In other kinds of stories this would be considered padding. Generally readers aren't primarily interested in the world you've created, they want to get to the solution of the puzzle or they want to understand why a certain character is acting a particular way. In a Milieu story, though, your readers are primarily interested in the world you've created, so go for it!

The main character, or characters, of a Milieu story should be 'normal'. That is, they should do what you think anyone would do given the same circumstances. You don't want them to stand out and draw your reader's attention away from the milieu and onto them. In a sense, your characters will be types rather than fully formed individuals because you want them to be typical of certain cultures or social roles that exist within your milieu.
A pure milieu story is rare. Usually a milieu story is mixed with one of the other three types of stories. For instance JRR Tolkien, in crafting Lord of the Rings, took great care in describing his fictional universe - in many ways that was the main focus - but it was also an idea story.

Frodo needs to get rid of the magical ring Bilbo gave him. He tries to give it to Gandalf but Gandalf adamantly refuses. First Frodo takes it to the elves in the hope they will take up the burden but even they cannot. In the end Frodo realizes he can't rely on anyone else to destroy the ring so he and Sam carry it to Mount Doom.

Orson Scott Card also gives Dune as an example of a Milieu story. Another is Stand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner.

travelogues, utopian fiction, natural science, and westerns.


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