MIL = Main idea List
MIL, or Main Idea List, is an enumerated (numbered) list of the main events and ideas in a chapter.
At the end of the list is an MI, or Main Idea, which is a one sentence summary that captures the "heart" of the chapter. (See the MIL example for Chapter 4 in A Day No Pigs Would Die at the end of this page.)
HOW TO WRITE AN MIL
To write your MIL you start with #1 and write down the first important thing that happens in the chapter. You can do this in one sentence, but occasionally you will need to add a second or even a third sentence to convey the full thought. This could be an event, such as when a character does something, or it can be an idea, like when the narrator tells us something, provides description, about the characters or their world.
For example, in a story the main character might drive her car to the store. Once there, she might punch another character in the face, and then, later on, have a long conversation with someone else in which she explains why she felt the need to attack the other person. In a story there will be lots of supporting details and information, lots of description and dialogue, but these are the two main events for that part of the the story: the main character went to the store, punched someone, and then explained why she did what did.
But, also important could be what the narrator tells you: an idea. For example, at the beginning of Chapter One in Of Mice and Men the narrator describes where George and Lenny are. This is a description of the Setting. It is the first important thing in that Chapter because it establishes where the characters are physically in the world (next to a river bank) as well as where they are in society (homeless, poor, and hoping to work on a ranch). No one is doing anything yet, but it is an important idea worth noting.
Typically an MIL is between 7 and 10 points. It could be longer depending on the size of the chapter and the density of the material. For our purposes with A Day No Pigs Would Die, 7 - 10 is enough.
A Day No Pigs Would Die
MIL for Chapter 4
1. Rob gets attached to Pinky
2. Rob and Dad decide to build a proper home for Pinky
3. Rob and Pa build a crank to move the corn cratch
4. Rob and Pa talk about Shaker ways and how baseball is a frill and forbidden
5. They talk about the fact that Pa can’t read and write and that some people misjudge his intelligence as a result
6. Rob talks about the history he is learning in school, like Ethan Allen and Abner Doubleday.
7. Rob is 12 and Papa is near sixty years old
8. Rob and pinky sleep in Pinky’s new home; Rob thinks he is the luckiest boy in the world
MI: Rob and Pa have a conversation and learn about each other in new ways -- they bond as father and son -- while making a home for Pinky.