Cubby Wrap-Up


Let’s take a look at what we’ve covered:


It’s the beginning of your story. A “what if” fantasy that will be explored through four distinct phases:

  • Neutral (you’re just establishing that “what if” fantasy)
  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Resolution

These four phases will directly coincide with the four acts of your story.

  • Act 1 = neutral, established, fantasy.
  • Act 2 = positive aspects of your fantasy.
  • Act 3 = negative aspects of your fantasy.
  • Act 4 = resolve the fantasy.


Your main character, and your major supporting characters, should all have a collection of traits:

  • Individual flaw – a weakness that affects just the character.
  • Moral flaw – a weakness that affects other characters.
  • Arc – the character changes over time, from one thing to another.
  • Ghost – something from the character’s past that still haunts them.
  • Passion – something the character really cares about.
  • Identity – how the world sees the character.
  • Essence – who the character really is, under the surface.
  • Emphasized cubby – a part of the story that is being exemplified by the character(s).
  • Character web – all the characters will share a common trait, connecting them in a web.


The world of your story has four concerns:

  • Location (with a metaphor)
  • Reality
  • Time Period
  • Duration

Where’s it take place?
What’s the reality of this place like?
What’re the limitations the time period puts on it?
How long does the story span?


When making a moral argument you have three different methods:

  • Pro/Con
  • Inverse
  • Four Point Alternation

Pro/Con – you argue the positive, and the negative, of one particular idea.

The death penalty’s bad.
The death penalty’s good.

Inverse – you argue one statement and its opposite.

Guns should be universally banned.
No they shouldn’t.

Four Point Alternation – you basically argue one idea vs another.

You do this by focusing on a particular statement for idea 1, as well as its opposite. And a particular statement for idea 2, and its opposite.

Marriage is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.


Bachelorhood is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.


One main primal desire, that is then broken up into sub-desires.

One sub-desire for each act of your story. These sub-desires act as stepping stones on the path to the main desire.


There are four different categories of conflict:

  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Self
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Society

You should have one main overall conflict:

Say: “Man vs. Man.”

Then sub-conflicts that incorporate the other three categories. One sub-conflict per act.

Main conflict: Man vs. Man

  • Act 1 = Man vs. Self emphasized.
  • Act 2 = Man vs. Nature emphasized.
  • Act 3 = Man vs. Society emphasized.
  • Act 4 = Man vs. Man emphasized.


There are three different methods of revelation:

“Question and Answer” Method:

A specific question is raised, with a limited number a possible answers, and then that question is answered.

Will he take the job?

Possible answers:

  • yes
  • no

Eventually a decision is made.

“Mystery and Reveal” Method:

A mystery is established, with unlimited possible answers, and then that mystery is solved when the answer is revealed.

Who is the killer?

Possible answers:

  • Sue
  • Michael
  • Billy Bob
  • Joanna
  • Cyrus
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Eventually the killer is revealed.

“Unknown Surprise” Method:

Shocking information is revealed, without any previous indication.

“I’m moving to France!”

Then there are many different types of revelation:

  • Character revelation: a revelation is presented to a character.
  • Audience revelation: a revelation is presented to just the audience.
  • Self revelation: a character has a revelation about themselves, as part of their arc.
  • Story twist revelation: a revelation that is so massive, it changes your entire perception of the story up until that point.

You should have one major revelation near the end of each act, ideally at the turning points.

Your main character’s “self revelation,” should be in act four to coincide with the end of your character’s arc.

“Story twist” revelations are usually saved for act four, but they can be moved if need be.


There are eight different genre tones:

  • Comedy = happy
  • Tragedy = sad
  • Drama = serious
  • Farce = silly
  • Action = exciting
  • Horror = scary
  • Romance = idealistic
  • Erotica = sexy


An emotional theme that is primal, yet complex.

You want to explore both the positive and negative sides of this emotional theme with sub-expressions. Smaller emotional ideas that are related to the overall theme.

One sub-expression for each act, while the main theme runs through the entire story.


An intellectual theme based in a stimulating and thought-provoking idea.

You then want to explore this theme through sub-expressions, one per act.


Most stories have an “A” plot with a smaller “B” plot. But you could also have a “C” or “D” plot.

What are the specifics of your narrative’s traits?

  • Perspective?
  • Scope?
  • Stakes?
  • Timeline:
    • linear or non-linear?
    • If non-linear, then are you using any of the following:
      • Flashbacks?
      • Flashforwards?
      • Montages?
      • Co-Current Timelines?
        • If so, then you want to use an anchor.
  • Storytellers:
    • If so, is it a narrator or an internal monologue?
      • If a narrator, then is it in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person
      • Is the narrator inside or outside of the story?
      • Is it justified or unjustified?
      • Is it speaking in the past tense or present tense?
      • Is it verbal or text?


The particular way in which you execute the other cubbies of your story.

It gives your story its unique identity. A useful short hand is the “fill in the blank” method:

Your story is a:_____________.


25 steps total.

ACT 1:

  • Set up
  • Inciting Incident
  • Raise the Dramatic Question
  • Debate and Decision
  • Turning Point 1

ACT 2:

  • B Plot Introduction
  • Plan
  • Shenanigans
  • Commitment Confirmed
  • Turning Point 2

ACT 3:

  • B Plot Convergence
  • New Plan
  • Destruction
  • Point of Desperation
  • Turning Point 3

ACT 4:


Symbols are when you use one thing to represent something else, or a constellation of other ideas.

There are three different types of symbols:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Action

Visual symbols = something you see.
Ex: mailboxes representing home.

Auditory symbols = something your hear.
Ex: rushing water means impending danger.

Action symbols = something that happens.
Ex: the act of playing catch means two people are connected like family.


Moments create a sense of reality. Making your story feel real, instead of manufactured.

Two main ways of creating moments:

  • Intentional Flaws
  • Extraneous Beats

Intentional flaws = any imperfection on the part of a character that makes them seem more human.
Ex: bumping into a door or misspeaking.

Extraneous beats = a beat added to your story that isn’t absolutely necessary to the plot, but makes your characters feel more real.
Ex: having a character check to see if their gun is loaded three times, just to make sure.

You want to have one major moment that defines the soul of your story. It’s the moment in your story that captures the essence of what this entire tale has all been about.
Ex: father and son fishing on the lake at sunset.

That’s it Animals! All of the cubbies in one go!

Plot: Act 4 (part 2)

ACT 4 (part 2):

The last 5 steps of your plot:

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

Self Reflection:

Your main character reflects on his or herself.

Their choices. Their life.

They take a moment to consider everything they’ve been through up until this point. This consideration brings them to some kind of conclusion, or moment of inspiration, and they then get moving again.

Race to Climax:

Your main character races full steam ahead to a climax.

Maybe they’re racing through the city streets in a car, or running as fast as they can to the airport. Whatever their mode of transportation, they’re hauling ass to take one last shot at achieving their goal.


Your main character goes head to head with the source of conflict.

They’ve taken shots at each other during the course of the story, but this is the final battle. They face each other one last time to really have it out.


The dramatic crescendo that resolves the dramatic question we raised back in act 1.

Does the main character get what they’ve been after this whole time? Do they succeed? This is the moment when it happens (or not) and the story is just about over.

New Equilibrium:

The wrap up of your story.

You show the audience the aftermath of the events of the story. It could be long and involved ala the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King or it could be very short and succinct ala From Dusk Till Dawn.

Let’s take these steps and apply them to our bank robbing example:

ACT 4 (second half):

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

When we last left our story – Recruiter-Guy sacrificed himself to give our main character time enough to get away. He did. He’s fled, successfully, to their planned rendezvous point. He steals a car, packs what’s left of the money from the robbery, and looking to get out of town fast — when the phone rings. It’s the commissioner. He’s sitting outside our main character’s ex-wife’s house. He wants Recruiter-Guy’s cut of the take.

Self Reflection:
Our main character takes a good hard look at himself. He’s got a choice to make.
If he gives the commish half the money to protect his ex-wife, he won’t have enough left over for his surgery. He’ll die. Another option, is to keep the money and let his ex-wife die. But then the commissioner is still out there, still hunting him. A third option – he could face and kill the commissioner. It’s dangerous. But the only person dying in this scenario is the kidnapping, corrupt, commissioner.

He decides on option three. He’s going to kill the commissioner.

This takes our main character to the end of his character arc. He’s gone from peaceful pacifist — to criminal killer. Ya know, if that’s the arc you designed for him.

Race to Climax:
Our main character races to confront the commissioner with a shotgun, locked and loaded.

Our main character steps into a warehouse. His ex-wife is tied up, he squares off with the commissioner.

They fight, and our main character kills the commissioner. He saves his ex-wife and sets out to leave town with his money.

OR, if ya wanna go a different way…

Our main character kills the commissioner, frees his ex-wife, steps out of the warehouse and is gunned down by the police who’ve finally tracked him down. He’s dead.

New Equilibrium:
In choice A — the commissioner is dead, his ex-wife is free, and he has all the money he needs for his surgery. He gets out of town, gets the medical help he needed, and he’s recovering on a beach somewhere. Peaceful.

In choice B — our main character’s body lies bleeding out on the concrete. It’s quickly zipped up in a bag and taken to the morgue. He’s dead. He lost.

That’s a bit more depressing, but like all the steps in your plot, it depends on what kind of story you’re going for.

That’s it Animals! That’s your plot, in 25 steps.

Conflict: The Spectacle of Your Story

It’s fantastic, isn’t it?

Any form of conflict is always an interesting sight. Something that grabs our attention and gets our blood racing.

The conflict of your story acts as the spectacle. The mesmerizing fireworks. It’s what keeps your audience’s attention and adds excitement to the events as they transpire.

But what is “conflict?” Can we define it in a useful, practical, way?

For your main character, conflict is tension between what they want, and what’s in the way of what they want.

As you may be noticing, the desire cubby and the conflict cubby are intimately related.

As your main character pursues their desire, they will encounter roadblocks – outside forces impeding their pursuit. These roadblocks, in their many different forms, are the source of all the conflict in your story.

Let’s take a look at the general categories of conflict:

  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Self
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Society

Are there other types? Sure. But these are the main four.

Pretty much every form of conflict will fit into one of these categories. The simplest way to identify the type of conflict in your story is to ask:

“Who fights what, over what?”

Man vs. Man

If your character (“who”) is fighting another specific person – that’s the first “what.”

Your character is fighting: another person.

The second “what” would be the reason they are fighting. Your character fights another person, over what?

Well, let’s remember: conflict is all about obstructed desire.

So what could they be fighting over?

Maybe your main character, and the other character, have the same desire.

What’s that look like?

  • Two men fighting over a woman. They can’t both be with her, it’s got to be one or the other. A classic love triangle.
  • Or two people fighting over a prized job. They can’t both get it. It’s one or the other.

What’s a different twist on this same idea?

Maybe instead of having the same desire, their desires are in direct competition. They have opposite desires:

Like a super villain trying to destroy a city, while the hero is trying to save it.
They’re not chasing the same desire, instead their desires directly conflict with one another.

This all seems pretty clear when it’s one person vs. another. But let’s take a look at the other three types of conflict:

Man vs. Nature

Your main character fights his environment.

The unfeeling forces of nature.

Say: Man fights a tornado for survival.
Our main character’s desire is to survive.
The tornado and its destructive force are getting in the way of that desire, that goal.

Man vs. Society

Your main character fights the social forces around him.

In a lot of ways, it’s quite similar to Man vs. Nature. Except here, it’s not about fighting the forces of earth, wind, or fire – but instead fighting the forces of social pressure, political systems, and cultural norms.

Here the conflict arises from the social reality around your character.

Say: Man fights society for justice.
This woman’s son was denied medical treatment due to a corrupt and profit-focused health system. This will not stand. She leads a crusade to fix what’s broken, and get justice for her son.

Our main character’s desire is for justice. But the societal machine is in the way. The complex worlds of business, health care regulation, and the courts, all seem to be thwarting her.

That’s where the conflict bubbles and broils.

Man vs. Self

The main source of conflict for the main character, is themselves.

Their own problems, their own demons.

Say: Man fights himself for redemption.
This guy has made a real mess of his life. He wants to turn it around and find redemption – peace. But his bad habits, faulty thinking, and addictions keep getting him back into trouble. He knows what he wants for his life, but his ingrained issues keep getting in the way.

That’s the conflict: old programming vs. his desire for a better life.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve figured out your conflict.

You’ve decided on what kind of conflict is primarily driving your story. And in what ways it will be expressed.

How do we take that conflict and weave it into the structure of the story?

Well, it’s a lot like the desire line. A good way to do it, is to…

Follow the four act structure.

You have one main, overall source of conflict.

But you break that main idea into smaller sub-conflicts that unfold as the story progresses.

One thing to do, to spice things up, is to decide on the type of conflict you’ll be using as your main conflict. Then, you make each act focus on the other three types of conflict.

Say your overall conflict is: Man vs. Man.

Superman vs. Lex Luthor.

Then you’d want to go ahead and make sure the sub-conflicts focus on anything but Man vs. Man.

  • Act 1: Man vs. Self
  • Act 2: Man vs. Society
  • Act 3: Man vs. Nature

And then you end on the fullest expression of the main, overall, conflict:

  • Act 4: Man vs. Man

Another way to weave your conflict into the story is to design specific characters or specific elements that represent the different types of conflict. This will make it that much easier to introduce these main and sub-conflicts into the story.


We’ve covered the main four sources of conflict. The four general categories of stuff that impede a character’s goals. That’s a lot of conflict. But we can take it a step further.

We can also make sure to put these different types of conflict in direct opposition with eachother.

Depending on the nature of your story, this won’t always be possible. In most stories it is just your main character vs. these other elements. But if you can swing it, turn your story into an mosh pit of conflict.

What’s that look like?

Let’s say our overall conflict is Man vs. Man.

Superman vs. Lex Luthor.

While this conflict will be woven into the fabric of each act, we’ll also make sure to focus each act on a different type of conflict. So let’s say:

Act 1: Man vs. Self – Superman is having some trouble relating to people because of his Kryptonian desire for long stretches of alone time.

Act 2: Man vs. Society – Luthor has succeeded in passing legislation making it illegal for Superman to intercede in criminal situations – he’s only allowed to help during disaster relief. This is incredibly difficult for a guy who spends his days helping people.

Act 3: Man vs. Nature – A (Luthor created) tsunami hits Metropolis. Superman’s got to find a way to save the city from the tidal waves of water. He’s not fast enough to evacuate everyone.

Act 4: Man vs. Man – Superman fights Luthor-in-a-kryptonite-fueled-battle-suit. It’s a full on brawl.

Okay. Those are the basics.

But what about making each element exist in conflict with each other element?

  • Luthor fighting against city hall to gets his anti-Superman legislation passed.
  • Luthor fighting with the weather in his attempts to create a man-made tsunami to destroy Metropolis.
  • Luthor fighting with his own ambition and hate of Superman. His rage is getting in the way of his plans.
  • Society fighting with the weather as the general public try to survive the impending tsunami on their own.
  • Society could be fighting with itself as citizens argue over this anti-superman legislation.

There are a lot of different ways to mix and match. Explore your options.

So, you’ve got four categories of conflict to choose from:

  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Self
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Society

One of these categories serves as your main conflict type.
The others, serve as your sub-conflict types.

All of them, are played out over the course of your four act structure.

Keep in mind, all four types can be present during the entire story.
It’s just helpful to designate specific acts that emphasize specific conflict types – in order to maximize your conflict’s expression.

Or do it however you like, it’s your story.