Paul’s Story Trigonometry

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Paul’s Story Trigonometry is a useful way of visualising the central conflict in a story. By using such a model, you can gain critical insight into your story: have you identified the central conflict? Do you understand the main characters’ desires and resulting actions? Do these opposing courses of action intersect (climax)? And is the story resolution integral to the conflict (not incidental)?

I recently presented this model during a 6-week short story program. Having such a model at hand can be particularly useful for gaining insight into a story draft, and thereby paving the way for a successful revision.

Presented below is Part 1 of Paul’s Story Trigonometry. I will present Part 2 in the coming weeks.

Model 1a: Story Conflict (2 central characters)

Paul’s Story Trigonometry Model 1a


Model 1a Explanation:

Desire: Three desires: to have, to become, to be freed from.

Action objective: the action the character takes to try and satisfy their desire.

Tension: arising through the opposing character desires and resulting actions (opposing forces).

Climax: Where these two opposing action objectives finally collide.

Resolution: The result of these two opposing desires and action objectives.


Model 1b: Central conflict within the entire story world.

Paul’s Story Trigonometry Model 1b

In the above model, the story conflict is centred in the story world. A story sets out at the perimeter of the story world (an opening situation), and progresses to the centre (the climax).


In part 2 of Paul’s Story Trigonometry, Model 2a (multiple main characters) will be presented, along with more details about the story world.

If you found this model interesting, please feel free to share it with your writing friends.