I do have homework to do. My copy of LeGuin's book on writing and it has arrived. I look forward to wandering through it.
I've never been particularly wed to either payoff theory or conflict theory for the construction of a story. They're useful tools, but not the only ones. Ursula had a cool metaphore for "steering the craft," and considering the heavy water elements in The Wind Before The Storm, this view resonated with me. That, combined with the fact that my current philosophy seems more like hers, I decided to give this a shot.
If I've been using any theory lately in my stories, it's been the idea that decisions lead to problems. Resolve those problems, and your resolution leads to more problems. Call it fallout theory. Somebody does or says something, then there's a whole lot of fallout over that. The best example that I can think of this is the class three-act comedy where problems arise in act 1 and get solved, the same problems have to get resolved in act 2 because of all the solutions from act 1 and the solutions themselves need to get solved, and in act 3 every thing falls apart and our protagonists must scramble. It's a great little plot because all you have to do is introduce a new character or change something about the situation and the house of cards comes down.
For example, a hero walks into town hoping to settle down. The town welcomes him. Then, the social fight begins as the women try to pair him up with their daughters. So, the hero invents a story about how he's a widower and in mourning, but quite secretely, he'd rather get it on with the mother. This doesn't last long as a bard wander into town who knows the hero's secret, so the hero cuts a deal with the bard to keep quiet, but in return he has to pay to help the bard out a fix because the bard is stuck getting married to one of the girls. The girl, now broken hearted a the bard's breakup, runs away and learns that the hero has lied about his wife, returns to tell the village, and begins extorting the hero or she'll tell. Marry her or else. So, after announcing his engagement to the girl, the bard falls in love with the girl, and in an effort to make the hero jealous, the bard goes courting the mother. So, the bard wants the girl but is courting the mother. The mother wants her daughter to marry the hero and is delighted with the bard. And the hero wants the mother and is stuck with the daughter.
You get the idea.
(However, it doesn't need to be a cringy comedy. That's just my example.)