The Levitz Paradigm – A New Way of Thinking About Plot
Have you ever read a series of novels such as George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” and wondered how Martin kept control of all those various plot strands and endless characters?
“Wait … who am I fighting again?”
One very interesting technique for doing this is called “The Levitz Paradigm”. This was invented by comic’s writer Paul Levitz. In The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, another comic’s writer, Dennis O’Neil, explains it thus:
“Basically, the procedure is this: The writer has two, three, or even four plots going at once. The main plot – call it Plot A – occupies most of the pages and the characters’ energies. The secondary plot – Plot B – functions as a subplot. Plot C and Plot D, if any, are given minimum space and attention – a few panels. As Plot A concludes, Plot B is “promoted”; it becomes Plot A, and Plot C becomes Plot B, and so forth. Thus, there is a constant upward plot progression; each plot develops in interest and complexity as the year’s issues appear.”
It looks like this.
O’Neil goes on to say: “Another reason to employ the Levitz Paradigm requires us to step gingerly from the practical to the philosophical. It seems to me that this storytelling method is the best imitation of life possible in a work of fiction. Life, you may have noticed, does not happen in parcels, but as a continuum.”
Now, it’s obvious that this technique would work perfectly with comics. But, if you think about it, the same technique is used widely in other media – movies, TV shows, etc. Also, many genre novels – specifically of the “Game of Thrones” variety – use this type of plot structure. But even the highbrow stuff has often used similar techniques. After all, the Daddy of them all, James Joyce, drew up a number of charts while writing Ulysses.
Actual photo of Joyce trying to figure out how to get Batman into Ulysses
Indeed, there’s no reason why the Levitz Paradigm shouldn’t be useful to anyone writing fiction that involves a number of different characters and plot strands. So, if you’re writing that type of book, it might be worth trying your hand at the Levitz Paradigm. After all, if it’s good enough for James …
Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie's SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in 'Surge', an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03