Writing for Comics: Multi-Plot Levitz Paradigm
Well, I’m still here, more or less.
It’s been a tough year so far in terms of finding writing time–I know everyone makes excuses so I won’t bother to drop them here. On the other hand, I’ve found a good amount of time to think about writing–and specifically think and dream about character and plot development, back-stories, panel layouts and specific sequences within my story, etc… and I’m pretty happy with what’s coming out.
Currently, I’m putting off the actual script writing to spend time developing my Pitch, which includes way more details than would go into a real pitch–it’s mostly a guide for me to organize the characters, tone, audience, plot arcs, issue spines and the like. Eventually, this is what I’ll be showing to an artist who might want to join up with me to produce inZomnia. Yeah, you read it right, I won’t be drawing this graphic novel (most likely). My drawing hand is not at the place I want it to be for the look and feel of this story and I’d really like to work with an artist who has comics experience. Besides, writing comes first and it’s going to take me long enough to get that where I want it.
I do terribly miss having time to myself and anyone out there who has broken into the comics scene with full-time job and a family (and specifically a 2.5 year-old), I welcome your enlightened suggestions.
So, on to a brief diversion wherein I actually talk about the topic of this post:
In The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, Dennis O’Neil talks about the Levitz Paradigm, which strikes me as a simple way to organize and track multiple plots and their development within a series. Basically, as I understand it, you create a table with plots on the left (rows) and issues on the top (columns). Then you simple write out the plot spines as they develop within the issues, staggering in new plot arcs (be they subplots, major plots or diversions) as others fade away, keeping about 3-4 live plots running at any given time. By the way, I’m quite shocked that Wikipedia doesn’t have an article on the Levitz Paradigm but I’m not going to write a page for it–I’ve got enough procrastination projects.
Since I sadly, did not pursue and English, Literature, Creative Writing or any related degree in college, I hadn’t given much analytical thought to the development of serial TV, comics or other forms of fiction. O’Neil’s book talks a bit about soap operas and how they keep viewers interested and I noticed that many of the TV shows on at any given moment use the same techniques–generally something that looks like the Levitz Paradigm. The core of the idea is that you can end a plot, satisfying the audience with its completion but by having other plot lines flowing unfinished, you keep them interested in whatever comes out next.
Now, I’m really not into long, unending serials. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed with The Walking Dead, which I thought hit its peak of interest a dozen or so issues ago. When I started reading it, I didn’t expect it to go to 80 issues and beyond–and I don’t see any reason they would ever stop (it could go to hundreds of issues). I like stories that end. Endings are dear to me. But I like the idea of using the Levitz Paradigm to help me get through 12 issues (I think) of inZomnia, allowing the plots to trickle into closure toward the end.
It occurred to me today that I could start writing a blog called ‘Code to Comics’ but then I realized that if I spent the time needed to truly blogument the process I’m going through, I wouldn’t have any time to write, which is already a problem. So, I’ll leave that blog title for someone else. Really, take it. I’m going to keep this name just in case I need to experiment with sleep again (fairly likely).
So, I’ll leave you with a simple list of the bedside reading I’ve been enjoying for the past several weeks–and then I’ll get my ass over to writing.
- The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics’ by Dennis O’Neil
- ‘Come In Alone’ by Warren Ellis
- ‘Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, Vol. 1′ by Mark Salisbury