I’ve been thinking about inversions. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to the FROZEN soundtrack this morning, but it’s been on my mind for a while now. Inverting well-worn tropes has been an obsession in pop culture over the last decade or so. So-called “woke” Disney. THE LAST JEDI. TERMINATOR: DARK FATE. YOU’RE NEXT. I can go on.
Inversion is a very effective tool. I’ve used it myself from time to time. And there are a lot of reasons to use it, even beyond its efficacy as a narrative device. More often than not, it’s used by creators to “correct” elements of a franchise deemed exclusionary or problematic. Other times, it’s used to inject new life into a well-worn character or story.
I’ll keep my own opinions on the motivations behind inversion as a plot device to myself, mainly because I’m not sure I have a fully formed opinion. One of the benefits of being off social media a significant percentage of the day means the temptation to fire my half-baked ideas into the ether has been all but eliminated. I can only speak as another artist and a fan.
For my own work, I’ve found that the compulsion to invert isn’t always the right choice. At the end of the day, I’m in service of the story I aim to tell. If inversion serves that story, such as in my book EXTINCTION PEAK, then I will employ it as a storytelling device. If the urge to invert will impede what is already an effective narrative, it’s best left on the backburner. Now, if you do finish your first draft, and you find it’s all too familiar in the annals of your genre, then by all means, do a pass where you strictly look for opportunities to invert. It might turn your stale draft into something that pops.
I guess what I’m saying is contrived work will always feel like contrived work. Inversion, like steps on the hero’s journey, is a tool that can bring life to a work, but is not required in order for a work to have life.
What are some books/films/games that you think effectively employ inversion? What are some books/films/games that get by just fine without it?