by Monica Valentinelli

When we announced Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling back in February, we mentioned that we’d be talking about the editorial process and sharing more insight with you in anticipation of this anthology’s release. Today, I’m going to talk about the concept behind this collection of stories, so you get a better feel for the anthology’s framework and how it’s coming together.

Like many writers and editors, I love talking about the craft of writing. I have this bad habit of getting fixated on a specific concept like plotting or, in this case, tropes and clichés. The more I read (like most people I imagine) the more certain tropes stand out in my mind because, true to their definition, they are overused devices that are instantly recognizable. Take, for example, The Chosen One. As you’re probably already aware, the heart of this cliché is that a story’s protagonist is the only character in the known universe destined to fight The Big Bad and save the world. The trope of The One is so prevalent, that its alter-ego (e.g. So Sorry, You’re Not Really The Chosen One) can also evoke an emotional reaction in the form of an eye roll as well. There are too many references to list here, but a few quick searches on Ye Olde Google and you’ll see how often The Chosen One is included in lists of storytelling shortcuts that writers shouldn’t take, and how many conversations this specific trope has generated.

The discussion about whether or not this common cliché was “bad” is what inspired me to conceptualize an anthology that encourages writers to smash tropes. I felt that an examination of tropes like this required a variety of voices to better serve the reader, and would work best as an anthology. Before I pitched the anthology to Jason, I asked Jaym Gates to be my co-editor to balance out my editorial style and ensure the collection wouldn’t be overly slanted to my tastes. Too, since Jaym Gates edited anthologies for Apex Publishing before, I felt she’d be a perfect fit because you were familiar with her work.

As an editor, I do not feel it’s my responsibility to collect stories that fit how I feel about tropes, because this anthology is designed to be read by many different kinds of readers and, with a little luck, discussed, too. My role is to ensure we have a broad range of clichés that are being smashed, and that the writers effectively turn that trope upside down for the reader in their stories, with their unique voices. While the backbone of each story is about breaking a specific trope, we (e.g. Jaym and I) never intended this collection to be a gimmick; we both feel that the stories need to resonate above and beyond the technical aspects. For this reason, we asked the writers to choose the trope that they explicitly wanted to break in their stories, which genre they were interested in writing, and then helped them brainstorm if they were stuck.

Most writers knew which trope they wanted to tackle, while others had decision paralysis because there were so many to choose from. We’ve been very lucky to work with such talented people, because the tropes that our writers have chosen reflect a broad range of genre clichés that run the gamut from tired plot devices, overused protagonists and antagonists, as well as commentaries about sex and race. To me, this diverse range of tropes makes the collection stronger as a whole and more satisfying as a reader.

Our broad selection of clichés, in particular, is something we’ll highlight in the coming months. When the open call begins in September, we’ll post which tropes are being smashed in the core of the anthology, so you can see where the gaps are for yourself. It’s our goal to offer a satisfying collection that will appeal to a broad range of readers. We also feel that the open call will help us discover new and existing writers who are as passionate about the subject of clichés as we all are.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into the concept behind Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. If you have any questions about the anthology, feel free to post in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

About the Editor: Monica Valentinelli writes stories, games, essays, and comics for media/tie-in properties and her original works from her studio in the Midwest. She’s a former musician of 20+ years and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Creative Writing program who now writes and edits full-time. Her sanity is kept by her two cats, water frog, bettafish, and her long-time partner. When she’s not obsessing about deadlines, she designs jewelry and dabbles in other artistic endeavors. For more about Monica, visit www.mlvwrites.com.