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10 February 2013
When Shifting Goes Bad...
Shapeshifters have become pretty popular among authors and
readers, from dragon shifters to dolphin shifters to bull shifters. (Really. I
kid you not.) When I was growing up I never thought much about the perils and
pleasures of having the ability to shape-shift.
But now that I'm working on a series with cat shifters I'm
paying more attention to the little things, the details that bring a character
to life. And the problems that being a cat shifter would have.
For example, Rebecca, my cat shifter, has exquisite hearing—to
the point of pain. Imagine if you could hear so well that you could eavesdrop
on conversations in another room. It sounds like fun, right? Until you expand
that to walking down a busy city street and the noise, the noise, the NOISE
around you like a huge wave of sound slapping you with every step. Just imagine
the sounds battering your senses and the effort it'd take to lock yourself down
and control the constant input.
The same with the sense of smell. I've smelt some pretty
disgusting things in my life but I can't imagine how it would be to have that
amplified. I've walked through some pretty ugly alleyways in Toronto where every puddle was a toxic dump
and the dumpsters were overflowing with rotten food. Sure it'd be great to pick
people out by their scent or smell their fear through bitter sweat but add in
rotten Chinese food and a dash of vomit and suddenly it's not such a great
But it's not just cat shifters who'd have to deal with
problems. Werewolves, or wolf shifters, would have their own twist on these
problems. And I love seeing writers deal with the reality (for lack of another
word) of the negative side of shifting. It's easy to write and relate to the
positive aspects of being a shifter—not so much when there are ongoing issues
from living in two worlds.
We all point at the werewolf loving his rare steak between
full moons or sniffing out his mate in a crowded room, sensing their connection
in a raw, animalistic form. But there's a lot of downsides and I enjoy reading
about how the grass may not always be greener on the other side when you're
more than just human.
So let me toss the question out—what do you think would be
the biggest downside of being a (blank) shifter? Dragon shifter always setting
fire to the curtains? Cat shifter clawing up the furniture? Selkie leaving wet
towels on the bathroom floor?