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 thing.

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?


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