Saturday, September 26, 2009

How do your shifters...shift?

Kira recoiled at the first pull of the moon. Her vision clouded and a blood-red haze covered the lush green leaves and trees of the Guatemalan jungle. Her body arched, scraping her naked back against a tree, willing her stretched skin to give.

This was how the change took her. The terrible heat came next, and then her bones shifted, muscles stretched, ligaments popped. Relief was only moments away. She fell to all fours and closed her eyes.

“Hurry!” She prayed to any god who would claim her.

How do your shifters…shift?

In ASSASSIN’S KISS, my heroine, Kira didn’t know she was a jaguar shapeshifter until a botched exorcism at fourteen. Now at twenty-four, the same jaguar nature that saved her from being a victim has driven her from living on the streets to the Guatemalan jungle, searching for her own kind.

Due to her traumatic first shift, the process has always reminded her of how very different she is. It’s always been a painful and something that she’s dreaded. Kira’s acceptance of her true nature becomes a gradual process, aided of course by the hero, Sebastian, who reveals a third nature that Kira has never seen. Sebastian’s Jaguar Warrior is a fierce hybrid, jaguar/human creature.

The differences between them are as problematic and infinitely more dangerous as those Kira experienced while trying to live among humans and keep her true nature a secret. For this reason, I chose to portray my characters physically shifting on the page.

If you’re an author of paranormals, how do you choose to portray this element of your story? As a reader, what do you expect? I’d love to know!


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Serena Shay said...

"Her body arched, scraping her naked back against a tree, willing her stretched skin to give."

This is a great visual!

I like to show the physical shifting in my stories as well. The pain, the pleasure it adds to the story for me. I like to read it as well. I tend to feel a little lost if the change is just magical. Give me one good, bloody change then they can just shift later on and I'm good with that. :)

Debra Glass said...

Beautifully written! Your covers are lovely. I love a big black cat!

Paris said...

If you only knew how many times I rewrote it, LOL! I've always wondered how everyone else viewed it though. Thanks for stopping by;-)

Paris said...

Thank you so much! I thank the very talented Les Byerley for my beautiful cover;-)

Helen Hardt said...

Hi Paris -- I've actually done it both ways. I have an upcoming wolf story where I describe the physical shift. It's a painful and scary process for the hero. In a dragon story I wrote, though, the shift was more of a shimmering magical process. For me, it depends on the story I'm telling. By the way, I love your cover and premise!


Paris said...

Thanks! I think you make a great point about it being all about the story and what it demands;-) Great to see you!

Crystal Kauffman said...

My shifters are vampires who can assume monstrous form and gargoyles who can transform into stone, and beast (or both). For them it's a controlled thing, like holding their breath or breaking into a run. The vamps, though, lose their cool and transform when they're angry or on the defense, like a knee-jerk reaction. So watch out. :)

Paris said...

I love when emotion is involved, a knee-jerk reaction that you see them having to control, especially when they need to protect the heroine;-) The whole control issue is sexy!

Savanna Kougar said...

So far, my shifters accomplish it as a natural part of their being, rather like changing clothes, because that is genetically and spiritually who they are. However, there are factors that can change that, make it excruciating or impossible to achieve.
In some WIPs I have the shift process is more wrenching. Honestly, though, I'm not much into the pain factor. Just me.
Besides, to my way of logic, if it's a shifter race why would it be painful every time?

"Her body arched, scraping her naked back against a tree, willing her stretched skin to give." ~
Paris, I agree with Serena, fab description.

Michelle Picard said...

My shifters can shift into any animal form they choose, but it only becomes painful if the general mass of the chosen form is much bigger or much smaller than the person's body weight. I have it described as their magic reaching into the soil of the earth, finding the type of animal they wish to link with, and borrowing that pattern. It's extra convenient that the earth stores everything they are wearing while they are shifted and returns it later. So it's somewhere between that magical shimmering and the excruciating body stretching described above.

The shifters are part of a contemporary fantasy I've written and are not the main focus of the story, but just one species. Anyone ever read Jennifer Roberson's Shapechangers, Chronicles of the Cheysuli? It was a fantasy from my adolescence and how she described her shapechangers always stuck with me.

Fascinating topic. There's such a spectrum.

Paris said...

Savanna, thanks! I actually used the process to show Kira's gradual acceptance of who she really was. As a rule, I'm not into pain;-)

Paris said...

Michelle, I never read Roberson but I'd love to find the time! Your shifters sound fascinating and I've never seen what you've described before! Great job! thanks for stopping by!

Sandy said...


I don't write shape shifters, but I've read a few. As a reader you have to see the visual because just telling that the shift has happened is not enough for me.

Paris said...

Thanks for stopping by Sandy! Tried to answer your email and yahoo was behaving badly again;-)LOL! what else is new!

Mel Teshco said...

Nice visual's Paris!
For my shifter's (whether gargoyle, shape-shifter or vampire) it all depends on the character and their situation. eg- In Stone-Cold Lover Cray is immortal and well-used to shifting from stone to monster to human form, and it's a pain he feels he deserves. I love shifter stories!

Fran Lee said...

Paris, love! LOL! Mine wasn't nearly as exciting and intense as yours, love! You know my writing style. Gar's first shift in Hallie's Cats was an offshoot of them having hot hot sex...

Then suddenly he lifted his mouth and gasped, “Hallara! I can’t hold my shape! I’m gonna lose it! I can’t stop my shift!”

Hallie blinked, and inside her thoughts she instantly understood what he meant by “shift”.

She had heard his thoughts, seen his fear, and she scooted quickly up the bed to the headboard just as the man she had been making hot love to seemed to explode in all directions.

She scrambled from the bed and darted behind a chair that stood by the window, and her heart hammered hard against her ribs as the delicious golden-eyed man who had been giving her incredible orgasms flashed like a frigging neon light and turned into a huge, fucking black…cat!

My shifters can shift in a few seconds, but their body shifts are hyper-fast. I love this book, BTW! Started reading it last night after the chat!

Anny Cook said...

Mine are mostly "magical". They're angels who have been given the gift of morphing into other forms. And of course there are the firebirds and unicorns and dragons who are all magical beings. I have not written were wolves or vampires who change.

Paris said...


Thanks! Yep, I totally agree with you about the story determining how it's done. Thanks for stopping by!

Paris said...

LOL! I loved Hallie's Cats and the shifts were perfect for the story you wrote;-)! Thanks!

Paris said...

I love your magical stories;-)firebirds and unicorns and dragons...oh, my. And every one of them hot! Thanks for stopping by!

Margaret Carter said...

My werewolves shift voluntarily (no moon connection, although it's much easier for them at night than by day). It's a gradual process that takes several minutes and feels like an explosive, almost erotic release. They have control over it but can lose control with strong emotion, esp. sexual (esp. when they are young -- changing begins in adolescence).

Margaret L. Carter

Paris said...

Sounds very sexy! I'll have to check them out;-)

Anonymous said...

I tend to gloss over the whole thing by saying they simply "blur" from one form to the other, although my wolves get a bit hairy on the face and the backs of the hands right before they change. How does it feel, I wonder, to sprout a tail out of your butt? I should have one of my characters comment on that sometime.

And what about age? In my current WIP I have a middle-aged she-wolf who doesn't change any more because her body's no longer elastic enough to take all the physical rearrangements. How about yours? If they ever reach the point physically where they have to pick one form to stay in for the last several decades of their lives, which would it be? Or do shapeshifters not live as long as us single-bodies?

My vote for grossest shape-shift goes to Nastasia Kinski in the '80s remake of "Cat People." Animal form explosively and bloodily bursting out of the human body ... no. Just ... no.

Pat C.

Paris said...

I'd love to see you do an interview with one of your characters and have them answer that question!

I never considered that they might not be able to change for that reason. Interesting premise! Life expectancy is another issue that I think plays into the story you happen to be writing and the way you set up that world.

I'll have to check out that remake. I can't remember seeing it!

Anonymous said...

It would have to be one of my werecoyote characters. The wolves would just look at you funny.

I was plotting a book (currently in the drawer) where the backstory mentioned the heroine's mother (a wereleopard) chose her cat form to end life in. This devastated her father, who never imagined his beloved wife would abandon him that way (he'd chosen human). This aspect opens up the door for all kinds of conflict. It never hurts to make your characters as miserable as possible. Until they get their happy ending, of course.

Pat C.

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat... how about it writing that blog? I'll be happy to post it.

In BLACK CAT BEAUTY the hero, Devon, let's say 'convinces' Sable to loose her tail, so I do describe that. She already has her little black cat ears and he likes her as a cat-woman.

Paris said...

I can just imagine how the wolves would look at you! LOL!

I agree, the more conflict the better makes for a happier ending;-)

Paris said...

I couldn't agree more! I'd love to see it;-)