Too Many Shifters in the Kitchen?

June 27, 2008 at 8:00 am (Marcia Colette)

I read an article a few weeks back about a trend that seemed to be catching on. Shapeshifting into more than one species or being half-and-half. Apparently, this is something on the rise. One commenter said it was something new. I don’t know about that “new” part, but I can understand why it might be on the rise. My first double/hybrid/multi-species shifter I read was years ago was by Emma Holly and part of an anthology. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of the book and hardly any of the story because it was just that long ago. Anyway, Ms. Holly’s short story/novella was great. I didn’t see much of a difference between being one creature versus another. But then again, perhaps that’s the problem. Should we notice a difference? Maybe it depends on the creatures involved.

One thing that bothers me–this goes back to my Woody the Were-woodpecker blog–is where do we draw a line? Do we draw a line?

In the anthology Vegas Bites, Seressia Glass wrote a fantastic story where the “werewolf” is actually a djinn who can shift into any creature he chooses, including a wolf, to woo a beautiful woman who happens to be a werewolf. It’s been a while since I’ve read that book, so my memory might be failing me. Other than being a great story, I can buy into this djinn shifting into anything he wants because that was established in the worldbuilding. It’s the nature of his beast, so to speak.

If we’re talking a weretiger-mummy-vampire-zombie-mermaid heroine/hero, then I might have a problem with that. I can’t see a shapeshifter having a supernatural identity crisis on that level. Although…it would make one heck of a comical read if the right person can pull it off.

For now, I’m in heaven with Keri Arthur’s Riley Jensen series. It has just the right mix. Half vampire half werewolf. On the flip side of that, after reading Jeaniene Frost‘s Halfway to the Grave, this is one case where I can honestly say that being half supernatural is good. Very good.

I guess all of this hinges on the worldbuilding. If it’s established well enough, then I can be convinced of anything. I just might buy that warlock-pixie-werejaguar-unicorn hero who’s falling in love with the cyclops-fairy-gargoyle-demon heroine. My biggest worry is that I’ll end up focusing on the which creature we’re on now rather than the story itself. This is a good time for the sex to happen in human form.

As with everything, there will comes a time when we’ll have too much of a good thing. While I like the idea of there being multiple-shifting forms, I hope we don’t take it to the identity-crisis stage. I’d like to know the character as a person before diving into each of their multi-creatures.

Where do you draw the line at multi-shifters? Or do you?
Marcia Colette


  1. Lori Devoti said,

    I’m not a big fan–although in romance, these things happen. 😀 So, I’m going to wind up with some half Valkyrie/hellhound kiddos, along with half witch/hellhound half witch/garm kiddos. Of course, in my world it is yet to be seen what that means…
    But all in all, I don’t think a character being half were/vampire adds anything to the reading experience for me. It might actually be more of a distraction to me.
    Does that make me a shiftist?

  2. Becky said,

    I agree it needs to be written into the world view or integral to the story line. I like the stories that have a mix that is not supposed to be in the workd view but needs to in order for the story to work. I also like when a mix causes conflict withing a character or makes them unique or interesting in some way. I wouldn’t buy into just any mix or a mess o shifters like you described, but it can work. Anywya, thanks for letting me share my opinion. 🙂

  3. Harry~DD said,

    Oh, multiple shape-shifting can be pulled off very easily in my opinion, if the author doesn’t concentrate on a supernatural heritage like let’s say the hero is a descendant of a werewolf clan and these werewolves are like a magical series. If the author points out that the hero or heroine is a magic user taught in the ways of shifting different forms like druids, shamans and other types of societies and tribes have claimed. That way we can avoid the confusing explanation on how the heck a mummy mated a mermaid on the mothers side and how a pixy did it witha demon for the mother’s side and how teh heck that offspring gave birth to the hero.

  4. Marcia Colette said,

    Lori, a shiftiest? LOLOLOLOL!! I’m gonna report you to the ACLU (Another Creature Left Undervalued). 😉 Your characters sound like a lot of fun, Lori. I’ll have to look up a garm, though. Never heard of one.

    Very good point, Becky. If the character’s trait are woven into the storyline, then I can easily see how that would make for an interesting read. A jumbled batch of shapeshifting traits will most likely drive me crazy if they’re isn’t any reason to shift between five different creatures.

    Another good point, Harry. If it’s established well enough in the worldbuilding and the reader isn’t being bounced from one shift/phase to another every scene, then there’s a chance it’ll work for me. Otherwise, if there isn’t a reason for it, then it’s best not to bother. It doesn’t take much to confuse me. 😉

  5. *lizzie starr said,

    I had to chuckle. sometimes we just feel like we have to throw so much in to be different, that it’s laughable. Kinda like the cowboy shiek’s amnesiac mail-order bride’s secret were-baby 🙂

    However, world building is definitely the key to make any story work.

    Personally, I’m thinking for the most part, simpler is better.

  6. Savanna Kougar said,

    Lizzie said it better than me. I really love the unique, but sometime my eyes just crossover and I’m thinking nothing but confusion.
    However, I think every author should be free to roam wherever the shifting muse travels. And I’m hoping against hope, shifter stories won’t be taken to such an extreme, they lose their punch and power. Because I absolutely love reading and writing in this genre.
    In a novella I wrote about twelve years ago, the heroine was the type of goddess who could shift to any animal form. This helped her on Earth, save the day, so to speak.

  7. terryspear said,

    LOL, everyone!!! Lori–okay, you shifting little devil you. I so agree. I think that throwing in the kitchen sink just to come up with something unique doesn’t work. But if the world can be set up to make it realistic enough…

    When we have shifters that can shift into anything, I think of Star Trek. 🙂 Odo? And the creature that had Kirk all hot and bothered, that turned out to be something pretty wicked when it changed into its natural form. 🙂

    This gets back to what I’d mentioned about a polar bear and grizzly mixing it up, and Teresa mentioned a tiger and lion. So to me, if you can have two similiar creatures to make it more realistic, that would work also. One shifter story was that the human could turn into a werewolf or a dog.

    Still, I’m kind of a purist at heart, so I like werewolves who are werewolves and not a Heinz 57. 🙂 To me, it doesn’t have the same impact when the heroine can be either a sexy wolf, or a poodle. 🙂 Not that anyone has written one like that, but why not? 🙂 It doesn’t have the same feel for me. 🙂

    And I loved the comments on what a psychological mess being in all of these forms could be. LOL!

    Also, a lot of the creatures in mythology are part one animal and another…come to think of it. Though they aren’t shifters, but if you used one of them as a shifter, you’d have a mixed animal. 🙂

  8. Michele Lee said,

    I agree that it depends on the world building. In the case you mentioned of the djinn that makes sense, or a magician or mutant who has the power of shape shifting. But let’s take the Anita Blake series… She’s established that her shifting is so ingrained and so violent that the women can’t even carry a baby. Then in Narcissus in Chains she throws in Chimera, with his multiple infections from multiple strains.. and it was like the series was shoot me in the head. to me it showed horrible writing in that instead of just telling a story chock full of tension and threat she has to violate her own world rules to make a creature that she has implied for the whole series is absolutely impossible. As a writer I cannot count the number of times I’ve read editors complaining about stories that depend on a mystery or “twist” that isn’t a natural progression, but the author simply keeping some sort of important information away from the reader. NiC never would have sold if it was Hamilton’s first novel.

    And a few of the multi-shifter stories I’ve read have been exactly like that, a way for an author to up the stakes not through good storytelling, but through making crap up. 🙂 Yes I get that is an author’s job, but stories like that are often lacking the world building that lends believability to the concept of a multi-animal shifter.

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