Bred in the Bone?

August 26, 2008 at 6:17 am (Deborah Cooke)

So, how does someone get to be a shapeshifter?

There are two main ways, from what I see. The character can be born into the particular shape shifter species – having some kind of different genetic profile than humans do – or is made into shape shifter by some event, often traumatic. Think of the radioactive spider bite in Spiderman, or a vampire pausing for a snack on the heroine’s neck.

This is really a question about pre-destination. How much of someone’s life and circumstances is pre-destined or arranged in advance? How much do each of us choose? Is it different for shape shifter characters? Should it be?

My dragon shape shifters are born Pyr – they are a distinct species from humans – but because one parent of each Pyr child is human, the children are indistinguishable from humans until puberty. They come into their powers then, when they come into their adulthood.

I thought that would be simpler than having – quite literally – little monsters around the house! On the other hand, there is something scary about the idea of teenagers with more powers than most – and yes, we will be having some fun with that in the Dragonfire series.

What about good and evil? Are shape shifters born with a predilection for being a good guy, or for being bad guy? Or do they choose which team to play on? In Dragonfire, the Pyr have a saying that Pyr are born and Slayers are made. They’re all born dragon shape shifters, but the bad guys have chosen to turn to evil.

That choice in the Dragonfire world-building echoes my own view of people – I don’t think that anyone is born evil. Their lives might compel them in a dark direction, but ultimately they make a choice to follow that path – or not. There are countless human stories of people who had tremendous odds stacked against them (and very bad luck besides) who refused to become wicked. I like the idea of the human spirit overcoming adversity, and of people having the strength to confront obstacles, even the ones that appear to be insurmountable.

Of course, you have to guess that in my worldview, love plays a big part in giving people the strength to make those choices!

So, what do you think? How much is bred in the bone? How much of a shape shifter’s life and choices are made in advance of his birth, and how many decisions should he get to make for himself?

What about people? Do you think we have the power to choose good over evil, and chart our own path, or is it all decided for us in advance?

Deborah Cooke



  1. Teresa said,

    I think to an extent things are destined to happen to us, but that we also have the ability to choose how we deal with those things. And by no means do I believe that EVERYTHING in our life is predestined. No way.

    Loved reading about your world-building 🙂

  2. Teresa D'Amario said,

    I actually don’t believe in “Predestiny”, though I do believe some “tests” are provided to us that are planned, so we can grow. IF that growth happens to be bitten by a shifter, and becoming one, or being born into a powerful species/race who must choose good or evil, so be it. 🙂

  3. Savanna Kougar said,

    Hi Deborah. To answer your question honestly would take me pages. So, I’ll just say I like your world-building also. And I luv the dragons. What exciting stories to write.

  4. Deborah Cooke said,

    Hi Teresa – Good to see you over here at the group blog. Meet the other Teresa posting today, the one who started this blog! Thanks for stopping by, both Teresas!

    Savanna – I hear you. I was short and sweet above, because the alternative was long-winded and complicated. And weird. I actually could say that what we see as “pre-destined” (assuming that we see anything that way) or as set up “tests” are also choice – I think they’re lessons we set up for ourselves before we’re born into this life. I believe that we construct our own “lesson plans”, then forget who guided the hand of fate.

    Thanks everyone for your kind words about Dragonfire. The great thing is that when I write posts like this, I get new ideas for the series. I met a new Pyr yesterday – well, he was new to me – and he’s soooooooooo interesting. Will his be book #7? I want (of course) to write it now! LOL


  5. Teresa said,

    Hi other Teresa, nice to meet you 🙂 Your thoughts about “tests” are similar to mine, just worded differently, I think. Have to admit, shape-shifting certainly would come in handy from time to time!

  6. Cathy said,

    I like the idea of being born a shifter or not, but not born evil or not. I have unfortunately seen many parents who raised their children good, just not understand why their child is such a bad person as an adult. It was the choices made throughout life that took them down that path. I have also seen children become good people even raised by bad parents. I think that there has to be an inner influence that pushes us closer to one path or the other, but it is our choice at the fork in the road.

  7. Savanna Kougar said,

    Deborah, I certainly think we do plan out our lives to a degree before we’re born…of course, I’m wondering why the heck I planned out mine the way I did…? Not in terms of being an author, but other life experiences. Probably not a question that will be answered until I’m viewing it all from a higher perspective.

    Cathy, I know what you mean. Some people can have great parents and still turn out bad, Other people can overcome horrible parents and turn out good. Ah…the great mysteries of life…

  8. Deborah Cooke said,

    Hi Cathy – I think we’re in agreement about choices and forks in the road. 🙂

    And Savanna, there must have been something you wanted yourself to learn! Although I do wonder myself sometimes what the heck the plan was.


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