How realistic should your shifters be?

March 13, 2009 at 5:39 am (General)

wolf_12_bigWhile reading and writing shapeshifter books, I’ve come to the conclusion there is a wide variety of “levels” of shifters.  I don’t mean types of animals, but how much of the animal behavior moves into the human side of the shifter.

In Sherrilyn Kenyon’s shifters, she has two types – one who are animals when asleep, so they maintain a very animalistic outlook on life.  Then she has the ones who are mostly human who have a very human outlook on life.

Most authors have one type, and so much decide which their characters are most like – their animal sides or their human sides.  With dragon shifters, this is usually not as obvious, because… well, who knows what a dragon would really act like, anyway?

But if we take the more traditional wolves or tigers, or lions or even house cats, how much of their animal behavior are you willing to accept in the books you read?

In my books, I tend to merge quite a bit of the animal behavior in with their human counterparts.  It’s not exactly the same, of course, because we have human civilization bearing down on them, their hearts and minds are changed.

But I’ve read other books who only maintain a few of the traditional behaviors of wolves. The only difference between their stories and contemporary is the person enjoys the occasional shift.  Most authors are in the middle.  They take bits and pieces of the canine world and merge them with the best parts of humanity.

Some, though, skew the wolf like behavior more toward what we see in dogs, as opposed to wolves.  Why?  Because it’s paranormal, and it works for their worlds.  And since I’ve read very few shifter books that didn’t work for me, then obviously they did a super job.

It makes me wonder what the readers think (Readers other than me, because I’m also a reader).  I use wolves just because that’s who on my mind now, pounding away at my keyboard telling their story, but this is the same “genre wide”.  In my mind, there is no right, and no wrong.  We all love shifters for different reasons.  Sometimes it’s the alpha male quality, sometimes it’s the animalistic quality.  Sometimes it’s the combination of humanity and animals.lion

But how much animal do you enjoy when you read?  And how much is too much? And while we’re at it, if an author puts a shifter of any type in an area of the world the animal themselves is not common in, does that bother you?  For instance, the Lion is from Africa.  Can we have Lion shifters in the USA?



  1. Beth C. said,

    I like my shifters to be a mix when in human form. But I do want to see them as animals in the story. My heroes need to maintain their aggression or possessiveness toward their mates in human form but no raw meat please.

  2. Jessica Kennedy said,

    Yes. Any type of Shifter can be anywhere! It doesn’t bother me.

  3. MarnieColette said,

    Shifters for me don’t have to be area specific. I am okay with a tiger in Minnesota.

    I like my shifters to maintain some of their humanity while in animal form i.e. the ability to think rationally. I believe that there should be a blending of characteristics while in human form. I don’t believe a bear shifter is going to be a wimpy non- assertive man.

    Blend I say blend.

  4. Lynne Connolly said,

    All my shifters are mythical beasts, because animals have behaviours that I can’t cope with. Well, that’s not the only reason, I happen to love dragons! But take lions, for instance, where males tend to have multiple female partners, because he can sire more cubs that way. Romantic – not! Swans are said to mate for life, so I could hack them, but most of them aren’t realistic.
    Still, if I were reading for accuracy and realism, I’d be reading non fiction all the time!

  5. Teresa D'Amario said,

    Lynne, I get what you’re saying. 🙂 I tend to think one of the human traits we can add is the acceptance of one mate for Lions, and lifelong commitment to tigers and other big cats. 🙂 A nice freedom of shifters for me.

    But one curiosity I have is local. I’m wondering if it’s okay to put shifters who’s animal is from another continent over in the US?

    Another example is where wolves are normally in certain areas of the country… In one book I have a shifter running into humans, in an area where wolves are not normally located. The youths mistake her for a large dog, and that irritates her to no end. But she can’t very well tell them different.

  6. Keira said,

    I’d be willing take quite a bit of animal behavior. It comes down to the writing for me… and probably perhaps the animal also; if it was prey or predator.

  7. Estella said,

    Shifters can be anywhere !

  8. Terry Spear said,

    That’s why a shifter mouse could be anywhere. 🙂 And before anyone says mice are not heroic, I loved Mighty Mouse! 🙂 Okay, really a rough week…. 🙂

  9. Juliana Stone said,

    love me some sexy shifters! the wonderful thing about writng is that we as authors can pretty much do anything we want. A tiger in Canada? A dragon in Mexico? why the hell not?!
    My jaguars are pretty much a blend. Like one of the commentators, male jags mate and then leave…very unsexy. I don’t follow that, but a lot of their characteristics cross over to the human side…but that’s what makes them so alpha!

  10. Melissa said,

    I love shifters….there are not many out there I haven’t liked, or had a problem w/ the way they related to their human sides. Christine Warren did lions is Vegas very well…Shelly Laurenston kicks but w/ her wolves or lions wherever they may be. But I’ve also read some small towns that keep to their selves more….I think it’s all in how the author relates it w/ the charachter. Sometimes I might have a hard time wrapping my mind around a little tabby cat being a huge male hero, but other than that it’s all fair game for me….I love me some shifters…

  11. Sabrina said,

    I’m still relatively new to this specific sub-genre and I have to say that I’m in love with it. I’m trying to open my mind to the different possibilities. My favorites so far are Nalini Singh’s Changelings. I LOVE her descriptions of the interactions within the established family of Nate and Tammy and I’m completely charmed by their cubs. Her characters seem to be mostly human at all times.

    Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books and the Alpha and Omega series are really good too. It made me realize that I really prefer my shifters to be able to shift naturally whenever they want. Painful or long or forced by the moon transformations detract a little from my enjoyment. It works for her world and she’s very consistant with it, but given a choice, I do prefer that shifting be something that’s second nature to the characters.

    I normally don’t care much for MaryJanice Davidson, but I saw one of her Jennifer Scales books at the store and tried that series because at that point I’d never read anything besides werecats and werewolves. The idea of weredragons and spiders was interesting. I still couldn’t love the books since her writing style is like fingernails down a chalkboard for me, but it was an interesting experiment and I’d love to find something similiar by an author I like.

    I’ve got a couple of books on my “to be read” shelf. One is called, I think, Stray and is about werecats? I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sold on the idea of tiny little housecats as the traditional alpha role, but I’ll give it a try. I just finished a Christine Warren book (pretty good), and want to try Lora Leigh’s breed books for a slightly different take on it.

  12. Teresa D'Amario said,

    Hi Sabrina,

    I love Christine Warren! I think “She’s no faery princess” was the one I liked best. 😀

    And Lora Leigh’s are definitely a different take. No slightly about it. LOL. But I love them too. Just read one yesterday. My favorite of hers I think is still only available in ebook form. Can’t remember the title of it.

  13. Teresa D'Amario said,

    oh and Sabrina,

    Forgot to say – Welcome to this awesome subgenre! We know you’ll love it as much as we do!

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