Tips On How to Write a Shape-Shifting Character (For both fanfic writers and original content writers)
(gif courtesy of http://ilyone.tumblr.com/)
HOLY SHIT MY LAST POST ABOUT WRITING WINGED CHARACTERS (which you can find here) GOT A SHIT TON OF NOTES! SO I DECIDED TO MAKE ANOTHER ONE ON SHAPE-SHIFTERS!
are a lot of shape-shifting fics and stories out there. Like. A lot.
Whether they be about were-creatures or about characters that just have
the ability to shape-shift, a lot of the times- like with winged
characters- these shape-shifters are not written very well.
may be unoriginal, or they may be super Mary-Sues/Gary Stus when it
comes to the fact that they have an infinite amount of power or
whatever. So I decided to tackle the issues that come with creating a
shape-shifting OC or making a canon character into a shape-shifter.
1. Decide what your character’s shape-shifting will be mainly used for
Shape-shifting can be used for a variety of reasons, and that’s why it’s critical for you to figure out what your shape-shifter will mostly be using their powers for.
Here are some reasons why shape-shifters can use their powers:
-Battle (transforming into a bigger creature to overpower enemies)
-Disguise (transforming into something that blends in with the environment around them to hide from enemies)
-Forced to shift (AKA werewolves)
-Spy work (transforming into antagonist’s lackeys to infiltrate the base or even vice versa)
2. Set Limits Right Off the Bat
Shape-shifters are incredibly powerful, and in theory, they can be practically invincible when it comes to battle and hiding from enemies.
However, that should ONLY be in theory. Your shape-shifters CANNOT be all-powerful like their abilities can call for them to be. Here’s where Mary Sue/Gary Stu elements come in, because many writers just state that their characters can shape-shift and leave it at that.
That brings up questions like:
“If he was running from the Big Bad™, then why didn’t he just shift into a wall or a chair and disguise himself?”
“If she had to fight the Big Bad™, why didn’t she just transform into a dragon and deep fry him?”
“Couldn’t they just masquerade as the Big Bad™’s minions and get inside the secret lair?”
the author tries to make up for the lack of rules by giving us some
half-assed explanation halfway through the third book.
As soon as the reader finds out that the main character is a shape-shifter, you have to lay down the groundwork for the limits.
Can they only transform into animals?
Can they only transform a certain amount of times at any given point?
Is there something that distinguishes them from the object/person/animal that they’ve transformed into?
Can they only transform into inanimate objects?
Can they only transform into other people?
Does transforming take a lot of energy and therefore they don’t do it often?
Is transforming painful?
Take Beast Boy from Young Justice/ Teen Titans/ various other things as an example:
He can transform into a lot of animals, yes, but they’re all obviously green and unnatural, making it difficult for him to blend in with other animals. his means that his shapeshifting would be most used for attack than for disguise.
You need to set limits, or else your character will be all-powerful and the plot won’t be all that intriguing to the readers; they know that the protagonist will win, so they won’t bother to really get invested in the story.
3. There are many forms of shape-shifters. Just because the mainstream media is all about werewolves with sixteen packs that can cut glass doesn’t mean that you have to make werewolves only
Did you know that technically, a werewolf is just a subdivision of were-creatures?
prefix “were/wer” means “man” and is usually followed by the name of an
animal, ANY animal, to imply that the man (or woman) is transforming
Therefore, there could be werecats, weretigers, werelions, wereunicorns, and were[insert plural name of creature here].
You should really look up the different kinds of shifters from all different cultures and regions of the world. They’re actually quite amazing!
Here’s a list of some of my favorite shapeshifter creatures (Note that these are not all of the shapeshifters, just my personal favorites some of which I feel needed to be represented more in literature):
-Were[insert name of big cat here]
-Animaguses(Animagi?) (don’t use these they’re JK Rowling’s I just really like Animagi)
-Generic, run-of-the-mill shapeshifters
-Were creatures that are actually just the creature trying to masquerade as a human/ a creature that has a human form
-Transforming into huge gruesome monsters (it’s good shit 10/10)
4. You don’t have to describe the full transformation every single time. The first time is enough.
don’t want to have to go through long, agonizing paragraphs of
description every time your character changes, especially if they change
during a battle. They don’t want the bloody, gory action to be
disrupted by a description of a transformation that they’ve read a
hundred times before.
If you truly want to describe the
transformation more than once, though I highly advise against it, never
describe it more than three times, and make sure to make it unique every
single time. If you don’t think you can do that, just describe it once.
should, however, describe the symptoms that come with transforming. Is
it painful? Is it uncomfortable? Does it feel incredible because it
makes the character feel a rush of power? Gimme the deets, but not all
Things that happen during transformation that you can describe:
- Fur/scales growing (stinging and itchy)
- Bones breaking and reorganizing, as well as new ones appearing and old ones transforming
- Muscles ripping and elongating/shrinking
- Fingernails/toenails turning into claws
- Heightened sense of sight/smell/hearing
- Adrenaline rush
- More power/strength/speed