The Post that I Forgot . . . or Shape-Shifters.

Ditto from Pokemon

Ditto from Pokemon

I’ve been preparing my posts in advance and trying to go by themes, but that’s not the point here.  Over the weekend, I gathered pictures for all my posts and then got called away before I could write them.  I remembered all of them . . . except for today.  All I have to go on is the picture above.

Ditto is a Pokemon with the ability to change into any other Pokemon.  It’s a shape-shifting blob and kinda cute.  Still, I’m not sure what it’s significance is to the original post idea.  I think I’m going to go with shape-shifters.  It doesn’t feel right, but I can’t think of anything else.  Well, one other thing that I’m going to save for next week because it requires thought.  This reminds me that I have 2 weeks before the cover reveal and the big week of hype info for Allure of the Gypsies.  So aflutter here.

Anyway, changing shape is a popular power that is used from magical creatures to science fiction experiments.  You have doppelgangers and lycanthropes in fantasy and body snatchers or Odo (Deep Space Nine!) in science fiction.  It’s not as complicated in terms of use.  Write that your character changes and have them operate in that new form.  The difficulty comes from choosing how to utilize the power without making it too much or childish.

First, try to pick the type of shape shifting for your character:

  1. One form can be used for spirit channelers and allow a character to master an advanced, powerful form.  Beorn of Lord of the Rings took the form of a bear (hope I got that right) and Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk.  These are single form transformations that make up for versatility with power.  Even a ‘weak’ form such as a bird or a rodent can be useful if they are written in such ways.  It isn’t always strength that saves the day.
  2. A shape shifter can have a school of forms such as Beast Boy from DC Comics who transforms into animals.  You have the Wonder Twins too with one as animals (oddly popular) and another as water.  This gives you a character with versatility and limitations.  You don’t have to panic over having too many choices when there is a focus on here and you can prevent the power from being too much with such restrictions.
  3. Human transformation only is another route, but I’m having trouble thinking of an example.  Basics are that this person transforms into other humanoids and cannot change into another else.  I think the Shape Shifters of Supernatural could work here, but that does make it seem like this is a category for monsters and villains.
  4. Unlimited transformation is the final category and this is a dangerous one to work with.  You can easily go too far here because there are no limits.  Morph of Marvel Comics and Odo from Deep Space Nine are examples.  The only limit to these characters is their own imagination.  My recommendation on this one is to use the power sparingly.

Truthfully, you always have to be careful with this power.  It can be so horribly abused by an author because it can solve nearly every problem.  Turn into a dinosaur for strength, a cheetah for speed, other superheroes, Cthulhu, etc. and you don’t need any other characters.  I suggest a downside or something to keep yourself under control.  It doesn’t even have to appear in the story.  For example, a character could go insane if transforming more than four times a day.  You know this, so you’re careful, but you never reach that point in the story.  This is certainly a power that requires restraint and thinking.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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35 Responses to The Post that I Forgot . . . or Shape-Shifters.

  1. One of the most impressive aspect of your stories is the fact the characters do have limitations and need to work out problems rather than simply weaving a spell. Nice.

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  2. tjtherien says:

    In my NaNo story I have Savage Elves which can transform into animal form… in fact I have inferred that they usually appear in their animal form… Savage Elves worship the ancient Gods who have bestowed upon them the ability to take animal shape…I have only introduced two of these characters so far one that takes the form of a bear and one that takes the form of a wolf… there will be the inference of other Savage Elves that are of meeker animals which I can include later…

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    • Love the sound of that idea. Does each Savage Elf have a single form or can they shift between forms?

      Odd thought, but nobody ever transforms into a mole or a tuna or something odd like that.

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      • tjtherien says:

        I toyed with the idea of having them being able to shift and take any form but decided to go the singular form root each representing a certain living creature including savage elves that have become trees…

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      • So it works like a spirit beast/totem system. I’m curious if they have a ritual to find their form. It kind of reminds me of The Golden Compass where each human has an animal that embodies part of their soul. As children, these animals can change shape. When they hit a certain age, the animal takes a final, true form type of thing.

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      • tjtherien says:

        there is a myth that the ancient Gods took elven wives and the children those unions produced became the savage elves… the ancient gods were long abandoned by the Elves except for the Savage Elves and the Drow who follow the Cult of the Spider…

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      • Interesting. So they’re like a race of demi-gods.

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      • tjtherien says:

        along with the ability to shape shift the Savage Elves appear to live forever, but they can also be killed by sword axe and arrow…I have not thought of them as demi gods and have thrown in the twist that they mate with the animal of the form in which they shift…

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      • Interesting. So, they mate with pure animals?

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      • tjtherien says:

        that’s the gist of it, and a big part of why the Elves rejected the ancient gods…

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      • Does it water down the bloodline?

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      • tjtherien says:

        I am leaning toward the children of the savage elves being unable to shape shift and basically intelligent animals… I don’t want too many shape shifters in my world in my world plus with an eternal lifespan if they are not killed means they really don’t need to procreate hence their bloodlines less relevant.

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      • Makes sense. Never really got into the immortal elves thing myself. I kept wondering what the point of it was, but your world has it make sense since they came from gods.

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  3. Wordlander says:

    Great blog, my WIP has my central character changing into an unusual animal. I’ve had trouble describing how it feels when she changes. Mostly I’ve been abstract ffocusing on colours, sounds etc but I have to avoid being repetitive.

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  4. Power is difficult to manage. Too much power solves problems too easily, and not thinking of an obvious solution that the power could have provided is another danger.

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    • One way to handle the too much power is to make an enemy of equal ability. This typically works best in comics. For example, Superman and Lex Luthor. Superman is physically unstoppable, but Luthor is cunning enough to be on even footing with him. I don’t have an example of the second scenario though.

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  5. I’m not a scientist (oh, wow, I’m not!), but I’ve always had issue with “mass.” I have no idea why this has always bothered me, but it has. For instance, I’m okay with Banner becoming all hulky, but how does science explain that he grows to several times his original size? There isn’t enough “material” to work with. Am I missing something? Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief, but for some reason this bothers me. On the other hand, I don’t have issue with transformations where the mass appears to remain at least relatively consistent.

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    • With many shape-shifters it’s simply a matter of developing more mass during the change. There is an energy component to many changes and that energy is changed into physical mass. There’s another comic book character named ‘Strong Guy’ (don’t ask) and his power is that he grows bigger when he absorbs kinetic energy.

      In regards to the Hulk, the gamma radiation is what he absorbs and uses to build more mass in his body. These things tend to require a lot of suspension of disbelief.

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  6. lackofharmony says:

    The fact that you’ve brought up Odo made me giggle. I’ve been deeply enthralled in Deep Space Nine for the last month or two. I’m going to be sad when it’s all over.

    As for your shape-shifters, I’d like to toss the Animorphs into the mix. It’s a book series I started reading while I was in high school. They had a 24-hour time limit to all their morphs and they had to actually touch an animal to get their DNA in order to shift into them. It just so happened that one of the main character’s mothers worked at a zoo and they had access to the animals there. The biggest drawback to their shifts was that, if they stayed in an animal form past the 24-hour time limit, they would be stuck in that form permanently. It as a very interesting series.

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    • I’m trying to remember how it ended since it was so long ago. Surprised nobody has tried to bring out another Star Trek show, but I guess they’re focusing on movies now.

      I remember seeing Animorph books on shelves. I do like the idea of a time limit, which brings a sense of danger to the power. I have a vague memory of some book or show where a character was trapped in the form of an animal. As he grew older, his mind became more bestial and he eventually lost his humanity. Guess it was like Brave.

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      • lackofharmony says:

        I’m on season six so I’m almost at the end. I’ll let you know. Lol.

        Tobias was trapped in the form of a hawk, because he couldn’t escape from the evil aliens’ hideout. He, eventually, became human again due to help from the good aliens, but always regretted returning to human form.

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      • That’s a nice twist. I can see a lot of adults groaning about that, but it’s great for kids.

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  7. tyroper says:

    Good information, thanks.

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