You put your right arm in, you take your right paw out, you put your right claws in, and you shake them all about. Think about it. If you could shape-shift into anything in the world, what would it be?
The first time I ever heard about shape-shifters I was deeply involved with the Native American culture and ceremonies. Among native and aboriginal cultures, shape-shifting is part of common conversation and mutual traditional history. Of course, not everyone can do it. It takes strong personal medicine and spirit involvement to make a mere human being able to shift into something else. It’s serious business.
But blessedly in fiction, it’s just that … fiction. We do try, even in fantasy, to base our imagined events on real world possibilities, but some authors like to take things much further and literally create a whole new mythology.
Take fictional shape-shifters in general. Level one creative takes a human into the existing animal world, so a shape-shifter can be a dog, a cow, a chicken, an elephant … anything we have a reality base for. He can become a deer or bird or dung beetle. Level one is pure reality-based fantasy. I have shape-shifters in Cold in California, but we’re talking about the garden variety, level one type – a grizzly, an elk, even an elegant snake. In the next book, Monkey Jump, the shape-shifters fall under a different category all together!
Level two, this gets more complicated and way more fun! How about a shape-shifter who can become an inanimate object? Say a toaster or salt shaker. Cool for a private investigator with supernatural capabilities – he can eavesdrop anywhere and raise no suspicion. He can be an umbrella and travel in a suspect’s hand through the rain while closely observing said suspect’s activities. He can become a military helmet or weapon and really do some reconnaissance in the middle east. He might be able to become a computer. Wow, wouldn’t that be a strange adventure? He could be something useful or unimportant. He could observe, spy, gain intelligence or just play nasty jokes on his friends. Hell, he could be the beer cooler at the Seven-Eleven!
Level two is lots of fun, but level three might take some serious thought, because to me, level three fiction shape-shifter creation takes the concept of shifting outside the realm of our reality completely. In other words, the sky (and beyond) is the limit.
In level three fictitious shape-shifting a man can become :
- A dinosaur
- A different supernatural creature (Fae or Werewolf or Vampire or Pixie)
- An alien from another planet
- A dragon
- A monster from an underworld
- A cartoon (animated) character
- A fetus
- An ancient god or goddess
Can you imagine the creative ramifications? What if the shape-shifter gets stuck with some of the DNA from the obscure creature he’s shifted into? What if he retains some of the personality quirks or physical traits of the creature? It would be my luck to shift into a Tyrannosaurus Rex, only to discover after shifting back that I now have a markedly bigger butt! Or maybe I drool or breathe fire or glow in the dark! How much would that effect and reshape a story?
Okay, now it’s feeling a little Twilight Zone-y.
But seriously … If you could shape shift into anything in the world, what would it be?