posted on Friday
originally posted on Harlequin’s Paranormal Romance blog ooh quite a while ago.
Okay, I confess. Shapeshifters have always fascinated me (check out Dun Lady’s Jess!). And writing shapeshifters has always delighted me. I mean, what’s not to like? There’s the primal allure, the vibrant nature, the potential conflicts both inside and out…
For these are characters who function on instinct as much as thought, and who must integrate their differences into a society that cannot understand them. These are people who face great responsibilities because of what they can do–or who face the battle of exactly how to use their advantages (and make up for their challenges) without ever giving themselves away to the world at large.
But more than that, these characters must manage themselves and the very different way they experience the world. When your perceptions are so very awry from the norm, what you experience and how it affects you is completely different from the person right beside you. Managing that impact leads to different behavior, different choices, different reactions…it creates of you a secret outsider in the midst of normality, whether you want it or not. It means that all around you, there’s a society living in one way, while you live another…and meanwhile you’re being judged for choices and reactions that seem impenetrable to others.
Things shifted a little to the personal there, I see. There’s a reason for that…and it turns out, it explains my lifelong connection not only with the animals I train and love, but to the continuing exploration of these characters who live in two worlds.
This all rather surprisingly came home to roost a couple years ago, during a hospitalization that sent me off to ongoing recovery. The neurological condition at the root of things not only keeps me from filtering sensory input correctly, but it means my internal volume controls aren’t set to the norm. That man’s quiet voice hits me like a shout; that woman’s expensive perfume might as well be a skunk in the face. Sensations are more meaningful–and potentially overwhelming–across the board.
It’s also something I’ve had all my life–but is a thing which generally goes critical after time and stress pile-up the effects, and then…well, it doesn’t back down again.
It also means that to some extent, I am one of my shapeshifters. I hear things you don’t; I scent things you will swear don’t exist (repeatedly). You don’t even want to know how many gas leaks I’ve detected (or how hard I’ve had to argue with the gas company guys to keep looking until the leak is found). I blossom in the quiet woods; I shrivel in an artificially hyped environment. The life of shapeshifter characters–those who we writers generally imbue with heightened sensitivities, an alert nature, and a certain reactivity–is something I know from the inside out. And now I know some of the costs, too.
But it’s kind of fascinating to suddenly understand why I identify so readily with such characters, and why I have such a drive to explore their lives–and to reveal to them to readers.
Oh, okay. I admit it. I also like to write shapeshifters of various sorts because they’re just so much doggone fun. I mean, seriously. Anyone else up for a good howl?