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Phylum Focus – Shifters (aka Shapechangers)

Note from Cass: This is a guest blog #4 on how my husband created the world for my book with a phylum focus on shapechangers. For more world-building posts, click here.

So the 12 families were set. Worked for the book. But I really wanted to get into the Shifters. I knew they were going feature in some meaning ways so…. 

I started again with some ‘beliefs’, things I do and don’t want.  

  • I did not want them to be another fluffy giant collie dog. Yeah, hard no. Thanks. 
  • I didn’t want a Lycanthrope virus, or again various were-animals (even though one series that Cass has, features these things and are a favourite of mine; Hi Kate and Curran, miss you, sorry about your last outing). For me, those things always felt off.  
  • I like my regular werewolves to be monsters, not wolves. Think more like American Werewolf in London or the UK version of Being Human. Also, in this book they are a species. They are not some bitten human. A species. That means parents, reproduction, children. Circle of life Simba.  
  • I also wanted to do something slightly different with the moon, or their reaction to its phases I should say. The trope of the out of control monster at full moon works well in the right setting. But not really in the modern world, not with them being a species, and not with a large number of other species.

So… yes monster, but not out of control monster? 

Also…. werewolf. They are not wolves. They are their own thing. A species of one of the 12 families. So, Shifters.  

Decent start, then Cass over lunch, was…. Yeah, but. Yeah…. But I need more species. If this family only has the core werewolf (not called that, but still) and no other… we are going to have an empty magical community.  

Oooooooooo kaaaaay, thanks Honey! 

So, what to do? I don’t want were-bunnies, were-chipmucks, were fluffy anything else… but Cass makes a good point (it’s her book and she wants it – no, that isn’t what she said, mostly). Ok, so….. some other races, while still sticking to my likes/dislikes. You know what? I’m gonna come back to that (Boom! That is a demonstration of a decade of marriage right there!). 

So… back to Shifters. One form Human, one form monster (four legged, big, scary, eat your face).  

A quick segue: You know people, right? They have lots going on. Whether you are 16 or 60 you have things going on. Probably. In fiction, a lot of the races ARE. THAT. THING.  That’s what they have going on. Being the thing that they are. Yeah… it’s like any bad character, whose main personality traits are what they are. Bores me silly. Yeah, be what you are, but have some depth. Be interested in other things. Have motivations. Have connections and bonds. Things and people you will fight for, or fight against. Things you are not interested in. And for this group being a ‘shifter’ is not a motivation or description of character.  

I decided that shifters have two main things about them (their basis before you build other character traits on top), I called these ‘Aspect’ and ‘State’.  Aspect represents the collective nature of your clan (Shifters have clan rather than packs, cos, you know, they’re not wolves). Aspects I would tie, at least in name, to the phases of the moon, also representing an aggression and strength scale. But also have it directly affecting short term vs long term thinking/planning and the approach to children. In other words, a Clan under attack may change aspects to a more aggressive focus, but that might be detrimental to the long term future of a clan if they stay in that aspect to long.  

State is all about your internal headspace as it is reflected in both your shifting, your position in a clan or even whether you are part of a clan. It also is where mental illness would show up, and the Predators live.  

I detail up the rest of the key points about state and aspect. How they can change over time, what that means. How those things affect relationships, whether they be close relationships or others in a broader community. Happy Dance, done! 

And…. No, not yet. More species, but no fluffies. A nice straight forward set of rules for them. Rules that fit everything for the ‘human shifters’ but now apply more broadly. Clear definitions how to create them, so Cass can insert whatever is needed and still be true to the ‘lore’. Now we are done.  

Also, just for fun I worked out how long you have to run an average nuclear power station for the energy equivalence of 1lb of mass. Just in case Cass wants shifters to get BIG. Einstein hates me, but hard magic doesn’t.   


Next Time: Reworking Families