I know! I know! Paranormal romance isn’t all about reality, but when you’re creating a paranormal world—you think of weird things. You have…concerns.
The first quandary I have when I start a new world is how I will deal with their clothes. Seriously. That’s my very first detail to work out. Do the clothes shift with them? Do they bust out of their clothing and go through a wardrobe of clothes? If they do destroy the clothing they have on, will they wind up somewhere naked? It takes something out of the sexy momentum when your tux-wearing hero shifter ends up hiding in bushes at a party after he wolfed out. And, sure, maybe they’ll undress some of the time, but in an emergency—you’ve hit the climax—and clothing is a casualty because all hell has broken loose. But, that’s not the only thing jiggling loose, if you know what I mean. The awkward could be high. Sure, some heroes and heroines could pull it off with panache, but they’d still be starkers.
Then, there’s the shift itself. No matter how many times I write shifters, I always think, “How would it really work?” There’s the Hollywood shift where the hair grows in slow-mo as the bones twist and enlarge. There are stages as one or the other form recedes. Human to hairy human and then to upright human-wolf followed by some mixture of wolf and human. How far does it go? To full creature? Full-wolf or bear or whatever? Would it be loud or quiet? Fast or slow? I vary it up in different worlds, but I figure I might as well embrace the magic and assume the definition of paranormal invites interpretation of what’s possible. I get a little contrary with my inner voice and yell, “Don’t blind me with your science!”
In my stories, I typically go with same-size shifters—roughly. A 180 lb. human male transforms to a giant wolf. I don’t have a human shrinking into a bunny. But I’ve read some hysterical bunny shifter books. I think if you go really far outside the size ratio, you also have to shrug off reality and hog-tie your high school biology student inner monologue. Go big if you go small.
But the hair growth is hard for me to rationalize. It is. Their follicles go nuts and BOOM wolf! Then, the hair gets sucked back in and they’re back. I’m curious if they’d have that human moment when you discover a ridiculously long eyebrow hair and you’re both repulsed and fascinated. Or maybe that’s just me. Just me? coughs Okay. Anyway… So, would they have to shave more often due to the frequent follicle stimulation? Is male-pattern baldness ever a problem? Would they shed? “Baby, there’s a wolf hair in my food and I think it’s your turn to snake the shower drain.”
What happens to my shifter heroine’s hair if she’s got an updo? Honestly, how much would that suck? You’ve curled your hair, swept it up into the perfect French twist, and you’ve threaded pearls through it. Gorgeous! But, villains crash the ball and suddenly you’ve got twigs instead of pearls. Not to mention you’ve lost your antique onyx comb in the bushes where you tore up your enemy’s furry hide. Those bastards. Also, I have thigh-length hair. Would the hair on top of my head recede while the rest grew if I shifted? Wow, that’s a weird image if it didn’t.
This conjecture is sort of where “Past My Defenses” originated from. One day, I was on Twitter tossing around ridiculous problems for a werewolf to have and I said, “You know what would be hilarious? An allergic shifter who is allergic to other animals.” And then I called dibs because it was awesomely funny, and I’ve got an intimate relationship with histamine reactions. This was the ultimate “writing what you know.” (Half my heroine’s allergies are also mine.) (Including marshmallows.)
I’ll admit, I’m a little overzealous about rules, but I also know that at least some of the readers out there got all up in Meyer’s face about Bella’s time of the month and Edward’s reaction to her blood. If she could get pregnant…well, let’s just say I saw people nit-picking on that point. Also, don’t tell me you’ve never watched a werewolf transform on TV and snorted while saying, “That’s so fake.” The physical world and our expectations for it—intrude. Or they do for me. Please tell me I’m not the only one. I can’t be.
Answer in the comments where you get hung up on reality the tiniest bit when it comes to paranormal romance. Don’t leave me hanging, peeps…like a naked human who’s shifted into a cougar and left a torn bra on the forest floor when she shifts back. Which is to say, sometimes we all need a little support, so comment.
After a childhood spent wandering as a military brat, Wendy Sparrow finally found her home in Washington State. She spends her days trying to convince her two kids she actually knows how to properly parent and her nights showing her husband all the cool things romance authors know. She’s active in the OCD and autism communities and writes on her blog to support awareness in both. With her whole heart, Wendy believes in happily-ever-afters and that everyone deserves one. If she’s not writing or wrangling kids, she’s on Twitter, where she’ll chat with anyone about anything.