Part of the fun of writing shapeshifter stories is to inhabit the world of the shifter animal. In Wealth Whispers – the third in my shapeshifter trilogy – it’s bears. That is to say: werebears.
Werebears: Do Your Research
First thing to do when writing a shapeshifter story: read up on the animal.
As I’ve said many times, I love doing research. And I don’t shy away from reading books intended for children. You learn a lot quickly. I chose a National Geographic Kids book on bears.
I particularly enjoyed Grizzly Bears in California by Guy Nixon (Redcorn). The subtitle questions are instructive: Are there? Could there be? Should we? The Reintroduction Question.
Nixon’s Grizzly Bears (2016) has a wealth of information both historical and present-day. The illustrations are equally interesting and informative.
The existence of a reintroduction question assumes that grizzlies no longer inhabit the state.
Do I need to remind anyone that the grizzly is on the California state flag?
Another helpful book was The Adventures of James Capen Adams. Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter in California. This memoir recounts Adams’s adventures in the 1850s.
The most memorable passage from this book was Adams coming upon a mama bear and her two cubs playing and splashing in a stream.
Adams muses on the fact that never before has he seen “such a display of maternal love.” He follows up that fond observation with the remark, “It was almost a pity I had to shoot her.”
I will leave it to you to read Wealth Whispers to see what of my research I incorporated into my story.
Werebears: Pick and Choose
The second thing to do when writing a shapeshifter story: pick and choose what characteristics the werebear in its human form will have. And then decide how the blended creature will behave overall.
What I chose:
Werebears are uncommonly strong.
They have an unusually good sense of smell.
As blended creatures they have strong immunity against the viruses that plague the human population.
They are matriarchal. Mama Bears are not to be messed with.
They do not hibernate. Bears have a genetic adaptation to hibernate for six months without losing muscle mass and bone density. However, werebears have lost this adaptation. Rather, they slow down for a month during the winter without going into full hibernation.
Before starting this story, I had little idea about bears. Except that I knew that they existed in both California and Japan, which are my settings for Wealth Whispers. But as I read up on them, I fell in love with these wonderful creatures.
Spend a moment contemplating the Current and Historic range of bears worldwide.
See also: Money for Nothing and Werepanthers
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen