How to write a shift-shaper without being repetitive and obnoxious about what form it is in?

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The Second Moon

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So I have two shift-shaper non-POV characters in one of my WIPs. One of them can only turn into red animals and the other only yellow animals. They don't have a form they prefer over another.

When I'm writing them, I find myself saying something like "She turned into a baboon." and then a few pages or paragraphs later, saying. "She patted the seat next to her with her hairy baboon hands."

I feel like I'm being a little too repetitive and obnoxious about mentioning their current form. I know I should trust the reader to remember what form the shift-shapers are in, but I can't help but find myself doing it. Any tips?
 

Brightdreamer

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A few pages later definitely isn't too soon to bring up the shape again, though you could probably drop the "baboon" from the "hairy baboon hands" (unless you're writing for a younger audience, for whom the word itself is fun enough to warrant inclusion.) The character isn't human, after all, and that's going to affect how they interact with their environment and each other; there's nothing wrong with mentioning it now and again.

As for tips on writing shapeshifters, perhaps my favorite fictional shapeshifter is the djinn Bartimaeus in the Bartimaeus trilogy; you might read that to see how Jonathan Stroud handles it (and because it's a darned good trilogy.) Another MG title would be the Animorphs series by K. A. Applegate, if you haven't read that one. The characters' perception of the world changes when they shapeshift, and the animal bodies often come with animal brains and instincts that can be difficult for a human mind to control.
 

ChaseJxyz

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Usually I'll just describe an action that can only be done in their current shape. A bird can't run their hands through their hair (since they have neither) and a human can't shuffle nervously on their perch (maybe they could, if they were REALLY good at balancing, but you get what I mean).
 

Z0Marley

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So I have two shift-shaper non-POV characters in one of my WIPs. One of them can only turn into red animals and the other only yellow animals. They don't have a form they prefer over another.

When I'm writing them, I find myself saying something like "She turned into a baboon." and then a few pages or paragraphs later, saying. "She patted the seat next to her with her hairy baboon hands."

I feel like I'm being a little too repetitive and obnoxious about mentioning their current form. I know I should trust the reader to remember what form the shift-shapers are in, but I can't help but find myself doing it. Any tips?

I don't think a few pages is too soon, and I don't think it matters if you bring it up often in different, unique ways without saying baboon. For example:

Her black hands, more long and slender than her human form, patted the seat next to her.

Upset and hissing, she bared her fanged teeth.

She didn't react. Her round eyes started back, blankly, as if changing forms slowed her wit.
 
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Astropolis

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My take on this is that the readers are pretty savvy and will get what's happened from minimal clues. In "Tom Twine" where the title character is an alien shape shifter usually disguised as a modern schoolkid I said "A tree was moving sideways in suspicious circumstances" Nobody had any problem in spotting that Tom has disguised himself as a tree.
 

Roxxsmom

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I don't think the hairy baboon hands are a bad thing to mention in that situation. If it's something she would notice about her hands when she is in that shape, then why not?

Now if she's a baboon so often it's second nature to her, then it might feel more forced. After all, I don't normally think "gee, I'm typing with my bald, knobby human hands" unless something makes me think about them.
 

Famoustapu

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I think dropping the baboon would do it. You can mention it again but not in another paragraph or so perhaps.
 

frimble3

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Or, mention it when whatever she's doing would be affected by her current shape.
In baboon shape, she'd probably have to stand on the seat to reach the cord you pull to indicate you want to get off.
In human shape, it's tricky to use your feet to grasp things.
 

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