Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy discussion

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General Discussion > Shifters vs. Weres

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message 1: by Nichole (DirrtyH) (last edited Jan 21, 2009 07:51AM) (new)

Nichole (DirrtyH) (dirtyh) Just wondering what you guys think about the difference between shifters and weres. After reading Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson series, I felt like there was definitely a difference, which is well explained in those books. But since then I've read a lot of books where the two seem interchangable; i.e. a were is a shifter, and vice versa. It's just another word.

What do you guys think? Is there a difference, or are they pretty much the same thing? This might be different depending on the books you're reading, but which theory do you prefer?


message 2: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (TeresaDAmario) | 95 comments There is no difference, in my opinion, just terminology. Were is an old reference, dating back to the middle ages. Shifter is new - it's something several authors tend to use for "Non wolf" shifters in the stories. In my own work, I refuse to use the term were... to me, it's got too much negative connotation to be considered sexy. Like Vampire. Surely there's another word for that out there. Like oh,,, Carpathians. LOL I liked that one!

But I no longer read Keri Arthur books (Personal preference - I'm not so much into UF, I much prefer romance) so I have no idea where she is going in the differences.

Some authors use were for all of the shifters, reserving the term shift to describe the process as opposed to a title.

That being said, I don't disregard a book just because they use the term were. It's all good for me. :) Just give me that animalistic heat, and I'm happy!


message 3: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (TeresaDAmario) | 95 comments btw, the word WERE in conjunction with wolf means MAN Wolf... so were is technically correct.




message 4: by Nichole (DirrtyH) (last edited Jan 21, 2009 08:26AM) (new)

Nichole (DirrtyH) (dirtyh) In Keri Arthur's world, weres are creatures that change with the moon; for the three days of the full moon, they always change to their animal form. They're a lot more sexual and more "pack" driven.
Shifters are not bound by the changes of the moon, are less sexual (just a teeny bit... maybe just less open about it) and less connected to their pack. They're a little bit more "human". The weres (which can be werewolves, werecats, werefoxes, etc.) and the shifters (which can also be any animal) both kind of look down on each other, thinking they're a more superior race.

I actually like this differentiation; it creates more variety within the genre. Particularly in the Riley Jenson books, it's interesting to see the dynamic between Riley, a werewolf, and.. crap, I can't remember his name. But she works with a guy that's a wolf shifter, and there's an attraction between them but he could never be her "soul mate" because he's a shifter, not a were.


message 5: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (TeresaDAmario) | 95 comments Ahh I see! I think I know who you are talking about. I read 4 of the first 5 of her books on that series. (I Skipped #4, and jumped to #5, expecting it to be the end of the series, and then quit reading, since I never liked how she ended each book).

It does make things interesting, doesn't it?



Nichole (DirrtyH) (dirtyh) Well, I found that I really liked the way she explained the difference, and now I get annoyed when other authors use the terms interchangably, lol. I know it's not real (gasp), so there's no right or wrong way to imagine it and it may be kind of dumb for me to care. :)
But I wanted to get some other opinions on the issue.

Also, Teresa, I had a hard time with the Riley Jenson series at first, too, but I found that they got better and better. Though I really liked books 5 and 6 (book 3 was kind of a dud), so if you didn't like #5 it may just not be for you.
Though book 5 is the one with no Quinn, and he does come back in book 6 and things get interesting for him and Riley. :)



message 7: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (TeresaDAmario) | 95 comments I didn't like the end of 5. Originally 5 was to be the end of the series,,, and that's what it was when I read it (according ot her website) so I was looking for some conclusion. But the ending (which I shall not mention for those who havne't read it) left me staring at the book for a long time going "NO! I can't believe that is what i waited for." So I quit reading it. I'm a pure romancer at heart when it comes to paranarmal i think. I can read thrillers and i can read mysteries, but for some reason when I hit paranormal I expect a good, solid romance, and UF doens't fit that category.

The only UF I like is the new Lori Handeland, and Jenna Black's. The rest just don't hold my attention long enough to get into the series.


message 8: by new_user (new)

new_user | 1389 comments Hm, I've seen "shifter" and "were" used interchangeably, and I use them that way in discussion. So sometimes I'll say were and sometimes shifter where it's more convenient, e.g. dragon shifter. I have shelves for a bunch of weres ("werehawk," etc.)

I've never seen an author write them as two different species. I think Keri Arthur must be one of a few. I'm generally kind of leery of the idea of including both species because it feels to me like the author just couldn't choose, but the way you're describing it, it sounds like she just chose a familiar word to differentiate between two similar but separate peoples. Her distinction is important: one group is closer to their beasts than the other. So I don't think I'd mind there.

In fact, "were" to me does have that connotation. I automatically think of something sort of animalistic or tempermental, since I usually see it used in that context, whereas the image that springs to mind for "shifter" might be less visceral, more human, calm and deliberate. Even though I've seen exceptions to both these rules, e.g. historicals where "werewolf" just describes a curse and the wolf barely sees the spotlight or instances where shifters are very passionate, aggressive, etc.


message 9: by mlady_rebecca (new)

mlady_rebecca | 75 comments I always considered shifters a more general term. In other words, all weres are shifters, but not all shifters are weres. For the most part, weres tend to be tied to the moon in some way. At least in the fictional universes I frequent.

There are both shifters (Sam) and weres (Quinn et al) in Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series.

Laurell K. Hamilton's lycanthropes are weres, but she has talked about non-were shifters in "The Lunatic Cafe" - the witches that used animal skins to shift.

I've never read Keri Arthur.


message 10: by new_user (new)

new_user | 1389 comments That's a good point, Rebecca, about their reaction to the moon phases. I see that more commonly with weres, rather than shifters, who often shift as a result of "magic" or some kind of mysticism, whereas weres have a beast half, etc.


DarkHeart "Vehngeance" (darkheart) | 737 comments I think I have a Keri Arthur book in my TBR pile, but I haven't made it around to reading it yet. I definitely will though. The only author I've read that differentiates between the two, although not in the same series, is Lori Handeland. In her Nightcreatures series, Blue Moon etc., the focus is on weres - and werewolves specifically - which fall prey to the normally assumed restrictions. However, in her new series, Doomsday Can Wait, one of the main characters is a shifter. He has the ability to take on the form of any of the animals tattooed on his body. He doesn't seem to have any restrictions on time of day or phase of the moon.


message 12: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Hendrix (lisahendrix) | 57 comments I use the term were when I refer to the heroes of the Immortal Brotherhood. Werewulf first appears in late Old English, with the first part usually identified as coming from the Old English wer for man. Since my werebeasts originate in that era, it seems natural to use that terminology, even though so far, I haven't used it *in* the books.

Also, shifter seems like a term for a creature who has a choice whether to be man or not, who can shift at will. Were carries the old connotation of curse, or a forced change against one's will. That's definitely the case for my guys, only one of whom is a wolf, btw. The series will have a werebear, a wereeagle, a wereraven, a werelion, a werestallion, and so on (nine all together), and not one of them has any control over his form. And it *hurts* to change, both directions, every dawn and dusk. I'm a mean creator...



message 13: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (TeresaDAmario) | 95 comments But Lisa, we already knew you were mean. LOL. I just didn't wanna torture every time they did a shift. I was more into the enjoying the experience of being something we humans shall never be - a pure animal - in all it's implications. The love of the hunt, the chase, the joy of being out of doors, the fascination with scent, and of course the down sides. The unable to do things without thumbs. Getting stuck without any clothes after a shift, and having to avoid being seen by humans and getting stuck in zoos.

Not to mention the things the females go through - like heat cycles, plus the affect it has on the males around them. Oops. I think I'm just mean in a different way now that I look at it closer. Maybe shifting isn't such a great thing to do after all. LOL.


message 14: by Ann aka Iftcan (new)

Ann aka Iftcan (iftcan) | 2659 comments Mod
Another author who seems to use the 2 terms differently is Patricia Briggs in her Mercy Thompson series. Mercy calls herself either a Skinwalker (altho she is careful to point out that she doesn't meet the technical defination for skinwalker--which is evil magic) or shifter. And her weres all seem to be wolves.

And Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire (aka Sookie Stackhouse) novels, the were/shifter seems to be the choice of the people in question. Appearantly, in that universe its only the BIG shifters (wolves, tigers, panthers, etc) that are were's and the smaller ones (lynx, owl, bat, etc) are shifters. Sam (Sookie's boss) calls himself a shifter, but unlike all the OTHER shifter/were's in the book, he seems to be a "true" shifter, in that he picks what animal he's going to change to, rather than having it determined by his genes.

I'm STILL waiting for an explaination of Sam's abilities.

Um, ok, didn't mean to write a novel here. But that's what i've observed so far, where people use both terms in their books



message 15: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Hendrix (lisahendrix) | 57 comments Teresa said:
I just didn't wanna torture every time they did a shift. I was more into the enjoying the experience of being something we humans shall never be - a pure animal - in all it's implications. The love of the hunt, the chase, the joy of being out of doors, the fascination with scent...

But all that's assuming the person is still aware, and able to enjoy themselves inside the beast (which was how you built your world, of course). In traditional werewolf stories, they never were. They were animal, just like Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter stories, actually becoming the animal and unable even to control the beast, much less enjoy occupying it. It's only more recent stories, in the modern shifter vein, that have the human still in control inside the beast's form.

Anyway, my guys were cursed out of vengeance, and no sorceress worth her gift would ever leave someone she cursed with a fun gift to play with. She'd make them squirm for the ages.


message 16: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (TeresaDAmario) | 95 comments Very true, Lisa. I actually like it when they are still themselves, only slightly more driven by instinct.. but for their "normal selves", they are more driven than humans naturally.

But again, it depends on the world. I've read some where they were a combination - they could control some of their actions and not all. I've read where they couldn't control anything.

I think, though, each other does it slightly different, and that is what makes it so awesome. The freedom experienced in the paranormal genre in general is great.

I watched a special on "werewolves" and I learned that it wasn't until then the "rumor" that silver killed them was created. I had thought that was much older.

A very fascinating special of which I only saw the last 30 minutes of.


message 17: by new_user (new)

new_user | 1389 comments That's pretty interesting, Teresa. That sounds like the kind of documentary I'd watch, LOL. You all raise an interesting point. That's another question that paranormal authors have to answer in their worlds: the question of agency, choice, for their characters. Do they want the change to be voluntary or not, the instincts to be consuming or not, and so on. I have my own preferences, but it's certainly interesting to see the different varieties.


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