Morphing: In books and real life

animorphsMorphing characters (not to be confused with morphling which I learned is a powerful painkiller) seems so easy to do. A character begins as one person and turns into someone or something else. There is a popular MG series based on this concept called Animorphs.

In real life, however, morphing is not so simple. I have two children that are morphing into something new at this graduation time.

Sixth grade graduation
Sixth grade graduation

My sixth grader will be entering junior high next year. It always amazes me how much change happens in a tween’s life as they move from elementary school to junior high. Some of the changes are great. Others not so much.

Second of all, my oldest is graduating from high school and moving onto college. It’s a big change that is laden with many bittersweet emotions–excitement, regret, hope, worry, etc. She’s going to be moving out on her own, which is going to be so awesome for her, but she is so much fun and responsible that I am really going to miss her.

Senior Grad announcement.
Senior Grad announcement


In writing, when we morph a character into something else, the idea is that the transition needs to be seamless. Sometimes the morphing takes a while, like a person slowly becomes someone else over time. An example of this is in the classic book, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Other times, the character morphs abruptly like going from a teenage boy into a werewolf. I’m sure you all know a book or two where this happens. If not, ask yourself where you’ve been for the last ten years. 🙂

Regardless, to make a seamless transition there needs to be preparation, build up, and a clear explanation of how it happens. If not, it doesn’t sit well with your reader.

My husband and I were listening to an audio book once when, at the very end of the story, the author had written herself into a corner. So what did she do? The main character all of a sudden realized she had ESP and talked to the mind of another character to get out of the climatic problem.


Just as I have tried to prepare my real children, build them up, and explain (as best I could) what the new stage of their lives will bring, we can do the same with our characters, only we have a lot more control (which, let’s be honest, is really nice sometimes.)

7 thoughts on “Morphing: In books and real life

  1. You hit on one of my favorite aspects of literature–watching a character grow and change. (In Tween lit, hopefully that’s toward maturity.) Yes, I love making that happen. If only it were so easy with our children. Congratulations, mom!

  2. I can sympathize with this on many levels as my youngest is graduating high school this coming weekend. The experience is bittersweet because, while we’re proud of their accomplishments and anticipating their transition into adulthood, we also lament the passing of the carefree days of childhood and the realization that we, ourselves, are not getting any younger!

    Characters need to grow and change in order to be interesting. We have no patience for real people in our lives who refuse to learn from their mistakes, why would we have patience for fictional characters who do the same?

    Great post, Lois!

  3. Interesting post, Lois. Best of everything to both your kids on the next stage of their journey. These days will possibly hold lots of drama, but will be gone in a flash, so enjoy all of it that you can.

  4. EXCELLENT point! It drives me nuts when a character switches faces too quickly. It’s like the old no-no deus ex machina, where something completely unrelated to the story comes in and saves the day. It’s much more satisfying when the character makes the change with a bit of resistance.

  5. We are watching our “baby” graduate from high school this year as well. My husband and I will become empty nesters. That realization necessarily means change for my son as well as my husband and I. I enjoy looking at my characters and having them go through change, but just as rewarding, is seeing how the supporting characters are impacted. At times, their change produces fun twists a writer can exploit, making the narrative richer for the reader.

  6. Great post, Lois! Change is certainly a process for not only parents and their children, but for our characters too! Wishing your children all the success in the world. Seems like they’re off to a good start!

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