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Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Shifter" by Paul Eckheart

First appeared in WotF 30. Author website.

This tale plays with the familiar trope of body possession except the protagonist, Fat Reggie, does it by drawing the details in as best "he" can from memory.  Cops are pursuing Reggie in regards to his twin brother, Georgie, but Fat Reggie draws himself skinnier so that the police don't recognize him.  (It turns out they're looking for a trophy, I think, although I'm not sure why they'd involve themselves in that.)

A policewoman named Detective Palmer fascinates him, so he grabs her wrist.  When she's gone, he draws and becomes his memory of her.  Not knowing her first name  (Janet, but he doesn't learn her first name until later), he--now "she"--names herself Trisha.

She investigates her twin brother (who, like their father, can also change shape). He's abandoned the family and taken their life savings with him.  But she's not quite up to her brother's cruelty, who ties her up, shoves her in a room and leaves her nothing to write with.  She has to transform into someone harder, someone who can beat her brother, but she doesn't want to stay that way.

A strong entry.  This treats the idea of identity and/or gender as fluid constructs.  We choose what we make ourselves.  Even if you feel pretty solid in who you are, times we have to adjust who we are to such circumstances, which this tale addresses.

The emotion naming is an occasional problem here.  Acceptable:
"She tries to pull away, but she looks at Reggie, at his tumor, and pity fills her face."
Here Reggie is reading her, observing (although you could ask how pity fills a face).  Some writers might advise still writing the emotion out.  However, it shouldn't pull you out of the story
"Trisha felt stubbornness creep into her face."
Two problems:  1) I can't imagine how stubbornness creeps into face nor how you'd feel it. 2) It's unnecessary. The dialogue renders the same emotion a line or two below.  If it's just to help space the dialogue for pauses, then it's better done with an action.

The emotion-description isn't heavy-handed, so few will notice.  I just wanted to explain my meaning.

Eckheart displays his talent here and may soon be a writer to watch.  The tools appear to be in place.

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