Metamorphic Character YKTTW Discussion

Metamorphic Character
A character that is transformed several times in a story to progress plot or character development.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-03-28 17:28:40 sponsor: illegalcheese (last reply: 2013-03-30 13:24:35)

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Suggestions and examples please! Oh, and Do We Have This One?? (I can't find it if we do). Any ideas for cutting down on the somewhat lengthy description would be cool, too.

There are a multitude of ways a character may change his or her form. But surrounding the single instances of those changes is a narrative that alters itself and continues as the transformations unfold. A Metamorphic Character is forced to go through a series of these changes throughout the story, accompanied by a growth of some sort, either of character or plot.

Typically, these changes will be necessary for the character to continue a journey, and therefore to continue the story. In this case, "Metamorphic" means more than just the biological process--it is the unfolding of the narrative with successive physical changes. These changes can range from disfigurement to a total change in form, but are usually divided into multiple discrete stages that occur over time. A Metamorphic Character may go through several stages of recovery after a car crash, or may be turned into various animals at different stages of a journey to move along more efficiently. There will always be an aspect of change that is uncontrollable by the character. For instance, even if he or she can shapeshift, they will be forced to take on animal instincts along with the shape. Change is forced upon the character, and they will become someone or something new.

Metamorphic characters will often reflect on the changes that occurred, and a focus will be placed on a before-and-after comparison and on the details of the differences between the new form and the previous one. Because of this level of focus, a theme of Body Horror is not uncommon, especially if a Painful Transformation occured. Thinking hard about these changes at all is Squick inducing to most people. Being altered against our will in a visceral manner is a Primal Fear.

Sometimes, the story will see fit to change the character back to his original form at the end of the story. In these cases, a shift in personality will almost certainly have taken place; the character will still be a different person.

A variation is to have the changes be mental, instead of or along with being physical. For instance, gradual and successive memory loss may force a character to reevaluate himself or even become an entirely new person multiple times. Because of this, stories regarding Amnesia may be subject to this trope.

The cause of the change is often a Jerkass Genie, a Fisher Kingdom, or various generic magical beings or objects. The trope can pop up in works of Magical Realism, in which it is inexplicable, as a rule.

This trope will almost certainly overlap with any of the Shapeshifting tropes.

Examples Include:


  • There are many X-Men, such as Beast, whose mutations grow in stages and cause them to be more monstrous. A recurring theme is how individuals can become different enough to be alienated from society.
  • Peter Parker was bitten by the irradiated/genetically engineered spider in high school. The changes occured instantaneously and he spends some time getting used to them and coming to terms with...well, you know. Peter's powers are somewhat distinct in that they become generally more potent and are tied to his physical maturity. And of course, there's the Six Armed Saga.


  • Kafka's Metamorphosis--in which the 'protagonist' becomes bug of some kind. The transformation continues as he becomes more bug-like and he makes an effort to learn to live with it and cast off his old life as a breadwinner and family man.
  • Animorphs contains one of the most extensive instances of these tropes in fiction. Nearly 60 books and hundreds of transformations for each of the five protagonists, a major theme is of them learning to cope with the mental and physical transformations and the changes required of them to fight a full fledged guerilla war.
  • Alice in Wonderland's Alice undergoes a few transformations including growing, shrinking, and having her neck stretched out. This is a case of the transformations suiting the narrative instead of the character, as they are required for her to progress, but Alice herself has little character to speak of.
  • The Harry Potter series includes Voldemort. We see him as a young child, a handsome young man, then he becomes more snake like, splits his soul in seven and presumably becoming more monstrous, then he almost dies and becomes a wraith-like presence, he hitches a ride on another wizard and becomes a second face on the back of his head, then a spirit again, and then he is resurrected. The transformations are coupled with an increasing horror at what Voldemort is capable of going through.
  • Dil from Deepgate Codex abandons his body and goes to a spirit-like world. The spirit of another angel possesses his abandoned body and screws up royally, get his wings melted off in an acid rainstorm. Then Dil is captured by slavers and turned into something they could subjugate, torture, and mutilate for a very long amount of subjective time. Then Dil is stuck in the brain of a giant glass titan of sorts. Eventually he's able to make it out as a spirit and ends the series as such. Though he can possess other people now and live through them, and there's loads of deserving fodder for which he can do so, so he's better off than before. Dil becomes tougher and more able to weather emotional damage as the transformations took place.

Video Games

  • Sora from Kingdom Hearts undergoes various transitions that mark not only Character Development but also help him experience the actual flavor of the world. It also marks him as being able to fit in and adapt to just about everywhere. The transformations are typically last minute enchantments from Donald Duck to blend in on the new world, and none of them are 100% sure what they'll entail.
    • As a merman in Atlantica, Sora learns how to swim and how different worlds interact in more detail.
    • In Halloween Town he enjoys a darker side of life as a corpse-like vampire.
    • In the Pride Lands he is transformed into a lion cub and learns a lot about being regal and facing up to responsibilities that a lion king has to handle.
    • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, he undergoes a gradual loss of memory as he progresses through the game, gaining more powers and abilities via gameplay but losing more and more of himself.
    • In Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance he is shunted into a younger body and weakened in order to re-learn basic Keyblade wielding techniques.

Western Animation

  • Played for laughs in an episode of Futurama, when all the Planetary Express people were exposed to chroniton particles that caused them to de-age. Doctor Zoidberg regressed through multiple "larval" stages emulating several different aquatic species.
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