Thursday, April 8, 2010

What makes a good werewolf story?

Location and Legend!

I’m writing an erotic horror novella dealing with werewolves. It came to my mind as I wrote a werewolf story that this subject never seems to run out of steam. It’s like zombies and vampires, except that both of them are undead. A werewolf is technically man and beast.

This concept compels me even more.

The animal side of man has the needs to eat, sleep, drink, seek protection from the elements and mate. In his human state and being reasonable and with conscience, he gets a job to pay for the things he needs, finds someone to marry, decides how many children to create, what to eat for supper.

The werewolf, however, has these needs and has no conscience about gaining them by killing, stealing and raping.

Like the “is Bigfoot man or ape?” dilemma, we have to wonder; is a werewolf more wolf or more man? It walks on two feet but it looks like a wolf. Hmm… Which takes precedence for him?

They are most often portrayed as more wolf than man. There is a man host and it walks on two legs, but all else man-like qualities are overridden by the wolf. What if a werewolf were portrayed as having a conscience? Showing intelligence? Or able to hold out on instant gratification?

A good and inventive werewolf story should give us an element we haven’t seen yet.

For my novel, I used the angle of Scottish Pagans settling a mountaintop in West Virginia in the early 1800s, choosing the location because the rock within the mountain; limestone, quartz, and granite; all ideal for enhancing their magic. But, what happened if someone got bit by a wolf in the woods seeped with centuries of spellbinding amplified by the rock?

Sound familiar? Yes! I use a lot of my ghost hunting theories in my writing. I’ve often associated good geology with haunted locations, as in my haunted formula I invented last summer.

Now, my story has a new element—magic and there becomes an issue of magical woods becoming corrupted by this beast that’s killing within, shedding blood on the stones and forever changing the rock’s magic steeped by the clans.

I’ve established a location; the magical thicket and a legend about how the wolf came to be. If I do a good job tying those two important features together with atmosphere and gore, I've achieved the right balance.

Location and legend appear to be the two elements most critical to a good wolf story. A werewolf is an amazingly hard to believe creature, but if you were to drop him in the city where a wild animal wouldn’t normally be, you’ve now asked the audience to suspend their belief system two times over. (Remember when they did a movie putting “Predator” in the city—godawful! Or when they brought the dinosaurs from to our shores in the second “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” installment?) I’m not cool with city werewolves, though I’m sure it could be done in an interesting urban way, it just doesn’t scare me to think of a wolf running around with pushers and pimps, robbers and prostitutes. There’s no contrast between evil and evil-er.

I admittedly liked certain werewolf movies purely for location, such as “The Howling” with the camp in the California mountains that leant itself to the concept of a commune of wolf-people. The wolf itself looked rather comical and tazmanian-devilish, but the location was prime! I also enjoyed “The Howling V” but that was because it took place in a castle. Not a bad location to lock up a wolf and let him feast in the corridors and hidden rooms. Ultimately, the woods are the wolf’s domain. Part of what scares us the most about werewolf stories is that people feel vulnerable in the woods to predators, but to have one that can run on two feet and is powerful—that’s really frightening. You’re in his territory, no help available, and he’s giving chase.

The legend of the werewolf is critical too. “Blood and Chocolate” did a neat job of giving us some background on a culture of people/wolves. Too many werewolf stories and movies have a simple bite turning into a full-moon maniac scenario. It has no cultural or mythological basis to seep it in generations of fear and cult-like fervor. We really want to believe this is possible and we really need the cult and the legend to mystify it for us.

It’s the loss of humanity in a werewolf who still looks rather human and sometimes by daylight is still human, that truly fascinates us. The werewolf is the conscienceless Michael Meyers but with teeth instead of a knife and actually more feasible than a dude who can’t be killed but is mortal…(never understood that one)

When going to movie form, I admit that I prefer my werewolf to mechanically transform. If you have to show full-frontal morphing, please do it like “An American Werewolf in London.” It should look organic and technically difficult. If a moviemaker wants to CGI the transformation, they’ve lost me. It’s too smooth and slick and too cartoonish. I want to hear agony and crunching and cracking sounds. To grow a snout—it can’t be easy.

I believe it comes down to the cult and legend of the werewolf and the location in which he is let loose to prowl that ultimately make the werewolf story.

Oh, and another thing, forget the full moon bullshit. I don’t want my werewolf coming out once every month!


  1. I am intrigued. I love werewolves. Wolves are primal, they hunt in groups but they have a unique sense of identity. They mate for life, and that makes them better than so many humans.
    I hope it gets published, it sounds so much better than the usual werewolves stories.
    Love and light.

  2. Well, Georginia if you like a lot of sex in your stories--you'll enjoy it. It's an erotic novella so it's a combination of the beast theme/horror and romance/sex. I love combining sex and horror and I'm frustrated that so few do it, other than those bad horror movies with teens having sex--that's hardly putting them together in a story--they're just incidental. The clans had an erotic form of paganism which is why they left and found this place in America with the right elements. The rocks are charged by sexual encounters and magic and it's a powerful mating experience that does make them mate for life--just like the wolf.

  3. I think thats cool. Good luck in your efforts. You might look at some of the legends of the "Melungeons". Some believe that the name comes from "melun can" meaning damned soul ....eeewwwww.

    Lots of interesting stuff in the Melungeon legends.

  4. Barry;
    I love that legend. I wrote a post about it--you might get a kick out of it...

  5. Love the idea Autumnforest - and really enjoyed the comments !!!!!!
    I had forgot all about the "Melungeons" - there is something so incredibly erotic about the half man- half beast in the werewolf idea - it really seems to fire up a lot of imaginations ( i know it does me:-)
    I can't wait to read your work on this idea - I made a mistake about two months ago - I bought a book off Amazon about a gay werewolf named "Devin Grant" who was trying to start up his own pack of outcasts - part of the problem with this book is setting a lot of the story up in a city- you couldnt be more right to me anyway- it just takes away so much mystique in a city setting - I very much agree with you about "The Howling" also - I very much agree with greekwitch - I absolutely KNOW whatever your ideas on a werewolf story will be hugely better than many I've read- I didn't even finish the "Devin Grant" werewolf book -I very much will be hoping it gets published also - there is nothing like erotica and horror to me - kind of eros and pathos -altho I don't think "pathos" is the right word I am searching for -love to you and yours always!!!!!!!!!

  6. I've found the werewolf legends interesting for a long time. I've wondered before if legends are just the result of hysteria or if medieval Europeans saw something like a bigfoot and attributed it to being wolf-like because they were more familiar with wolves than apes. There are similarities, but I don't think werewolf and bigfoot stories match up exactly. Werewolves are typically thought of as being very aggressive, and most of the bigfoot stories I have read describe a creature that is intimidating, but usually not overly aggressive. Definitely a mysterious subject though!

  7. Dev;
    Finding the right werewolf story is actually tough. Some are just all about mindless violence and others are about tormented souls. There was one godawful movie I got recently because it was listed as erotic werewolf called "Big Bad Wolf" and jeez--it was not erotic and was actually comical.

    I think since the times of stories of the Minotaur, people have wondered what would happen if the animal side of our personalities took over. The only legitimate way we could conceive of it was to be part animal in true. But, in fact, folks like Gacy and Ed Gein shows us that it's possible to let the animal side take over without conscience.

  8. Your post reminds me of two episodes:

    In my childhood I saw at a circus someone who was half human and half beast. It gave me nightmares for some time.

    And then, in later years, several times on the street, I came upon someone who looked more like an ape only on two legs and without a tail. I couldn't asess his age but he was smoking so he was probably no child. He was accompanied by an adult who could be his father or his brother. I understood from a passer-by that the ape-guy belonged to some circus and that he was on vacation at his family's home. People were staring at him, making remarks, and he seemed used to this kind of behavior.

  9. Duta;
    Yes! There are those with the genes that make them grow hair all over and they usually end up in circuses for jobs. "Monkey boys" they're usually billed as. I find it fascinating to imagine how one would integrate a wolf and human. Many werewolves I've seen just aren't quite right-looking. I think some time, I'd like to try and paint what I see a werewolf looking like. I'd like to do a series of my versions of monsters. Perhaps I'll begin sketching that out this weekend. I feel inspired now after talking about them.

  10. My 1st book, Beneath the Morvan Moon, was a werewolf one set in France. I picked France because their werewolf tales are so different from ours. As you put it, there's none of that "full moon bullshit." They had real life lyncanthropy cases and I based my werewolf on those. Instead of being bitten, you have to cut yourself with the blade that slay the werewolf, then wrap your hand in the cloak made of the wolf's skin. (Wolfskin cloaks and also ointments are the more common ways French folklore told that transformations could be made. Maybe you could make a mini one to go with your shorts?)

  11. Court--you gotta write more of those! We need more werewolf substance out there!

  12. …. gasp! .… I absofuckinglutely love that werewolf yarn, Blood & Chocolate, primarily because, unlike the folklore that has informed us, it veers off into a different conceit; werewolves are BORN, not made. Nice twist, that, ay?

    Other 'an 'at, recently I wuzz broken-hearted upion finding an account of a McNab dog, Robi, who wuzz seized, killed, and consumed by wolves, and just outside her back door at that. I would do whatever it took to keep ordinary lupines or Lycans away from my belovéd animals & family. What? Where am I?

    I expect nothing but the best from you, Sha', werewolf fiction or new advances in parapsychology. Your elfin bro ~ (•8-D

  13. Anadae;
    My dear sweet brother! I hope to make you proud with my Pagan rendition of werewolves and erotica. :-)

  14. Oh and Autumn,

    Don't forget about me when you get published. I like to do book reviews (evil grin)

    In fact, I'm doing a book giveaway this month.

    So remember me when you get published. A couple to give away would be nice!

  15. Hey Barry;
    Sounds good to me. I've got a lot novels lined up and waiting to be dropped off for consideration--fingers crossed. I have confidence that when I want something, I'll get it, so I'm looking forward to signing some of those and shooting them your way!

  16. There is something about a werewolf that has seething, strong sexual undertones. Even more so than a vampire. I love the idea for your novella! Of course being a Highlander myself might have something to do with it. Something about Scottish clans, the Highlands, and werewolves just seems to click. Much of Western Virginia and West Virginia is very, very similar to Scotland.

    BTW, one of my favorite werewolf movies of all time is "Dog Soldiers." Of course it takes place in the remote Highlands of Scotland. Hmmm.......

  17. Rowan;
    Don't you know it! I'm a Fraser myself. Dad was from Norway, mom was Scottish. The fights that used to ensue during Xmas! We ended up doing Norwegian Xmases and my mother would roll her eyes and complain about the godawful smorgasbord foods and what barbarians the Norse were--invading her country! You'd think it happened during her childhood or something! She grew up in WV and there was a pretty good Scottish community there. That's what got me going with this idea. I know the exact location very very well and so describing it was easy. I love that countryside. "Dog Soldiers" was a fav just for the location, admittedly. Anyone will tell you, I'm a freak for the "Highlander" TV series, but that might also be because Adrian Paul plays it so hot! Some time when I'm editing, I'll no doubt throw a scene from the novel onto the blog. I do that from time to time to test the audience. I'm trying to capture the romance of the woods, these private clans and their customs, my theory on the power of the right geology, and the terror of the wolf haunting a background of high sensuality. It's a tightrope, all right.

  18. OMG!!
    You know the MacLeods are actually Viking Scots? Norway to the Highlands, mixing with the Celts, etc. I married a Norwegian who is the epitome of what it is to be Viking (and so is his whole family). We are both Aries as well. Talk about a mix! Our son is a scary mixture of barbarian/pagan hot blood. WOW! I can remember my Dad and I getting into some real knock-down-drag-out rounds during football season. My Mom would leave the house until the games were over. When you have this kind of bloodline, you just cannot help being this way. LOL!!

    Keep the stories coming!

  19. Hey Rowan;
    Yeah, my parents were quite the mix. Mother had the stoic Scottish personality and thrifty and didn't reveal her feelings. Dad was extremely demonstrative and passionate. I got his personality thankfully--very huggy and demonstrative. Got his bloodline's intelligence too. Got mom's Scottish thrifty side and my pagan tendencies. It's a great mix. Except, I married a German--very engineer-like and clinical. We're a regular Darma and Greg!

  20. I def love werewolf films. American werewolf in London and Howling are my favorite. I love how the wolves look in the Howling. I also like when they take it in another direction as in Ginger Snaps and even some action like Dog Soldiers.