Story Worms: Writing Wolves
Werewolves are a horror staple, and have been around in folklore since the Middle Ages. They’re also a bit of a horror cliche.
From uncontrolled transformations under the full moon, to organised packs utilizing modern technology, they’ve adopted a few different guises over the years. But we’re still fascinated.
Maybe our love of werewolves comes from a desire to keep in touch with our animal instincts, a wish to break free from the expectations of human society. Or perhaps by a fear and revulsion of losing control, losing our sense of civilization and evolution.
My current work in progress is a werewolf story. I’ve never written werewolves before, and when I saw the call for submissions here on Horror Tree, I really fancied giving it a go.
I’ve gone for something very modern; urban fantasy. I’m always interested in how the fantastical gels with reality, and I’ve enjoyed reading urban fantasy over the years. There are always two ways to approach this – that humans live alongside these creatures, but are completely unawares (a la Underworld), or they are openly living alongside them (a la True Blood). Personally, I find the first option a much more fun prospect for writing. It also allows for elements of alternate history to sneak in there; attributing real life events to fantastical causes.
I have done a few things that I haven’t seen done elsewhere, but forgive me if I keep those under my hat right now. One thing I did have a little bit of a struggle with is dealing with the wolves talking while in animal form.
Through my story, the wolves spend a large proportion of their time as wolves, so I couldn’t have them silent the whole time. I also couldn’t have them transforming every time they needed to speak. Using a wolf language would mean me writing translations constantly, or if I just covered this in the speech tags it would simply add words without adding impact. What about using telepathy? Same issue again. But, somehow, just making the wolves speak like humans felt uncomfortable. It felt like a children’s story with talking animals, not the gritty horror angle I’m aiming for.
It was a conversation on Twitter with a writer friend that solved the problem for me. She didn’t really know how she helped, but what she said sparked an idea. The wolves do speak like humans, I don’t think there was ever a way to avoid that, but in my speech tags I point out that the words feel awkward and clumsy in their animal mouths. It only needs saying a few times, so it doesn’t use up too many words, and it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the speech.
I’m having great fun writing werewolves, and I think there’s still a lot of scope in the idea, a lot of things that haven’t been done before. It’s an idea I intend to return to in the future, perhaps even with the same characters. This story feels like it has more potential than the 9,000 word limit.