Purchase a large notebook.
Think deeply about every werewolf story you know—every book, TV show or movie. Ask yourself what makes your werewolf story different. Do you have anything new to say about werewolves? Does anybody? What even is the point? Maybe instead of writing, you should curl up on the couch and watch Netflix. Maybe you should go back to sleep.
But what if you can’t sleep? What if your eyes are bloodshot from not sleeping? What if you can’t even remember the last time you hungered or thirsted? Maybe there’s something alive inside you, and it wants to come out. Maybe it’s a story. A werewolf story.
What you need to do is try on the werewolf’s shoes, so to speak. Imagine for a moment you really are a werewolf. A secret werewolf. You commute to work every day in a Hyundai, make small talk with co-workers, meet deadlines and quarterly earnings goals—and all the while, nobody has any idea. Nobody even suspects the truth. None of them sees the animal.
Don’t bother picking a theme. Your theme is: werewolf! Emotionally resonant werewolf, no less. The theme is a man who hides the rage inside himself, a man brought low by a mocking and indifferent world. The theme is a sudden snapping, a release of repressed energy. The theme is man made animal. The impenetrable wilderness of the heart.
Pretend to avoid obvious werewolf clichés while actually exploiting them.
In an emotionally resonant werewolf novel, choosing a villain will be difficult. Typically, the werewolf plays the villain, but this does not have to be the case. Maybe the werewolf is both victim and victimizer. Maybe the villain is the woman who lied to him. Who hurt him. The woman who broke a sacred vow. Maybe there is no villain. Maybe there’s nothing but anger. Maybe all the world’s a stage, and you and I are merely werewolves.
Think about characters. There will, obviously, be a werewolf. And the werewolf is you. And the werewolf needs someone to love. Someone who will betray him. Maybe her name is Jillian. Maybe Jillian was your wife. Maybe you loved her once, and maybe she loved you back. Maybe none of it matters anymore. Maybe it all happened a long time ago.
Think more about these characters. Think about their weirdness and contradictions. What motivates your werewolf? Why did his wife leave him? She didn’t simply abandon him out of the clear blue sky. What did he do to push her away? Why did he stop listening? Admit to yourself that your transformation from man to animal was a long, slow process. Glacial. Like the sluggish drift of tectonic plates.
The first chapter must make a promise to the reader. Promise a man will transform into a beast. His flesh will sprout a thick coat of fur. Teeth will lengthen into fangs. Hands will curl into claws. Promise blood and fury. This next part is important—never, ever break a promise. A broken promise can rip a man’s heart out. So don’t. Don’t rip anybody’s heart out.
When you are too exhausted to go on, bear down and write some more.
Pause for a moment to consider how ridiculous you will sound when attempting to pitch your emotionally resonant werewolf novel to an agent.
Think about all the people who have hurt you. Think most of all about the girl. Jillian. The one you loved. The one who lied. Remember what it was like in the beginning. Remember what the touch of her lips and skin awoke inside you. Remember what it meant to hold her. To rest your head on the pillow you shared. To gaze into the infinity of her eyes. To sleep with her beneath a soft blanket, submerging yourself in a sea of warmth and love.
Write it true, but write it slanted. Write so the details are fictional but arranged in such a way to make the reader feel the things you have felt. What you’re aiming for is emotional truth. By the time your readers reach the end, they should know you more intimately than your own wife ever knew you. Just write your damn heart out. And people will read it. And they will know.
Fiddle around with third-person and omniscient points of view, but be aware you will inevitably revert to the first person. The reader must see through the eyes of the wolf.
Think back to the day—so long ago—when you and Jillian rented a cabin in a state park. And you hiked for hours on a warm afternoon in the springtime. And the flowers smelled nice, and you talked and laughed, and at one point you got lost, a little, and you were still in the woods at nightfall. And the shadows of the forest lengthened until there was nothing else, nothing but shadows. You heard a rustling in the bushes off the trail, and she clung to you, and you told her not to be afraid, you’d find your way out of the woods, you were almost out already, you could feel it. And she smirked, and in the shadows her green eyes shone like magic, and she said “Don’t worry about me, tiger. I’m the wildest thing out here.”
Bring your characters to a point of crisis. The novel must lead them there, but slowly, along a winding path, dropping breadcrumbs all the way. Don’t telegraph your punches. You will know you have succeeded if the reader finds the crisis both surprising and inevitable. The girl must leave the boy. It will be ugly. Now is not the time to flinch from hard truths. Make her hurt him. You can do it. You’re in charge. You’re the writer. Make her twist the metaphorical knife. He will bleed. Warm blood gushes, pumped from his still-beating heart. She will betray him. He will rage. Crisis. Climax. She must destroy him.
The night of the full moon. A peculiar feeling. You shudder, skin tingling as if you are cold. But you are not cold. You burn. The wolf is inside you. The wolf wants out. Skin explodes into fur. Teeth and fingers sharpen into knives. Scream. Howl. The wolf returns. Once again it has found its way into the realm of men, passing through a doorway in a heart seething with hate. The wolf smiles toothily. The wolf always comes back.
Run through the forest. Sniff the air. Catch the meaty scent of flesh. Find lovers naked among the trees. Jaws clamp. Screams. Clawing. Tearing. Bones snap. Skin. Hair. Excrement. Vomit. Now blood paints the leaves of the forest floor. The wolf licks his grinning lips. Soon the forest is full of men. They hunt you. They carry guns. No matter. You tear through them. Rip throats. Slit bellies to spill their guts. You stand on a pile of bodies. So much blood. Howl. Howl at your goddess the moon. Sniff the air. Now you smell her. Her. Jillian. You run, nose to the ground, tracking. You snort. Laugh. You find her. A small house on the edge of the forest. A locked door. Sniff the air. She’s alone. Bash the door to splinters. There she is. Screaming. Tongue lolls out of your mouth. Drooling. Long hair. Short dress. She will taste sweet. You lunge, opening your jaws wide to fit your teeth around her throat, to rip it out and feel the warm spray of blood, when—suddenly, strangely—you freeze. You loom above her, breathing hot, wolfish breath. You look at her. Jillian. You know her. You remember. And you realize what you have to do. The wolf turns away. The wolf flees into the darkened woods. You run and run. You run until you’re not a wolf anymore but a man—naked and alone. You fall. You curl among wet leaves. Not a howl any longer but a whimper. You think about the things you did. The things you almost did. You think about what you were becoming, and you are sorry, and you are small, and you are afraid.
Remove your hands from the keyboard. Lean back in your chair. Smoke a cigarette. The smoke tastes delicious. Know that you loved her once, and she loved you too. Now it’s over. She’s gone. And it’s OK. People leave, and it hurts, and this is life. You learned something. You wrote it all down. The work is finished. And it’s good. Exhale slowly. Rest now. Close your eyes. Even werewolves need to sleep.