Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Workshop on 'Researching Werewolf Stories'

‘How do you research werewolf stories?’

That was the question asked of me a few years ago, which led me to come up with a session on this topic that I undertook at Smut by the Sea in Scarborough this year.

I started off by asking the delegates, “Why are werewolves so popular in erotic romance?” and they came up with some great suggestions:

  • Doggie position (as one author said, ‘It’s amazing how quickly that came into the discussion!)
  • Unpredictable
  • Alpha wolf – Dominance/submission
  • Beautiful
  • Hairy
  • Dangerous
  • Powerful
  • In touch with nature
  • Escapism

And then there is knotting or tying. This is common to male canines, eg, dogs as well as wolves, who get their erection after penetration when the bulbus glandis swells and the two get locked together – for as much as 30 minutes……

The inclusion of hairy in the list might sound strange, except those who have furry pets know how sensuous stroking fur can be!

From here we looked at the werewolf of folklore and compared this to the modern werewolf. The werewolf folklore in Europe goes back to the Middle Ages arising in the context of Christianity, although there are older references for instance in Classical Greek text, but it did not become widespread until after the 14th century and it parallels the rise of witchcraft.

There were so many traditions on how one became a werewolf, how to identify one, how to thwart one – many of which do not crop up in erotica today. For instance, one of the ways mentioned in folklore that one could become a werewolf was by drinking out of the puddle of a werewolf’s footprint – not surprisingly one does not read this very often!

Others included:

  • Wearing a belt made of wolfskin
  • Having a spell put on you by a malicious sorcerer
  • Making a pact with the devil
  • Rubbing a magic salve into your skin
  • Sleeping outside on a summer night with the full moon on your face – but only on certain Wednesdays & Fridays!

With modern stories it tends to be either you are born a werewolf or occasionally are bitten by one.

Ways to identify the werewolf historically if you were in your human form could be harsh, eg, you had epilepsy! Your eyebrows met over the bridge of your nose, you had a swinging gait, low-set ears, bristles under the tongue, curved fingernails, when cutting the skin it exposes fur (and whilst in wolf form included having no tail and having human voice or eyes).

These days the alpha werewolf tends to be synonymous with any hero from any genre, eg, tall, strong, handsome, dominant! When writing my ‘Haunt of the Wolves’ series I have tried to make the female werewolves taller, leaner with smaller breasts than the human women just to have a distinction and my humans tend to be softer, more gentler, particularly bearing in mind that this series is set in a werewolf BDSM club!! So I had fun in ‘Torn Between Two Lovers’ playing Evie’s two lovers off against one another – a gentle, romantic human against a dominant, alpha werewolf.

So having identified the werewolf how, in folklore, did they change them back to human? Of course, there is the famous silver bullet …. Which was actually invented for a story in 1935! Similarly, the inclusion in tales of the full moon is more common in modern stories than historical folk tales.  Others included:

  • Eating wolfsbane (which is a plant closely related to buttercups but very toxic - also called monkshood or aconite)
  • to kneel in one spot for a hundred years
  • being struck on the forehead with a knife
  • exorcism
  • piercing your hands with a nail
  • being addressed it three times by your Christian name.

You notice how many of these are Christian-related.

What will help if you are considering writing a werewolf story is to read up on wolf behaviours – because we have access to the internet it is so easy to find websites to help you. I love adding in the ‘animal’ into the character when shifted into wolf, growling, sniffing crotches, biting necks, laying down to submit before the alpha, and the aforesaid doggie position! I particularly included these in ‘The Last Werewolf’ as one of the heroes was trying to keep his ‘wolf’ self secret from the heroine as they made love – and having a hard time of it.

Finally, I let them loose inventing their own werewolf. It didn’t matter if they went with traditional or modern or totally invented, I did ask them to come up with at least one thing that was ‘outside the box’. (Here’s me gesturing that very thing!)

There was some very intense looks as deep thoughts abound! At one stage we even had a philosophical argument between two or three people about the age of the werewolf, eg, if they were 11 then was this wolf years?

Finally, after 8-10 mins I asked them to finish and some came forward to tell the group about their werewolf.

There were some terrific ideas about how they would make their werewolf different, including the addition of penguins! Something about the werewolves living in the arctic because penguins were their natural predator (or something like that!!), and in one case a man likened the female werewolf to his wife. In other words, the person in charge, who was not to be thwarted at any time! I wish I had made a note of all of them because there were some great ideas and I may have unleashed a whole heap of werewolf stories onto the market …. So watch out!

Feedback from the workshop was terrific:

“I just started a story with some elements of what I wrote down that day and I think it's going to be a good one! It's a little different to my usual shifter stories.”

“Somehow I ended up with an alpha female werewolf. Can't think where that came from. Thanks to your workshop I'll have to rethink whether werewolves are for me!”

“I thought the workshop was very entertaining and useful and it was a pleasure to attend. It was exiting, well-paced and gave me a lot to think about.”

“Thanks for a great workshop! I learned a lot from it and on the long drive home in fact began plotting something - though it took a couple of confused turns before I dragged it back into my head to be what I originally wanted it to be. We'll see where it goes.”

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