Anonymous said: Hello! Currently, I'm writing a story about werewolves. While I think I've put quite an original spin on it, I want to know if you have any tips for not being cliché/writing tropes/etc. Thanks for your time!
Tropes are not necessarily a bad thing. A trope is a device or element of a story that a writer can reasonably expect most readers to recognize. A trope may become a cliché when it’s overused, though I am a firm believer in the philosophy: “it’s not the concept that matters but the execution”.
Here’s the TV Tropes page on Werebeast Tropes.
And here’s the one on Wolves.
Most of the werewolf clichés I can think of have to do specifically with werewolves and romance. I tried to come up with some other ones though:
- Female lead falls in love with werewolf. Werewolf is the alpha, always the alpha. His fur is also black, because black is mysterious *wiggles fingers*. He’s also the only black wolf.
- Male lead werewolf is always astonishingly beautiful, not rugged, or scarred or anything, because clearly werewolves don’t fight each other, nope, nope. Personally I like my werewolves a bit more gritty, Underworld style.
- Surprise! The female lead is also a werewolf. She has white fur and has some sort of amazing power. Perhaps she sparkles in the sun… wait…
- There’s a dog in the story. The dog is the only thing that recognizes the werewolf character is, in fact, a werewolf.
- Remember that being a werewolf is an affliction. It’s become a thing recently in media to only portray them as people who can shapeshift. The part about the pain tends to get left out, and I think that’s what makes werewolves interesting and complex.
- I’m pulling this one out of Twilight, but imprinting is creepy. I don’t think it’s a cliché yet, and I hope it doesn’t end up being used enough to become one.
- Constant references to the moon, whether in speech or in another form, that try to elude to the fact that your character is a werewolf, but ends up smacking the reader in the face instead.
- When a character watches a werewolf transform and ends up standing there instead of running, shooting, or doing anything other than staring, even if that character already knew beforehand who the werewolf was, and shouldn’t be surprised.
- Werewolves, and what constitutes the symptoms of being a werewolf as far as popular culture is concerned, are known well enough by the general public to be recognizable. I dislike when a character notices there are symptoms and then goes to look them up as if they have never heard of a werewolf before.
- Werewolves not actually using their wolf instincts — otherwise known as “werewolves who should know better doing stupid things and not thinking like the predators they are”. This includes getting caught in traps, not using their keen senses to avoid danger, running straight at someone with a weapon, etc.
- Magical Native American werewolves. Both cliché and offensive.
- When a character becomes a werewolf and suddenly loses his memory of the transformation once he’s human again. Or ends up in the forest naked.
I wouldn’t consider most of the actual werewolf lore to be necessarily cliché though.
- Full Moon Transformations - This became part of the werewolf lore when The Wolfman was introduced in the 1940s. A lot of writers use the full moon as the point of transformation for a werewolf character because it’s convenient. I’ve seen some instances where the werewolf character feels the pull of the moon whenever it’s out, not just when it’s full. There’s also been a ton of garbage pseudoscience used to attempt to explain how the relationship between werewolf and moon works, and most of the time it just ends up being confusing. There are stories that have full moon transformations and werewolves who can shift whenever they please, so it makes the full moon seem unnecessary. I’d like to see some more original concepts and/or executions of werewolf transformations. You may want to consider using the entire lunar cycle.
- Weaknesses - Some commonly accepted/used lore weaknesses are: silver, wolfsbane, lunar eclipses (losing their power), losing themselves to their curse, and decapitation/dismemberment.
- Different Forms - Werewolves have taken many different forms, including: Half man/half wolf, giant wolves, normal wolves, anthro (garou, the form we’re used to seeing), and everywhere in between. Feel free to be creative with the level of transformation your werewolves can attain. These forms may provide the werewolf with different abilities like increased speed, strength, enhanced senses, etc.
- It’s a Curse, Damn it - Becoming a werewolf is often caused by the infected bite or scratch from someone who is already a werewolf. The transformation is painful, personal, and the fear of losing oneself to the beast is present.
- Pack Mentality - Werewolves, like actual wolves, have some sort of pack connection, and a pack hierarchy. As such, they may also form a bond with a dog or actual wolf that becomes a companion. With this part of the lore, sometimes the concept of having a mate comes into play, and sometimes it steps in to the territory of being cliché as a lot of writers handle it as “my mate is my destined true love”.
That’s all I have for now. I hope that’s useful to you.