do you have any tips on writing a non cliche werewolf?


I shall do my best to advise. 

First and foremost, know your cliches. 
In this case, that means watching and reading all the werewolf stories that you can get your hands on. Grab some popcorn, take a break, it’s research! Patterns will probably start to appear pretty quickly. 

In a similar vein, I recommend that you look into all the mythology about werewolves that you can find. What’s become the current popular canon for werewolf mythology is actually a kind of distilled and selected version of some of the older myths. For example, in The Graveyard Book, I thought that Neil Gaiman did a lovely job pulling from the old stories of ‘Hounds of God’ to create a werewolf character that wasn’t a bit cliche. 

Finally, I’d say to top it off with some real world research- werewolves are mythical creatures that are grounded in real world stuff- clinical lycanthropy, serial killers, wolf-dog hybrids, hallucinations, actual wolves. Read up about it! Figure out what parts interest you. In particular, I find that a lot of stories about werewolves lack an understanding of how actual wolves work (I’m looking you dead in the face, Twilight series), which, I mean, if you want your werewolves to be humanized or a different beast from wolves entirely, that’s cool, but at least know what’s what so that you don’t flop misinformation/misunderstanding around.   

Now that you are an expert on the werewolf mythology that your work will be in the context of, decide:

– What you like about the existing stories. (Your creation doesn’t have to be 100% different from other werewolves to be fresh and not a cliche!) Do you think that a weakness to silver is nifty? If so, keep it! Nobody’s gonna stop you. Just be careful to only pick the parts that you REALLY like and find interesting. Don’t toss it in there just because it’s status quo. And maybe try adding your own spin on it, based on what seems logical to you (does the silver act more like an allergy, or lead poisoning?)

– What you think the current stories are lacking. Did you notice that most of the werewolves seem to be male (or are presented very differently than females)? Do you think that that’s lame? Make some lady werewolves! Do something different, or correct something that you don’t like about the stories that exist already. 

– Finally, and I cannot stress this enough- figure out your unique take and angle. What do werewolves mean to you, personally? What could they represent in the context of the story that’s a new way of looking at things? What parts of your research stuck out as being interesting and unique to you? Build up your own ideas, and create something that really comes from you. 


I recommend The Complete Book of Werewolves by Leonard R.N. Ashley as a good reference point to get you started. It covers historical lore, fictional werewolves, European, American, and world legends, and werewolves on the silver screen. This one is just a compiling of legends, historical lore, and modern fiction. It’s more akin to an encyclopedia, but if you want an in depth look at the history of werewolves this book is an excellent starting place. It’s got everything from Scooby Doo episodes to the werewolf legends surrounding the British Royal family.

There’s also Monsters: An Investigator’s Guide to Magical Beings by John Michael Greer. Unlike Ashley, this one is written by a self-proclaimed monster hunter, so take some of what he says with a grain of salt. However, it does provide some interesting suggestions on how it could potentially be possible and different shapeshifter legends, including the concept of astral projection and modifying the body’s electrical field to create the appearance of a wolf. If you want to develop a story about werewolves and monster hunters, this might provide you with some interesting insights.

If you’re looking to do wolves in a modern setting or play in the Fantasy Kitchen Sink, I suggest looking at White Wolf’s Werewolf: the Apocalypse roleplaying game, especially for the way it discusses and coaches integrating these characters into (or out of) society. If you’re looking for a Princess Mononoke style approach of Nature versus Man, I suggest going through this setting. The concept of the Delirium is especially worth looking at if you’re thinking Urban Fantasy because it works around the concept of a mystic magical field that hides supernatural beings from human sight. (Yes, it has a Tropes page.)

I’ll give two honorable mentions to my favorite sourcebooks:

Kinfolk, Unsung Heroes: which discusses roleplaying as and creating characters who exist in the shadows and backdrop of their special relatives. It discusses the important roles the mortal werewolf kin both human and wolf play in World of Darkness werewolf society.  What is it like to stand close to greatness and glimpse a spectacular world that could have been yours if only your genetics hadn’t rolled wrong? This is a great toolkit for creating supporting characters, antagonists, or protagonists and fleshing out the possible friends and family of the characters in your setting.

Ways of the Wolf: Do you want to write a story about a man (or woman) who is sometimes a wolf or a wolf who is sometimes a man (or woman)? If it’s the latter, then this Werewolf: The Apocalypse sourcebook has got you covered. In Werewolf, lycanthropy can occur in both humans and wolves. These wolf born werewolves are an interesting concept that rolls against some of the common werewolf mythology. The book covers wolf and pack behavior from the perspective of writing a wolf who has become more than a wolf, but is still a wolf at heart. It talks about how they interact with their wolf brethren and the human born Garou. Which makes it an interesting read while trying to get around some werewolf cliches.

I also recommend Wolves at Our Door which is a phenomenal documentary by Jim Dutcher about life with the Sawtooth Wolf Pack, whom they raised from pups to develop a better understanding of pack life and wolf family structure in a way that cannot be done with these shy animals in the wild. It’s a treasure trove of information and more importantly may lend some nice visual inspiration. For someone working with werewolves, watching wolf and man live together in harmony might be a great jumping off point.

Wikipedia and TV Tropes are (well, might be) great starting sources but as they are crowd sourced and anyone from anywhere can edit them, you’ll have to do a lot more research (and watch/read the suggested media yourself) to get anything really useful out of them.


I’m going to toss two of my favorite Werewolf: The Apocalypse source books on here because they can give you some more ideas on getting away from werewolf clichés.

First is Player’s Guide to the Changing Breeds: this covers all the non-wolf based were-creatures in the setting. It includes wearbears, weresharks, werehyenas, weresnakes, and a bunch of other possible creatures. There are separate guides for each specific group, and if you find one that appeals, then their sourcebook will be more useful, but Guide to the Changing Breeds gives an overview for all of them.

The second is Project: Twilight. This isn’t actually about werewolves, it’s about federal agents who hunt the supernatural, and how to run them. If you want to write urban fantasy, I’d almost say this is a must read. If only to get you thinking about how law enforcement would deal with your characters’ actions and behavior.