Bark at the Moon: Werewolves.
Here we are on yet another inevitable chapter, and yet again I'm going to be debunking several myths and stereotypes concerning these beasts of the night. As with their colleagues the vampires, werewolves started out as folkloric myths and were then adapted to mainstream entertainment. One of the key elements in this modernisation of the legend was the 1941 film "The Wolf Man", starring Lon Chaney Jr as the title character. Just as the 1922 vampire film "Nosferatu" introduced the idea that sunlight could be lethal to vampires, so too did "The Wolf Man" spawn the idea that werewolves could be harmed by weapons made from silver. It also tried to renew some life into an old myth by giving it some slight changes.
For example, the werewolves of old were simply humans who turned into mad wolves. Nowadays, they are seen as an anthropomorphic hybrid between the two – a furry, sharp-toothed human, or a creature with the torso and legs of a man but with the claws and head of a werewolf. Such werewolves have been seen in films as far apart as the aforementioned "Underworld" to "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". Another variation on the idea is the reverse – the wereman (although the term doesn't make much sense, seeing as it means "man man"). This creature is commonly a wolf most of the time, but becomes a lycanthrope when the moon is full. An example of this is the character Lupine in Terry Pratchett's "Reaper Man". It'd be a nice idea to see how these weremen would interact with werewolves, seeing as there'd be a few boundaries to cross, along with a bit of a culture shock.
Also, I implore people to come up with more original-sounding names for their werewolves. Don't just call them Lupin or Lupus, seeing as that's becoming far more common nowadays. A good idea is to take wolf names from myth and legend – J.K Rowling managed to pull this off in the recent Harry Potter book, creating a werewolf called Fenrir Greyback, Fenrir being the name of one of the wolves who will attack the Viking Gods upon the coming of the Ragnarok. Of course, if you call your werewolf something along the lines of Wolfgang or Wolfowitz, I will personally hunt you down and kill you.
Also, keep in mind that these creatures as not really anything new. As far back as the early 1600's, the playwright John Webster had a werewolf in his blood tragedy "The Duchess of Malfi", turning a psychotic duke into an object of comic relief. King James I himself (ever the enthusiast of the paranormal) wrote of werewolves in his treatise on witchcraft, saying that they were not anything connected with magic but rather caused by an abundance of "melancholic". Whilst it is nice to believe that the lycanthropes of old lore were in fact inhuman creatures, it is far more likely that they were simply everyday people with some sort of mental condition.
Another idea to contemplate is: just where will your werewolf come from? There are plenty of countries with wolves (bits of America and Canada, areas around Europe etc), but you could take any wild dog and turn it into a lycanthrope. You could have werefoxes, werejackals, werehyenas...anything along those lines would be pretty cool, I suppose. Again, referencing from my "Dawn of the Phantus", in one of the chapters I hinted at the idea of an Egyptian werewolf cult, and the idea that Anubis was actually a werejackal himself. Seeing as the temperature in that region of the world is pretty damn high, I had the werewolves live underground and act as the protectors of the dead. Pretty nifty, eh? You could put any sort of spin on that idea...Native American werewolves, Mesopotamian werewolves, Biblical werewolves...they don't all have to come from Eastern Europe.
And try to find out just how such creatures are made. Don't go for the usual "cursed by a mad wizard" idea. Your werewolf could very well have willingly become such a creature, going into the rite of transformation by their own free will, seeking further strength in a new form. Also maybe (again, like in "Underworld"), they won't require the light of the full moon in order to change and can do so at any time. As with all occult creatures, there are thousands of possibilities. And there's no need to base your story around one particular type of werewolf…maybe one sect of werewolves wants to cleanse the world of all other sects, or somesuch thing? Maybe you could have a society built of werewolves, but only the most powerful amongst them can gain rule? As always, just try to stray away from the ideas of others, whilst keeping a few ideas at the core of your tale.
Now let's try and visualise your werewolf. Is he a really big fellah, or kind of small and weedy? If you're having trouble sketching the werewolf out in your mind, try to think why he/she became such a creature in the first place. If they were bitten by another werewolf, then it's likely they'll bear similarities to them. Maybe the being used to be some sort of powerful magician, and transformed themselves into their own "ideal" werewolf. In that case, you'd have to think just what would the ultimate wolf-warrior look like in the mind of your character? Will the beast be hairy, or muscular or both? Or indeed, will they stay largely in human form, yet gain a few "slight bonuses", like claws, sharp teeth and superhuman speed/strength? It's up to you, as after all, it's your doggie.
And here's something really important to consider – why is there a werewolf in your story at all? Are they just there for eye candy, or will there be specific plotlines which only werewolves would be able to fill in, like something to do with a disaster taking place when the moon is full? Are they being hunted, or are they doing the hunting? A very good film which took a look at this idea was "Dog Soldiers", in which a group of S.A.S troops have to hole up in a cottage in the Scottish woodlands and fight off a pack of werewolves. Gunk and gore galore!
A final note I'm going to make on the werewolf is this (and in fact it applies to vampires as well); you don't have to have some sort of culture for the species. They don't have to live in forests, hunt in packs or come from any one particular background. They don't need a semi-feral, pack-minded hierarchy. Take the creature and do what you want with it. And like I always say…be original!