I am very new to Stack Exchange. I want to ask a question I had on my mind for some time. I am considering writing a horror story with fantasy and military-like elements inserted into it, and I want to add a werewolf transformation into the story. The story is in third person, however, I want the perspective of the person watching this transformation to be conveyed in a sort of limited perspective. These werewolves are thinner than a human, and only transform when breathing in the fog that comes from the area. Can you help with conveying this feeling of horror to the audience through the perspective of a Sargent who is witnessing this during a stealth mission?
How do I imply the horror of transforming into a werewolf from another character's point of view
1You should look up some books from Animorphs... The series features the main characters frequently transforming into animals (including wolves) and describing the experience. While it's explicitly stated that it's not painful, they narrators all describe the process as looking like it should be painful (one character has a natural gift with making the change gracefully, but the rest not so much. The descriptions are in the first person but great if you want to mine some examples.– hszmvJan 23, 2020 at 13:52
To produce a deliberately constructed horror scene, you should identify the emotions you want to evoke and write toward those. Horror as a genre is all about emotion, foremost being dread. Dread is essentially the anticipation of something worse yet to come.
To make it dreadful, make sure your soldier understands that things are going counter to expectations-- there is horror in the loss of control and the anticipation that important plans are being ruined. Not only is the transformation horrible to watch, but the monster emerging becomes a new, more dangerous, and unpredictable threat, and all manner of terrible consequences could be next. A fear of impending death is the most obvious reaction to this threat, but it's not that interesting by itself, so make sure you give it some flavor.
You have fear of the unknown providing an element of uncertainty. Perhaps the fog and darkness give limited visibility, heightening the suspense as we await a clear glimpse of the monster? Can our soldier figure out what triggered the transformation?
You can also build dread with some incidental consequences or complicating factors, heightened risks, and bigger stakes. Yes, the werewolf is too close for comfort, and there is a possibility that the soldier can make a mad dash for the nearest tree, a plan the soldier can anticipate-- but then that would surely catch the attention of enemy soldiers and the werewolf. (Think swordfight over the alligator pit.) Perhaps the creature emerges in a lupine form and begins sniffing the air, and the soldier realizes it might be able to smell them-- a new problem with dreadful implications. Or maybe the cause of the transformation is volatile-- if the wind changes, could the soldier be next? Do they need to get away from the fog above all else? Maybe the stakes are raised by the presence of someone the soldier wants to protect, such as a comrade or that pesky kid who keeps tagging along at inappropriate times.
Other emotions to consider as you break down the horror of the scene: disgust (unnatural shifts in form are visually disturbing, whether it's the shape or the way the limbs are rearranging themselves, but you also have the sounds of bones and sinews shifting and breaking, moans and whimpers of pain, and inhuman noises), empathy and sorrow (especially if the person afflicted is not an unknown entity, such as a comrade), a sense of cognitive vertigo or disorientation as your soldier's worldview shifts abruptly off its axis.
You may also want to tackle the way the transformation affects the protagonist's goals and expectations: Your protagonist is a soldier on a stealth mission, and probably it was business as usual until the transformation happened. Were they feeling confident before? Tense? Purposeful? What were their hopes and fears about the mission or their life at that moment? What was their understanding of the enemy's purpose and the functionality of their defenses? Does it reframe the entire situation for them?
So your sergeant goes from being focused, strategy-oriented, and controlled, to losing their grasp of the bigger picture. How can you concentrate on the mission when presented with something so awful? Does the immediate goal become not to succeed in the mission or to infiltrate that camp but rather to escape the monster? To protect their comrade? To keep a level head and carry on with the mission despite all of the instincts to do otherwise?
As AkkaVer points out, pacing is crucial. You may not have time to explore all of that in medias res, so choose what will have the most gut-wrenching impact (within the plausible bounds of your character arcs and plot, of course) and let the rest go.
1Thank you so much. I am very excited to apply this to my story. Have a great and wonderful day. Jan 27, 2020 at 5:57
This is definitely an intriguing situation you're writing about, to say the least. Trying to convey horror of the supernatural requires the writer to know exactly what it is they want to unnerve the reader. So to start off, outside of the sergeant being on a stealth mission and seeing the transformation, what other are you considering?
- What unnatural and inhuman features and behavior do they have? Making the werewolf slim or lanky compared to a regular human already establishes one unnatural trait of the werewolf, and is a great start.
- Is the transforming werewolf an enemy soldier or an allied one? I'm assuming that because it is in the middle of a stealth mission, it is an enemy soldier (or a local caught in the crossfire) that's transforming. This doesn't invoke the fear and confusion of a brother-in-arms you should trust turning into a monster, but seeing an enemy soldier just as horrified of their own impending transformation (or an enemy soldier watching a fellow soldier's transformation) can invoke the same feeling.
- Is the transformation itself smooth or is it brutal/gruesome? Is it painless or painful? Describing the sounds or details of the transformation in a gruesome manner helps to incite a feeling of horror. This is a balancing act of trying not to cram too much detail in so that the reader isn't bored, as well as knowing what details to keep or discard for the reader's imagination to play its tricks.
Is the transforming person confused and fearful of transforming for the first time, fearful of it because it happened before, or in full control and doesn't fear the transformation? Remember when Spider-man was dying in Infinity War? Well, the utter sorrow of the moment was enhanced by him processing the fact that he was dying in that moment. The same can be done with horror. If you want, you could make the enemy soldier be frantic and afraid of the transformation, going manic with fear or even suicidal if they know what's coming.
What happens next? Does it eat a dead man? Does it kill a living man? Does it hunt down the main character? Does it almost catch the main character's scent, and then leaves? Does it immediately charge at the main character, forcing a confrontation in which it is fought off? The horror of a revelation should be followed by the horror of the consequences of what's revealed being part of reality, immediate danger being one of many ways go about the latter.
It all comes down to pacing.
When it's slow, you want to marinate the reader in the moment, making sure they soak in every important detail of this horrific thing that could kill them at any moment. But the longer they need to wade through the bog of detail, the more likely it will be for them to shake off the feeling of unease and instead be irritated. Remember: every important detail.
Then, when it's fast (the moment it attacks a person or begins to charge at the main character), write frantically. Don't bother with details too much, if at all. Weave from one action to the next and don't leave the reader much space to think, the same way that you as the predator wouldn't leave the main character any space to even breathe without risking his life.
I think that is a very interesting idea! What you could do is use descriptive words to really implant horror in the reader. You could have the werewolf transformation be described in a way so the reader gets a good image. If the reader is afraid, then maybe, with the help of what what you can say like, "The Sargent looked horrified", The reader can understand how scared the Sargent was.
You could place the Sargent at a place using Acrophobia (extreme fear of heights) to make the Sargent feel dizzy and use descriptive words to kinda manipulate the reader's perspective to make them feel what they can of the Sargent's perspective. You could use claustrophobia (fear of small spaces) to do the same thing! You could use both, or any other popular fear!