Human as Wild Animal

Here in Sneak Peaks, we’ve discussed character development. We've talked place. We've explored drafting and revision. We've skimmed the plot.

But themes? We've only discussed one: humans' affinity with the natural world. 

This is a big one. Maybe The One. And I'd like to elaborate a little more, but less about the emotional-spiritual side of the theme, and more about the physical-side: as in, the human-animal side. 

From earlier plot synopses we know there's a lineage of women with predator-like capabilities. These women undergo transformations into physically powerful animals. 

What do I mean by animals? Because these women are still very much human. So what do I mean when I describe these characters as human-animals or wild women?

Let me explain this by starting at the origin of this book. I received the idea, (no other way to describe it), one night in my last semester of graduate school. I studied Environmental Writing, and my course work involved a lot of intense, downright depressing books. I was feeling pretty downtrodden by the ecological crisis. 

I thought, what would happen if I were an animal? Yes, humans are animals. And yet, needless to say, we're different than the rest of the animal kingdom. I craved to explore, in depth, what a human immersed in her animal self would think, act, and look like. In other words, what would it be like if a human could move seamlessly between the "civilized" and "wild" worlds? 

So I started with the physical form. Humans are apex predators. Think of gorillas. Think of cougars, wolves, lions. What if Homo sapien sapiens had continued to evolve in the wild? Don't you think we would have developed legs like the gorillas, speed like the cougar, group dynamics similar to the wolves? I mean, just imagine it! 

And I did. The characters turn into the human-animals that we, as a species, might have evolved into were it not for our peculiar intelligence. While I love my Netflix originals and cheesepuffs just as much as anyone, I sometimes can't help but feel like we're missing out on something visceral and engrossing. Something only the wild, and our kinship with it, can offer.

That's the beauty of storytelling. It's allowed me to enter into the complexities of human-nature dynamics without feeling overwhelmed by our species' distance with the wild world. A lot of the material, though, comes from lived, embodied experience in wilderness. Maybe you've had your own human-animal moment: out there in the woods, feeling the power of your body, enjoying the gift that is our animal self.