Like most things, the big difference between writing romance in zombie fiction and writing romance in other genres comes down to sex. If you’re going to write a zombie romance, then you can’t get around it: You have to include a sex scene. The only question is do you include it early in the story or put it off as long as possible. No matter where it goes, some sensibilities are going to be offended. A human sex scene, when done right, makes the reader’s knees weak; a zombie sex scene done right makes her stomach weak.
The key to writing a successful zombie sex scene is to own the ickiness and not try to elide it discreetly with a typographical euphemism such as a well-placed ellipse. Write around the dirty deed and you will only draw attention to what is missing, frustrating your readers and possibly pissing them off. Instead, cast the zombie particulars in a romantic light. For example, when your heroine’s zombie boyfriend presses his worryingly squidgy chest against hers without caving in from the pressure, have her find the weight reassuring. Romantic heroines often find their lover’s weight reassuring, but in this case the meaning is literal: She’s actually reassured that his chest won’t collapse under the weight of his own decomposing body. (Note: It helps tremendously if your heroine lives in a post-apocalyptic age in which all but a few men have been turned into zombies and she has few other dating options.)
But even the most physically satisfying zombie-human relationship has to leave the bedroom sooner or later, and here you will find other differences. Zombies lack the coordination and gross motor skills of the typical human male, so to ensure your hero doesn’t prematurely go up in flames, candlelit dinners are out. Ditto long walks on the beach. Nothing cools a young woman’s ardor faster than picking grains of sand out of the folds of her boyfriend’s fetid flesh. Practical considerations like these can be a downer, but they also provide the writer with lots of opportunities to come up with fresh romantic situations. Think spoon-feeding cow brains to a zombie can’t elicit a few heartfelt sighs from the breast of your reader? Think again!
The last major difference is all zombie romances are star-crossed. You have no hope of a happy ending. At some point or other, the zombie’s true nature will exert itself and he will turn on his beloved like a rabid dog, or he will simply decompose into nothing. Of course, this applies to humans, too—all roads lead to the grave. But zombies are in the express lane. Even with the routine application of skin-firming moisturizers, a zombie will begin to lose limbs within nine or ten months. A few years later, he will break down completely. This means the prospects for long-term happiness are severely limited, and it’s important that your heroine keeps this in mind. Otherwise, you run the risk of her coming across as deluded or not very bright.
Ultimately, however, writing romance in zombie fiction is not that different from writing romance in other genres. Every romance is about how two beings manage to find each other in this crazy-big world. It doesn’t matter if those beings are both human or one only formerly so. It’s the hearts that matter, even those that are rapidly decaying.
Lynn Messina is the author of seven novels, including The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies and Fashionistas, which has been translated into 16 languages and is in development as a feature film. She attended Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied English Literature. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Self and EW.com, among other publications. She lives in New York City with her husband and sons.
Hattie Cross knows what you’re thinking: zombie sex? Ewwww. But she also knows that since a virus turned 99.9999 percent of human males into zombies, it’s statistically impossible to meet—let alone date—the remaining 0.00001 percent. So she writes “The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies” to help her fellow single women navigate the zombie-relationship waters.
Her practical how-to impresses the CEO of the largest drug company in the world, and before she knows it, Hattie, a reporter for a down-market tabloid that specializes in conspiracy theories, is sitting down with the woman who single-handedly invented the zombie-behavioral-modification market. Granted access to the inner sanctum of zombaceuticals, she meets an actual, living, breathing M-A-N.
Now Hattie, the consummate professional, is acting like a single girl at the end of the twentieth century: self-conscious, klutzy and unable to form a coherent sentence without babbling. Worst of all, the human male appears to have impaired her ability to think clearly. Because all of a sudden she’s convinced a conspiracy is afoot at the drug company and it seems to go all the way to the top!
LYNN MESSINA ONLINE
Lynn in giving away a copy of The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies
For entry into the giveaway please answer the following question then fill out the form below: Have you ever dated a guy who seemed just a little bit like a zombie?
This giveaway is International and ends 12:00am GMT 30th November 2012