Movies to Books: Warm Bodies

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Today's topic is how to write realistic "love at first sight" and just romance in general. I've prattled on and on about how love at first sight doesn't exist. I still don't think it does, but rather, it's INFATUATION at first sight, and that can quickly turn into love. The problem is finding a movie that does this well. (Much to the dismay and annoyance of my friends, I was in complete hysterics during The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, so it's safe to say I'm not a fan of the romance genre.)

Then I saw Warm Bodies, and for the first time, I was sold on the romance. Why? This how-to will analyze all the things it did well with the romance.

I'm hoping you all watched the movie before reading this how-to, but if not, here's a summary (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED IT YET, WHICH I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU DO): A zombie known only as R is shuffling around all zombie-like and wishing there was something more to his life. During a food (human) raid, he sees a human girl, Julie, shooting his zombie comrades, and he falls head over heals for her. He helps her escape the other zombies by wiping some gore on her to hide her scent, but then he holds her prisoner in his "house" (the inside of an airplane at the airport). As he falls for her even more over the next few days, his heart starts beating, and he starts turning back into a human, and they fall in love and shizz. Basically, this movie is just Beauty and the Beast with zombies.

So here are the reasons why the romance in this movie was not only believable, but fun to watch and experience:

1. The moment he first lays eyes on Julie and turns into a lovesick fool, it was FUNNY. The director literally played the romancy music with all the bright light and everything in ways to satirize the "love at first sight" deal. While I was laughing at this part, it was actually meant to be funny, and that's why I didn't walk away at this point like I would've during other romance flicks.

2. R and Julie went through a few traumatic experiences together, and those experiences brought them closer. Even though they only knew each other for at most a week before the kiss scene, it was still believable. If your characters go through something traumatic together, you may be able to speed up the time table for falling in love, which ideally should be at least a few months. R saved Julie from a lot of zombies. A LOT. And these skeleton creepers. He also wiped gore on her and ate the brains of her ex-boyfriend (and subsequently getting all his memories and feelings).


#s 3 and 4 up next are about having likable/fascinating protagonists, which is a huge deal in romance. If the romance is to be believable and relatable, we should like both the characters by the time they fall for each other. This movie did that with flying colors.

3. R wasn't a jerk. Unlike a lot of male leads in romances, he never once acted like a douchebag to Julie (except eating her previous boyfriend and keeping her prisoner in his airplane house against her will, but we can see exactly why he did those things. That's important: though his actions were less than heroic, we can understand and relate to the motivation behind those actions, and that's why we can forgive him).

Julie was terrified at being held prisoner by a zombie, but he put on music and got her food and a blanket. He listened to her problems and did everything he could to make her comfortable and have fun.

4. Julie is not a damsel in distress, nor does she swoon over R (because, obviously, he's dead and probably quite smelly). She's a very strong-willed girl, constantly trying to escape R at first. When she was faced with a group of zombies, she didn't break down crying. She just cussed and looked for another way out. When she runs, it's not that girly damsely stride--she's full-out sprinting. It's a small detail, but it adds another layer of strength to her. Also, she's great with a gun.

5. They had FUN together. They played games, and Julie taught R how to drive a sports car. Not only was R giving Julie a good time, Julie was teaching R how to be human, and that was one of the strong selling points on this romance. The female brought something important to the relationship. Usually we just see the guy being awesome and fun and teaching the girl how to live. Or the girl is trying to "fix" the bad boy. Warm Bodies had the girl teaching the guy and the guy teaching the girl. From this, we can see not only why Julie is falling for R, but why R fell for Julie. It goes both ways, which a lot of romances I've read/watched miss.

6. The word "love" was never once used in the movie. :) I'm stoked about this. They treated R's attraction to Julie and vice versa very naturally, without giving it labels. Assigning labels to something gives it expectations that may or may not be met in the story. They could've said R was in love with Julie, but there would be some views (namely me) who would booooo at the screen because he couldn't love someone he just looked at for two seconds. He saw her, felt attracted to her and the idea of her, and that's it. But that's my interpretation. If you don't label the relationship as such, you let the audience make their own judgments and mold the story to their own expectations. This will help you reach out to a wider audience.



So those 6 points are the reasons I absolutely loved this movie (okay, and there were zombies. that was actually the biggest selling point for me. :P but that has nothing to do with this how-to) and why the romance felt more natural and satisfying than most. Now, look at your own romance plots and compare them to this. What elements match? What don't? If they don't, do you have a much better element to replace it with? I'm not saying Warm Bodies is the greatest romance ever and you should make yours exactly like it. Please don't do that. This how-to is just to see what a well-done romance (in my opinion) looks like. Study good examples of stories and then piece together your own writing style with what you feel is right.

Next time I'll analyze the movie, Chronicle, for anti-heroes. Make sure you find a copy and watch it!

If you have requests of movies for me to analyze, post in the comments below!

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