The animated skeleton is an undercharacterized undead monster. Because it takes a long time for a corpse to rot away to bone, it implies age in a way that a zombie or ghoul doesn’t. Age and being left alone in the mean time. It also lacks most of its identifying features – face melted to a surreal grin, anonymized by time. (Bones made an eight-season TV show out of the information still contained in a skeleton, but almost none of that is apparent to an observer without a forensics lab.) But your skeleton is still your innermost core, your deepest self. What gets left behind when nothing else remains?
Animated skeletons are a staple Creepy Monster in Halloween media, alongside the standard werewolves, zombies, vampires, devils, mummies, Frankensteins, etc. I’m actually surprised that skeletons haven’t seen more of a heyday in popular media, at least as characters rather than medium-low difficulty video game enemies. Jack Skellington in Nightmare Before Christmas is one example, although nothing focused on the fact that he was a skeleton. I’m also told that Undertale was a big win for animated skeletons. I haven’t played it myself. Don’t @ me.
Why don’t we romanticize them? Is there Twilight, but for skeletons? (You get one “boning” joke. That was it. Nobody can make any more in the comments.) Here are some conceivable hooks for a Sexy Skeleton Romance Novel:
- Skeletons don’t have skin, so a skeleton has to wear other skins / assume other appearances to move around the normal world. Hijinks and confusion ensue.
- There’s a magical correspondence between the flesh that once lives on your body, and the trappings of a life you once treated as equally essential. Once a skeleton puts together pieces of their old life, or builds a new one, they magically gain a body again.
- A necromancer has resurrected a skeleton to carry out some task for them. Either the target of the task, or the necromancer themself, falls for the skeleton over time.
- Confused queer love stories. Male and female skeletons look pretty much the same. What are you supposed to do when you’ve fallen in love with a living human, and you think she thinks you’re a man, but you’re not sure how to broach the topic, and you can’t just talk about it, because… you are a skeleton and you have no vocal cords.
One thing that almost fits this is actually the original 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. You might be more familiar with Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s musical, and especially with the suave, handsome phantom from the 2009 movie, who had a half-deformed face, but the rest of the face and body of Gerard Butler. But Leroux’s deranged musical genius was described as skeletal all over, with no nose and sunken black eyes making his face a “death’s-head”. Then again, the point of the book is, of course, that the Phantom is human after all. (His name is Erik. No, I’m not kidding.)
For any entrepreneurial writers reading, note that the Amazon Kindle Store’s Paranormal Romance section – replete with modern dime-store novels for any genre from asexual werewolf romance to selkie “reverse harem” romance – does not sell any skeleton romances.
This fertile field is wide open.