Part of the challenge in writing a sex scene is balance. You can easily gloss over the action and tone making the scene feel dull, labored, or heavy handed. Conversely, dripping your scene description in such detail that it reads as pornographic smut might be a bit much. All of this depends on your preference as a writer and what point your scene is trying to get across. Here’s how to write a sex scene in a screenplay.
3 Steps TO Writing a Sex Scene
Let’s throw some perspective on the process. You can write a sex scene however you want. All you have to do is get your point across. Sex scenes don’t always require a ton of dialogue so the burden falls mainly on the action description in many dramas. Comedy does not always require as much in-depth mood and tone setting.
These three steps will ensure you’re utilizing the action description and dialogue in the best way possible.
CONVEY the purpose of the scene
What are you trying to convey about these characters and their relationship? It’s an intimate setting meant to show something about the overall story.
Write the action DESCRIPTION clearly
Make the scene description clear and visual. Scripts are much more concise than a novel, per say. Be economical with your words.
Layer in the mood and tone
Tension, love, mistrust, anger, pain, lust… This is a chance to paint a picture of the relationship in this scene.
6 Examples from Well-Known Scripts
Please reference the below examples for educational purposes only. There may also be spoilers if you haven’t seen the following movies or television shows.
In Black Swan, the scene moves at a fast pace. The actions are concise and ferocious. It fits in the mood and the tone of the script.
This scene from Gone Girl gives insight into Nick’s affair and personality. He’s easily influenced and not necessarily fighting it.
This second scene from Gone Girl does the same for Amy. It’s also hinting at her motivations and slyly setting up what’s to come. Desi seems motivated by “love,” while Amy is acting with manipulative purpose.
The comedy sex scene description in Knocked Up is very to the point. The mood and tone of the scene is conveyed largely by the circumstance and dialogue. The action is therefore basic visual cues. It serves its purpose and doesn’t bog down the script with more than it needs.
This scene from Mad Men works with the implication of sex. We see the start of it and then cut to after the act.
The way The Affair uses this sex scene cleverly paints the action, relationship, and inner ongoings of the characters. It’s incredibly detailed as well.
True Blood’s sex scene is visual with a hint of character.
These examples read so differently from one another. This goes to show that there is no “one way” to write a sex scene for your script. You get to choose the detail and scope of action you want to convey.
What tips do you have for writing an effective sex scene in a screenplay?