Thursday, December 11, 2008
No Sex Please, We're British! (And American)
One thing which always perplexes me as a script reader is the lack of juicy sex scenes about. Whilst many of my European and repatrioted clients give their characters a rocking good time in the bedroom (and just about everywhere else - I'm particularly looking at you, JK Amalou!), as do my openly gay clients of any nationality. Yet it seems to me as if your average straight British and American screenwriters just *don't want* to write sex into their screenplays - they'll go out of their way to NOT write it in fact. Instead, there will be all sorts of sentences to allude to the idea sex has JUST HAPPENED, like:
"Steve and Molly lie back in bed, spent."
"Steve and Molly bask in the afterglow."
Sometimes a scriptwriter can't even bear to think about it so much they end up writing something like "Steve and Molly have sex" as a one line scene before moving on. Once, I even saw "Obligatory gratuitous sex scene now follows... Moving on."
Obviously a writer doesn't want to write hardcore sex into movies where it would be completely out of place: a kids' movie is not the place you want your characters swinging from the chandeliers. However, I've had conversations with many a screenwriter, both British and American, that sex is "not needed" in the average ADULT movie. Apparently it doesn't push the story forward.
There are so many ways of using sex to push the story forward in your screenplay. For one thing, it progresses the relationship between your protagonist and love interest in your romance, period drama, historical epic or rom-com. Also, not many people save sex for after marriage these days - and it's said that in times of stress, people jump into bed even quicker than they do when everything's peachy: this means sex in your thriller or war story can add to your script, even in your bloodthirsty horror.
Then there's the fact sex can add to character. If you have a protagonist who never normally would go home with someone they barely know, but does, you can explore their motivation for that. Similarly, if your character is a slut but there's one person they *can't* have and it pains them, there's a whole plethora of character motivation you can explore.
Sex can feed into your plot, too - particularly when it comes to surprising your reader or audience. What if: your character is pulled into industrial espionage, simply 'cos she gets drunk, goes home with a guy - and wakes up to find him dead next to her, shot in the head? You could really play with expectation - make it seem like this is going to be a one night stand... Only for it to turn into a moment that totally turns your character's life upside down.
Readers don't get many thrills in this job, but reading a good sex scene (note: NOT rape) is definitely a perk. My French, Spanish and even German clients - and I've had a few of 'em, oo er! - delight in sex scenes that ADD to the story and/or character. Gay scripts too usually have lots of this type of "good", story-relevant sex too. And thank God for that! Else I'd have a complete dearth on my pile.
So next time you feel tempted to write a boring word like "spent" or worse, the dreaded "afterglow", PLEASE - think of your poor reader. Let's have some nice action words - THRUST is a good one. Arf.
Any fave sex scenes in produced movies while we're on the subject? One of mine is probably BETTY BLUE - wow! Worst: TERMINATOR. They so look like they're going through the motions considering they're creating the new Messiah! Come on...