Here are some notes on sex scenes, showing them to be similar to any type of scene, except for the subject matter.Characters develop through conflicts related to the main conflict, moving the plot forward, touching on the main theme.
Structure is similar to a complete plot, with set up, complication and conflict, internal or external or both, and a climax that brings about resolution and a learning experience.
Language distinguishes the characters’ personalities, places the event in time or place, sometimes adds humor. Language is specifically chosen for specific genres, from romantic and euphemistic for romance novels to clinical/realistic and slang for mainstream and noir. Sometimes the graphic words are implied rather than stated.
Sexual Detail provides originality and factual details about characters
Atmospheric detail makes the scene original continues to build on the world being established and places the event geographically and chronologically with the rest of the story.
Character Development and Plot Movement are the basis of each sex scene, just as they are in any scene. The writer has a purpose to accomplish along with the titillation.
My favorite example of a sex scene with comments as to how it works:
Note: Italics in excerpts are mine, to indicate notable word choices.
- Excerpt from Body by Harry Crews, 1990
Billy Bat and Earlene: body builder and very large woman in tub, not main characters, internal conflicts for both
Setting: Country atmosphere, dialect, humor, passion
Language: a mixture of clinical and country
Both Points of view
Both characters have changed/grown by the end, and given up something.
“Still. Be still. Keep you eyes closed. See the pasture. See the clear, looking-glass water. Beside it now. You see a white horse, a proud, young white horse, and just an easy breeze is lifting his mane and letting fall again and lifting it again. Can you see that? See it all?” Wooing her. Her internal conflict is shown earlier.
“God, that’s potry,” she said.
“But can you see it?” he said.
“Yes I can,” she said, and she truly could.
“I’m buffing you up now. It’s only a matter of time.” (“Skin Mechanic”)
He did not say what was only a matter of time, and she did not ask. The rough cloths over her skin were unlike anything she had ever felt. But it was not the washcloths she was feeling now. Billy Bat had long since dropped them. What she felt on her skin that was coming alive with the surfacing of tingling blood was ridges of calluses in Billy Bat’s hands. She felt his hands come over her shoulders and slide beneath the gathered top of her one-piece, palm her breasts, and lift them free. She allowed her sight to sift through her lashes and saw her breasts floating there in front of her, long and round and utterly white and, she thought, beautiful. Billy Bat’s naked hands were rolling and squeezing them, using long strokes to mile the blood down toward her nipples. And her nipples amazed her. She had never seen them this way before, rigid darkly engorged with blood, and more than the sight of them as a feeling—again, one she had never before known—as though a mildly charged electric wire had been connected to both nipples and ran directly to the place between her legs . . . .
Billy Bat’s head lifted, his nostrils flared and caught scent of all that his life as a bodybuilder had denied him: pastry, pork chops, fried chicken, thick flaky biscuits awash in butter. Something in him knew that he could not possibly smell what he smelled, but another, deeper part of him knew the steaming air was filled with what he longed to smell most. And hefted the slabs of her and gazed upon what was in his hand with love and longing . . . .
She reached down and took his head in both hands and raised it from the place it was buried to the ears where no man had ever been. When he looked up over the wide expanse of her, her magnificent breasts floating on either side of her now, his eyes were glazed and unseeing, but his expression was beatific as though he had just been told by Jesus himself that he was going to heaven after all . . . .
After some time of violently lapping water, bright shards of it flying over the tiled bathroom, Billy Bat quieted and held her and said, “We fit like two spoons, you sweet girl.”
She only smiled and concentrated on the moment she had dreamed of since she was a young girl but had finally come to believe would never happen.
And then later, as she felt the tension building in him just as it was building in her, she said, “We married now.” Earlene POV/ joy and acceptance
He did not answer. But he knew it was true, and he knew that she knew it was true. He had always been married to body-building, but when he entered her, he got a divorce. And when he stiffened howling like a dog with Earline’s secret face buried in his shoulder and smiling, the thought occurred to him in that single moment as serious and mysterious as death that he had just given Earline a few ounces of his worldbeating back. And right behind that came the thought that she could have all of his worldbeating back, because she did, in fact, truly have all of him. Billy Bat POV/ has given some part of his passion to her