Writing smut is like writing any other fiction. Your goal is to create a world filled with people, a narrative for them to live in, and then immerse your readers in your world. You want your reader to emerge from your story or book blinking, turned on, and disoriented.
Reread your favorite fiction with the goal of discovering why you like it, then learn from it and apply what you’ve learnt to your writing. Write beautiful eloquent smut! Some of my stylistic influences are James Baldwin, Henning Mankell, and Djuna Barnes. None of them are pornographers, but they’re all excellent writers that I have learned from.
Pay attention to where they are, their clothing, their looks, and their mood. Is their age, ethnicity, gender, body size, class etc relevant to understanding them? How do you convey this information? Can you show, rather than tell?
Pay attention to your protagonist’s entire bodies, not just their lips, chests/breasts, and genitals. For instance, dykes know that hands are marvelous sex tools that can bring hours of pleasure; describe the shape and texture of your protagonists’ hands, how their fingernails are manicured, whether the skin is smooth or rough, whether they’re wearing rings. Are they wearing glasses? Do they have any injuries?
Do not always make them between 18 and 35 years old, white, healthy, attractive. and buff/slender. Diversify with age, ability, ethnicity, and body size. What if they looked like you? Your neighbor? The person sitting across from you on the bus? Just because white, young, and attractive is the default, doesn’t mean that your protagonists should be white, young, and attractive.
Be specific when describing their attire. If they’re wearing jeans, are they button-fly, bellbottoms, or boot cut? Is their sweater a pullover or a cardigan? Wool or cotton? Solid or patterned? Clean or dirty? Picture them in your head as if you ran into them in real life and you’re sitting across from them in a cafe. What kind of underwear are they wearing? Is it a style that matches their outside appearance, or is it an unexpected surprise?
Avoid Anatomical Blunders
Find modern anatomical charts for the gender(s) of your protagonists and study them. The vagina is not the vulva, the clitoral area is larger than originally supposed, and the head of the clitorus is located in the vulva,. If you are writing about transgender protagonists, then Google the words they use for their bits. Ask your trans friends. Don’t rely on porn vocabulary – it sucks and is often offensive. The vocabulary that transgender and genderqueer people use for their genitals has been around for less time than the vocabulary for cis-people, therefore it is less developed, and is ripe for variance. Pay attention!
Tell us about their surroundings, and the temperature or weather. You want the reader to vividly imagine themselves in that living room, that car seat, that bed. What is the weather like? The lighting?
Be detailed and be deliberate with your choices. Pretend that you need to describe it as if you were setting up a stage or movie set. For instance, how is the mood different if a couple is fucking on a worn antique Persian carpet, an unkempt avocado green shag carpet, or a plush white carpet? These adjectives convey totally different scenarios. Simple details like these can add immense sensual texture to your writing.
The Realm of the Senses
Remember that there are five senses, touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste, and that you need to engage all five in order to describe the environment, the protagonists, and their sexual pleasure. Describing the senses involved in a scene is an excellent way of showing, not telling. Describing the senses can often function as double duty literary devices by giving the reader information about sensory input and how it got there.
Smell: Scent is a powerful memory aid and amazing stimulant. What does the room smell like? Could there be lingering smells from a meal, if so, what was eaten? What do your protagonists smell like? Some ideas are obvious, like a citrus cologne, herbal shampoo, or salty sweat, but some are more subtle such as toothpaste or mothballs from a wool sweater that has been in storage. Go the additional step; it’s not just toothpaste, but it’s wintergreen toothpaste.
Hearing: Aside from the expected panting, moans, and groans what other noises are heard? Think about sex noises such as the clink of handcuffs or the slurping sound of giving head, and don’t forget more general atmospheric noises such a music, traffic, a door slamming, or birdsong. How about the soft snap as a bra is unfastened, or the pop of button-fly jeans being undone? Is there dialog before, during, or after sex? If so, watch out for cliches such as “You know you want it.” and “Suck it!” On second thought, maybe “Suck it!” Is okay.
Taste: Can you taste the last thing they ate when you kiss? Maybe it’s a peanut butter sandwich from a picnic, champagne from a New Year’s Eve party, or a chocolate truffle. Do your protagonists eat together before, during, or after? What about the taste of skin, including their genitals? Be accurate!
Touch: Touch is what we think of most often when we think of describing sex. Watch out for using cliches such as soft as a gentle breeze or diamond hard. As writing practice, think about what kind of sexual touch personally turns you on and describe that graphically. You might end up using it, however even if you don’t, it will be a gateway to more imaginative writing.
Sight: Describe both the short focus and the long focus, both the bodies and the room. We expect nipples to become erect, but remember other sights of arousal such as flushed skin and softened facial features after coming. Be observant when you have sex; fucking is research!
It’s All in the Details
Don’t be afraid of adjectives. Minimalism is overrated. Adjectives will help you immerse your reader into the world that you’re creating. It’s not just a belly, it’s pale freckled flesh, soft, meaty, and warm. Their hair is a deliciously soft coal black Afro, not just a black natural. The walls of the bedroom are ballet pink with white crown molding, not merely pink.
What happened prior to fucking? What happens after they come? Write about sex that personally turns you on. Write about what you’ve done and write about what you fantasize about doing. Don’t censor yourself. If you feel hesitant, write it anyway, put it aside, then reread it later. Draw out foreplay, sex, and afterglow without rushing over the details.
If it is a sexual fantasy and you’ve never done it, then do some research first. Go online, call San Francisco Sex Information (414-989-SFSI), talk with some friends over wine and dinner, go to a workshop, or check out library how-to books. Fantasy is awesome, however you want to be reasonably accurate.
My personal erotica pet peeve is people that write about butt sex inaccurately. If you write about anal sex, please include lube. If your protagonist is a regular butt sex aficionado and it hurts them, then you’re not describing it realistically.
If you write about something you’ve done before, then get in the mood. Remember a particularly spectacular time you did it. What is it that you like about it? What is your favorite part, no matter how odd or innocuous sounding that may be. Is there anything annoying, spectacularly passionate, or funny about doing it?
I take regular masturbation and porn breaks while I’m writing, and many erotica writers I know do this too. We’re a horny bunch! I want to be turned on by myself and my words; if my writing doesn’t get me wet and hard, how can I expect it to get my readers hot?
Use humor. Sex can be hilarious. Fuck so hard the bed slats crack and collapse, fuck so hard that your dildo breaks at the base (true story), have the cat walk away from her seat at the foot of the bed in disgust as you start to get it on, or get almost caught by a football team while having public sex. Laugh afterwards…laugh until you snort. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while fucking?
Show — Don’t tell
Creative writing suggestions that apply to nonsex scenes, also apply to sex scenes. Show, don’t just tell. Don’t just tell me that you teased him or her until they were begging for it, but describe what you did in slow enough detail that the reader is also begging for it!
No rods, throbbing members, tunnels of love, pert or heaving breasts, or honey pots unless you’re aiming for silliness. No phalluses. We do not have a rich culture to guide us in developing our vocabulary when writing about sex, however that is no excuse for lazy writing.
Read your work out loud and edit as you read. You don’t need to read to anyone. Just the act of speaking, will help you fine tune your vocabulary, descriptions, dialog, and other components of your work. If you’re fortunate enough to belong to an erotic writing reading group or have open mics in your city that are sex-positive, read in public. Start a blog! Submit your short stories to anthologies, and your novels to publishers.