Recently, I read an article about the difference between “smut” and “romance.” The main perceived differences were the length of the scene, the language used, and the frequency of sex scenes in a piece. I disagree a bit. I tend to write a little bit of both from time to time, but the main difference for me has been the author’s intent.
What will your audience be looking for and what are you trying to give them? Could your story be perceived as something to look up when the reader is aroused? Are you trying to show the the reader that the characters did have sex, or make the reader feel something during the scene?
So here are two lists, because one is not enough on this subject in my own opinion. One list is for writing “smut,” the other for “romance.” Some points may also help you make the scene discernible from each type of writing.
Five tips for writing “romance” scenes:
1. Focus mainly on the characters' feelings during the scene.
What were the feelings leading up to this scene? What does the character feel now that it is happening?
It seems that this tactic is used to focus less on the “dirty” things and more on the way the two make each other feel.
Example: I was bending my body around for him, I couldn’t seem to get close enough. I must seem so needy. I wanted to keep feeling like he was going to be here tomorrow. The feeling in my chest was painful, but we kept moving.
2. Heavy On the Setting
Does the setting make the scene even sexier? You can focus on what is happening around the characters. Is the sun setting, making the scene romantic?
I wrote a scene once where a couple was in the bathtub and the water from the faucet was still dripping. Each drip seemed to punctuate the thrusting.
Can you use things like this to your advantage?
Example: I slid down into the tub to my hands and knees. His hands were all over me suddenly. I wanted to back up into him, but he beat me to the draw. I shook at the intensity of his hands on my hips. In front of my face, the faucet dripped. One for the first stroke, and then another for the second. I bit my lip.
3. Contrast of Roles
Does one character feel superior to the other character? Make it visually obvious by how they treat the other character during sex. Or vice versa. Does the “inferior” person get to dominate in the bedroom?
This struggle pulls readers in, either indulging them in a sense of the tables being turned, or accentuating the personality of the leading character.
“Please…” I nearly had to bite the sheet. “Don’t call me that.”
“Why? Isn’t it important to you?” I could hear his smile in his voice. “I can hear those mewls. Are you holding back?”
I tried to raise myself from under him, but he pressed himself against my back.
“Hey, stay down. I’m going to make you come again.”
4. Push two scenes together to ease the reader away from the sex scene.
This can be used in a lot of ways, but is more efficient for romance writers to be a total clash of happenings. Anger is a spicy emotion.
So your characters are having sex. What if someone, at the same time, was fighting? Maybe screaming? Maybe running away?
If shown two contrasting elements, readers will pick up on both emotions. It makes the reader feel as though the scene is more emotional than it is.
Emily backed up, tearing the bag off the rack and stepping outside.
John and Sarah were violent now. She groaned into his mouth.
Emily’s footsteps rang down the small back alley. She was going to take the last bus tonight—so no one could follow her. She held back tears.
Emily screamed, her back against the wall. She was close.
5. Think of a Breaking Point
What could one character do that would make things harder for the other character? Again, anger is a potent spice. This contrast of feelings weaved into who is perceived as “winning” in sex makes the reader feel like the fight has been taken to a whole other level.
What would start a fight that may be taken out as sexual frustration?
She slapped him—and then somehow was nearly thrown across the room. Her back was pressed against the door, she ducked out from him and tried to make him understand. Jeremiah kissed her then. She wanted to bite him.
He ground up against her and she moaned in frustration. Fighting seemed like an afterthought. She was gonna make him pay for this.
There are many other ways—of course. Those were the top five most potent I could think of.
Many of these things may apply to both categories.
Now for my true cup of tea—“smut.”
1. Decide on language versus a character's attitude.
Is this character actually devious? They may use harsher words during sex. A virgin isn’t going to be yelling intense words for genitals.
Don’t use word dick and then switch to ding-dong.
Is one character more devious than the other? Possibly they may coax the other character into saying certain words.
Will the characters have inner dialogue? Will they be talking a lot during the scene?
Make sure to stay consistent—and reread the scene to make sure words don’t sound hilarious coming out of someone else’s mouth.
Find the correct words to make a scene. Don’t be afraid to say what a character is doing or feeling, but don’t terrify the audience while doing it.
If you met the character, what kind of language do you think they’d be using?
“Do you like that?” He hissed at me, pushing his finger into me. He was against me so heavily, pushing me and pressing our bodies together. I rocked with his hand. “What’s the matter, princess? The strongest fighter in the village is letting me wrap her around my fingers?”
I gritted my teeth. “You shit fighter. Don’t talk to me like that.”
[Both characters are bold, not afraid to cuss. My own personal preference is to keep the word c*nt out of things. Only because I find it an insult. The character has to be pretty violent to say that word. Find your own preferences.]
2. Don’t cut yourself short.
I can’t express to you enough—sex takes time. You can’t have a character fly through a sex scene if you want the audience to feel something about it.
After you have written what I call “the bones” of a sex scene, look at it again. Is it paced well? Do you feel as though it was actually paced for real human beings?
Don't make your character come after two sentences after the sex scene has started. Don’t be afraid to talk about the movements, the breathing, the way they interact with their surroundings.
If this is “smut,” it has to “warm up” the audience member as well. Make sure you are using a lot of description.
“You are not having her, she is having you.”
John was just above her face, her mouth gave his balls a gentle lick before her lips engulfed him again.
She suddenly stopped pulling him in and out of her mouth and sucked while keeping still, her mouth all the way to his balls. The only indication to me that she was still sucking was John’s languid groan. I could see the muscles tensing and relaxing in his legs. He threw his head back again and let his hips buck.
“Echo...” he whined. “Why are you letting her do this?” My groin tightened. “She’s…” He gave a huge buck and looked like he might scream. “Fuck, she’s sucking me better than any human could.”
“Yes, she is.” I was taking my dress off now. “She is perfect and she is mine.” I thought about him having my mouth, but I wanted to share Madzy with him. She would bring him to his knees.
3. Create conflict.
Don’t let everything go perfectly for the characters. If characters walk into the room together and just say, “Hey, let’s have sex!” The audience is sitting there wondering why.
What turned on the other character? Should this be a surprise to the audience? Some drama around sex gets the audience warmed up.
Passion is an attractive quality—and one that definitely gets a character to jump on another one.
“Please, just act like you love me,” I was desperate. “Just for a minute. Act like you want me.”
Tears were running down my face.
“I do want you. I want you really badly,” he nibbled my lips, kissing me intensely. His cock slipped between my legs, and my spine tingled with the feeling.
I scratched at his back, holding onto him. He thrusted deeply again. I felt like we laid entwined for a long time, thrusting and biting at each other.
I felt a gentle pulsing from his cock between my legs. He cried silently above me, his strong shoulders drooping while he came passionately.
He pressed his cheek against mine, his breathing was intense. I felt okay for the moment.
“Take me with you,” he whispered.
4. Write when you feel like it/are possibly aroused.
Sometimes you just have to write the scene to turn yourself on. Write one out. Maybe you will get rid of it, maybe it will be good for a scene in your book.
I deleted an entire chapter just because I didn’t want the story to carry the weight of who my character had slept with.
You are writing for both yourself and the audience. Make sure you are not forcing the scene out of yourself.
Read other fanfics or stories to get ideas and act on how you feel.
My legs were starting to splay open, the ache in my stomach was heavy. I could hardly believe he was talking to me this way. Not a single other soul had treated me like a commoner.
The heavy rock in my stomach dropped and I felt the first wave of orgasm pulse through my fucking womb. I was holding John’s shoulders tightly, throwing my head into his neck and giving him a harsh bite.
5. Don’t be afraid to do exactly what you want.
You are writing this. Let your own fantasies come through. Your writing isn’t going to be perfect.
Hell. The audience may be delighted that you gave them an unlikely morsel in the story.
Make the characters have sex more often than they might be able to, this is for pleasure and not for perfect storylines.
[I made Echo’s sister tell us how big her lover’s dick was—as well as Echo telling everyone a bit about John...]
My eyes shot open. “Would you like to be the queen? If so, you can go to war for me!”
“At least I found a man that comes from a bloodline that is out of the dirt.”
“At least my man has a dick worth yearning for,” John’s eyes widened. “His battle skills may be terrible.” John’s face looked annoyed.
Now her face was red. “It’s not small! It’s pretty… regular?” Sex was a tall subject in our family. Many of my sisters had at least four partners already. As did I. The size of the man's dick was a hot subject. “You act like John is so amazing in bed!”
“Well, I mean…” The table was quiet. At least father had left the table to go meet with someone.
Kelly huffed and looked away.