How to Write Implied Smut 

**Ironically, this article is somewhat NSFW**

So you want to write about sex without writing about sex. (Or maybe you don’t want to, but you need to, which is usually where I end up.) Some writers and readers love smut, and some don’t, which is totally valid. Or sometimes you’ve got a couple of characters who’d like to get it on, but your story guidelines require a SFW rating. Whatever the reasons for keeping things under cover (pun intended), here are some helpful hints about hinting:

Method 1: Read between the lines

In this approach, there are no sex scenes at all, no (heavy) kissing, no wandering around in nothing but your socks. You want the reader to know Jane and Betsy participate in a certain indoor sport together, but we’re not going to pop a single blouse button on-screen. Here are three ways to do it:

Situation-based clues include having Jane and Betsy share a room at a hotel, arrive at work or leave together, keep their stuff at each other’s houses, wear each other’s clothes, etc. 

Other characters can assume Jane & Betsy are a couple, knowing that if you text one at three a.m. the other is likely to answer, or if you tell Jane something, Betsy will immediately know, or even blatantly stating they aren’t just roommates.

Jane and Betsy themselves can act like they’re lovers in a SFW way. G-rated signs of offscreen physical intimacy include sitting in each other’s laps, touching faces, briefly kissing on the mouth, and holding hands.

This “between the lines” method leaves the physical relationship entirely to the reader’s imagination. There are no hints of specifics in the bedroom, no scenes that will get your reader’s temperature rising. Perfect for some writers and readers. The next two methods have more heat.

Method 2: Kiss and don’t tell

This is what they call “closing the door.” Cue your characters kissing and then fade to black, and if you want to say what happens afterward, stick to general terms. You know, it was a very enjoyable evening, they got to know each other better, Jane learned what it was like to spend a night with Betsy

You can also have Jane and Betsy wake up in bed together the next morning, possibly showing them zipping up their dresses or even searching for their dresses wherever they may have been flung off on the way to the bedroom. You can even hang handcuffs from the headboard—and guess what? That’s all still G-rated.

Example from my (rare) SFW works:

They touched as much as they liked then, with fingers and mouths certainly, but also with toes and ears and knees. They laughed and moaned and they learned how to be as close as two people could ever be to each other, not just touching anymore, but for many sparkling moments actually being one body.

The Other Arrangement (one of my Good Omens fanfics)

Unlike the first method, this “close the door” bit leads the reader into thinking about the specific bedroom scenario you’ve set up, which they can imagine at any heat level they like—or not imagine it at all. (Not everybody wants to look through the keyhole.) The last method is a bit more, well, explicit.

Method three: Think hard—er, carefully—about word choice

How to say they’ve got erections without saying they’ve got erections:

“Oh,” said Aziraphale, in a brave voice, “and here I thought my enthusiasm was rather obvious.”

Crowley didn’t move, but the expression on his face suggested that he could feel exactly what Aziraphale was talking about, and that he knew Aziraphale could feel the same from him.

-The Angel’s Bracelet (oh wow more Good Omens).

Believe it or not, you can actually have SFW sex on-screen if you’re choosy with words. So hard becomes aroused, ass becomes rear, tits become chest. Don’t name any super-naughty body parts at all. 

Terri was even softer and warmer than Heather had imagined, her curves unable to be contained by Heather’s small hands. Not that Heather didn’t try, and that was when they realized they probably should not be doing this in the library.

“You will let me take you on a real date, won’t you?” Terri asked, smoothing Heather’s hair where it had come loose from her bun.

“Well, what’s customary for a fifth date?” Heather asked, refastening two of Terri’s shirt buttons.

Blind Date with a Book (wtf this is not Good Omens?!) 

In this “word choice” method, the reader knows exactly what’s happening, but it’s still safe enough to be read in public. It’s like naughty art with careful blurring. This method can be satisfying for a reader who doesn’t want to have to imagine the rest of the scene, or at least wants to know how the writer imagined it. And it’s good for writers who want to obey the letter of the law while still showing a love scene (see how I used the SFW term for “sex scene”?).

Writing smut without smut is a good tool (pun intended sorry) for writers because it lets those who don’t want to write smut still convey high heat between their characters, and because it lets smut-comfortable writers reach SFW audiences. I often have two versions of stories I’m submitting, one explicit and one not, so I can try more markets.

Please note you should never send an explicit work to a submission call unless the guidelines specifically say it’s allowed, because some editors/slush readers don’t want to read smut. When in doubt, politely query first.

Anyway if you want to read some more of my non-fanfic smut go here.

Thanks for reading! Looking for (SFW) inspiration? Get some weird writing prompts

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