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The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction…

The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers

by Elizabeth Benedict

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What a surprise. I think the title (which is a play on the 1970s classic The Joy of Sex) is a bit misleading, because to me it sounds like a how-to guide for writers of erotica and romance fiction. And it is none of those things. Instead, I would describe it as a discussion on how sex functions to promote story and character in literary fiction. It's really about what makes great writing more than anything.

One of the book's strengths is how Benedict uses examples from contemporary literature to illustrate her points -- many from books I've read, or that are now on my wishlist. She also includes interviews with many writers, including Russell Banks, Edmund White, Alan Hollinghurst, Carol Sheilds, and John Updike, among many others. She includes a wide-range of approaches--safe-sex, AIDs, first time, adultery, married sex, illegal sex, recreational sex, gay, lesbian, masturbation--and covers them in a matter of fact way without embarrassment.

I have to admit that I'm one of those readers who often finds sex scenes in books to be quite boring and I tend to skip over them. After reading the Joy of Writing Sex, I think I'll look at them differently.

Recommended for: To quote one of the cover blurbs, this one from Elaine Showalter: "Elizabeth Benedict's advice for writers about the literary meaning of sex is also wonderful advice for readers. An important book for all serious teachers and students of contemporary fiction." ( )
3 vote Nickelini | Jul 25, 2015 |
Heh. Not really. ( )
  Steelwhisper | Mar 30, 2013 |
While this book offers useful hints and some good ideas, it is much too caught up in reprinting excerpts from writers that the author admires. ( )
  siliconrose | Jul 28, 2007 |
I found this book back in Barnes & Noble during the summer of 2005. I was thrilled to find it, because everyone and anyone has a theory of how sex should be handled in fiction, when in truth, the subject is far more complex than most people give it credit for, especially for fiction. And since I knew my own work would feature some kind of sexual overtones, if not the dirty deed itself, I figured I needed all the help I could get. :)

No need to get into a long-winded review: I think this is an excellent resource for writers of all genres, though I don’t know if romance writers will find it enlightening or old hat. But the book focuses on a variety of sexual relationships and the uniqueness of each. The book also stresses that sex should be more than gratuitous or entertainment (it’s heavy in the literary way of looking at this), it should serve to do something aside from hooking two characters up. There’s a lot of focus on character motivation and desires and how that should define sex scenes in novels, and there’s plenty of examples from various works of fiction.

I think it’s fortunate that we live in a society where sex is prominent in fiction, film, and television. We’re not so gun-shy anymore about talking about it or reading about it, so chances are, you’ve been exposed to a variety of sex scenes while reading without really being “aware” of it. I think that’s the author’s point: sex should be so integrated to the characters and story as a whole that it’s a natural thing to come out of the book. There’s also a focus on intimacy between people, which is equally important. I can easily recommend this book to any writer faced with the possibility of writing a sex scene. It might give you ideas, or at the very a least, a new way to look at a familiar subject. ( )
1 vote devilwrites | Apr 28, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805069933, Paperback)

Even though writing about sex probably ranks on the joy scale somewhere between reading about it and having it, Elizabeth Benedict feels that many writers don't do justice to the act. So she has developed a novel idea: a guide book for fiction writers seeking to create better sex scenes. Benedict, a teacher in Princeton University's Creative Writing Program, doesn't concern herself with pornography but rather with a contention that sex scenes are pivotal in carrying the plot, story and character of some novels. Her point is emphasized through many interviews she conducted with authors on their experience with and views on writing about sex. Now, if she would only visit the film industry . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:08 -0400)

Offers writers advice on handling human sexuality in their fiction, tells how to write about specific situations, and shares examples of good writing.

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