Review: The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers

The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers
The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers by Elizabeth Benedict
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve recently started an ambitious project for myself, a modern chick lit based on a historical event, and in the course of writing it, I asked myself the very important question of how much sex did I want to include. On the one hand, I have my mother trying to convince me that none of my books need sex. On the other, chick lit is the only romance genre you can take liberties with who your heroine has sex with (just as long as it’s not as good as what she finally experiences with the hero), and it’s probably the only way I will ever get two specific historical figures to have sex with each other in any capacity. Not exactly the best reason to include a sex scene in any type of work, but there you have it.

While I was pondering this epic decision, I decided to reread Benedict’s The Joys of Writing Sex, a book I picked up on a whim a few years ago at the Half Price Book Store. If I could recommend just one book on writing, this would be the one. If you’re looking for a bit of advice on how to make your sex scenes sizzling and juicy, this is not the book you’re looking for. For that, I recommend going to the internet, doing some reading and seeing what works and doesn’t work. This book is not a manual on how to write sex scenes at all, which, quite frankly, I could probably use one of those as well.

No, what this book does is use specific examples on what makes a sex scene good. Not good in the sense of titillating, but good in the sense of what works for whatever piece you are currently working on.
In fact, the author stresses that a good sex scene can actually include bad sex. What makes a sex scene good, a sex scene that sticks with us beyond the mechanics, is one that teaches us something more about the work. It can tell us something about the characters, the setting or the plot, but it has to add something to the story. If a sex scene is included just to titillate, to arouse the reader or the author, then it’s just porn. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but since I don’t like pointless sex scenes in what I’m watching or reading, it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to include them myself.

I would highly recommend this book to any writer who wants a break-down of what makes good sex work. If your sex scenes are already working, you probably don’t need to read this book. There’s also a great chapter dedicated to getting rid of your critics, the voices inside your head or outside that tell you that you shouldn’t be writing such filthy things. So, mom, when I send you copies of my books, I’ll be sure to sharpie them out first.

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