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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 . . . --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Novelist Benedict (Safe Conduct, Farrar, 1993), currently on the faculty of Princeton University's Creative Writing Program, has written a book for fiction writers who would like to write better sex scenes. She is not concerned with pornography but with using sex as an element of plot to carry the story forward. The author quotes from many writers whom she interviewed to illustrate her points, from Sandra Cisneros on the young girl who lost her virginity at 12 in Woman Hollering Creek to Carol Shields on sex between long-married couples in Stone Diaries to Allen Barnett in a chapter on sex in the age of AIDS. Benedict's focus is on writing good sex scenes, which don't rely on clinical sex but rather on character, dialog, and plot. Well done; recommended for writing collections.?Lisa J. Cihlar, Winfield P.L., Ill.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Revised edition (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069938
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Benedict, a graduate of Barnard College, is a bestelling novelist, journalist, teacher of creative writing, editor, and writing coach. She has published five acclaimed novels, including the bestseller ALMOST, a classic book on writing fiction, and hundreds of reviews, essays, and magazine articles. She is the editor of the celebrated anthology, MENTORS, MUSES & MONSTERS: 30 WRITERS ON THE PEOPLE WHO CHANGED THEIR LIVES (Excelsior Press, Feb. 2012/Simon & Schuster 2009) and of WHAT MY MOTHER GAVE ME: THIRTY-ONE WOMEN ON THE GIFTS THAT MATTERED MOST (Algonquin April 2013).

NEWSWEEK and Fresh Air's Maureen Corrigan chose her novel, the bestseller ALMOST, as one of the top novels of 2001. Her novels have established her reputation as a writer who "specializes in the subterranean currents of modern relationships, the secret motivations and betrayals that underlie everyday interactions" (Newsday). Hallie Ephron in the Boston Globe called her most recent novel, THE PRACTICE OF DECEIT, "a wickedly funny literary suspense novel" that is "wry, at times heartbreaking, always smart and entertaining." Newsday's reviewer said that Benedict's "wit is as sharp as her eye, and twice as fast. She writes the hard, horrifying truth about human nature, and it is addictively entertaining."

Her first novel, SLOW DANCING, published in 1985, was shortlisted for the National Book Award. She is also the author of several other novels and of a classic book, THE JOY OF WRITING SEX: A GUIDE FOR FICTION WRITERS, which is used widely in writing programs and has been featured on radio shows in the UK and Australia.

She has taught fiction and non-fiction writing at Barnard, the New School, Princeton, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Swarthmore College, and MIT and has written for many publications, including The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, The New York Times, Salmagundi, Esquire, Tin House,Harper's Bazaar, and The American Prospect.

Please visit: www.elizabethbenedict.com for free essays and the latest news. PLEASE NOTE: Color photos must run with photo credit: (c) Daniel Lake. Black and white photo must run with photo credit (c) Emma Dodge Hanson.

Customer Reviews

I have started reading it, and it is very entertaining and informative so far.
Susan Hand
Benedict gives great examples, writes in an easy to follow manner and addresses us as authors of fiction - not in a textbook manner.
K. Hewitt
This is a book about writing sex scenes and erotica, but more importantly, it's a book about good writing, period.
Joe LeDux

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By S Martin on April 4, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was recommended in place of Susie Bright's How to Write a Dirty Story, and I have to say compared to it, this is a much better book. It focuses on sex, and the wide variety that's out there.
One thing that I really enjoyed is that the author doesn't ignore important topics: AIDs, Adultry, incest, and many other things. She doesn't treat any subject as taboo, nor does she approach them with embarrassment. They are simply topics she discusses.
I was pleased to see that she touches on all types of sex: first times, married sex, adultery, recreational, etc etc. She brings up points that anyone writing a sex scene needs to think about, and reminds you that sometimes the sex isn't the main purpose of the scene, and that it doesn't have to be graphic to get the point across.
I found this book to be much more helpful than others. Instead of telling people how to prepare, it uses examples to show Benedict's points, and picks those examples apart so the reader can understand exactly why such things are necessary.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on April 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Man, it's one thing to think about sex, another thing to have sex, and waaaaaay different to write about it. It's difficult to the max, especially when you really don't want to come off sounding like you're writing porn - or even erotica. Elizabeth Benedict has done a favor for all of us writers who have struggled with the topic, right down to interviewing famous writers of famous sex scenes. It's a resource for MFA students, authors, teachers, and just ordinary people who like to write for their own pleasure. The Joy of Writing Sex is sane and straightforward, entertaining and informing, hip and...sexy!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne P. Thomas on July 24, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are writing modern fiction, the odds are you will include a sex scene somewhere in your story. The problem I see in most published fiction is that the sex is predictable, i.e. it's almost always fantastic. This could also be interpreted as boring, leading me to frequently skim over 2-5 pages searching for the point where the story starts again. Authors who strive diligently to avoid dead spaces anywhere else in their novels will let the action come to a dead halt while the characters get laid. Ms. Benedict shows you how to avoid this all-too-common problem. Just as some scenes in a story are located in a bar, along a street, or at a society party, some scenes happen in the bedroom (or kitchen, or back seat of a car), and these scenes can do everything a scene is supposed to do. They can move along the plot, reveal characterization, disclose an important piece of backstory, and/or up the conflict. This is why Ms. Benedict's advice can help all of your writing, especially when she asks you to explore your characters' attitude toward sex. What are their attitudes to everything else in the world? It's a great question to ask yourself each time you lead your characters into a new situation - they've got opinions and reasons for them! If your sex scenes are only sex, and you wish they were a lot more, I highly recommend this book. One caveat: the examples include gay sex as well as hetero, and this may be offensive to some readers.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By KatSchool on December 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
You can write serious literary works and have sex scenes as Benedict illustrates. Is it going to make our parents blush? Probably, but she even deals with those issues. She teases out some of the best examples of being specific and not necessary explicit--what are the sights, sounds and smells surrounding our characters, not just the body parts they are using. What are they thinking and what are they saying? I found great validation in my book, "Forever Retro Blues," that my sex scenes were not just gratuitous, but functioned as part of the whole story. I wrote with intuition because I did not yet have this book, but I know I will do better in the future for reading Benedict's book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Hartjes on November 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm a freelance writer, looking to expand and improve my writing, and The Joy of Writing Sex is one of the best resources I've found. It's not just about writing erotica. It gives the reader tips and guidelines for introducing love scenes into any genre, and how to make it believable, and provides examples from modern literature. Elizabeth Benedict doesn't say or do anything cutsie, and that makes the book not only informative, but a pleasure to read.
I think that possibly the best thing about this book, other than the examples, are the exerpts Benedict included from the interviews she conducted with authors about their work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Deborah A. Woehr VINE VOICE on May 13, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ms. Benedict not only gives examples of erotic scenes and different scenarios like 'the first time' and 'adultery', but gives good pointers on how to write each of them. She teaches you how to get inside your characters' heads and realize their backgrounds, beliefs, anxieties, etc. before writing The Big Scene. It is important that you know your characters because if you don't, you'll produce nothing but empty pornography. Get this book if you want to write about quality sex.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 26, 1996
Format: Paperback
Great book to flesh out your approach to writing about sex. The author rightfully points out that writing about sex evokes the oft hidden world of the writer's own inhibitions. Great integration tips for sexual discussions within a larger story
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