Sex, Violence & Profanity in Novels

A recent review of my latest novel, At the River’s Edge, caught my attention. The reviewer appreciated reading a murder mystery that wasn’t laced with profanity and sexual content. Similar comments have been made by other readers.

To be clear, I wrote this book for adults, and it does contain earthy language and moderate violence. After all, it is a murder mystery, but it doesn’t contain explicit sex scenes, and the violence is within the context of the story.

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I believe you can build tension and suspense in a mystery without gory violence or profane language. I only need to reference Rod Serling and his TV series, The Twilight Zone, to make my point. For younger readers, Google him or take a look at a YouTube clip of one of the episodes from the 1950s and 1960s.

I’ve never overused violence or profane language in any of my novels. Early on, however, I mistakenly believed those who told me sex sells, and I attempted a couple of lust-filled scenes in my first two books, Corrupt Connection and Better Late Than Ever.

A romance novelist who reviewed the second book said the sex scenes read like the author was not committed to what he was describing. She was right. I couldn’t force myself to write the oft-used, salacious words describing what the lovemaking partners were doing to each other.  While readers expect this content in romance novels, I don’t think it flows naturally in a murder mystery or crime novel.

You will not find a focus on lust in John Grisham’s suspense-filled novels. In fact, he once mentioned his early attempts at integrating sex scenes into his thrillers made his wife laugh.  To this date, he avoids politics and lust.  I can’t think of a better role model or advice for writers of suspense.

My current novels contain elements of romance, including At the River’s Edge, but now the door closes and reopens a few pages later. What happens in between is up to your imagination.

Learn more about At the River’s Edge by Clicking Here.

4 thoughts on “Sex, Violence & Profanity in Novels

  1. I agree completely. I once mentioned to an author that I thought a sex scene in his manuscript felt out of place (even though it was “fade to black” stuff and not descriptive). It had no purpose to the plot advancement and felt wrong for the genre he was writing in. He took criticism well, but I believe he thought my reservation was due to my conservative nature, rather than the fact that the scene was awkward and unnecessary.

    I say go for it! If you’re writing a romance, then take it to whatever level is appropriate for the type of romance. But non-romance books don’t require a romantic involvement to be interesting. You can easily hold a reader’s attention with a great story and solid writing style.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t write sex scenes into a story. Why? It’s none of my damn business for openers what happens behind closed doors between my characters (does that sound crazy or what). And rarely does it move the story forward. Most writers toss them in there for no other reason except to have one.

    The other reason I don’t write them is I like to think of myself as a good Christian man, and by the definition Jesus put out there of Adultery, well, committing something graphic to paper sounds to me like it meets that definition. Crossing that line to entice a reader into buying the book is a little like selling out my ethics. I just won’t go there.


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