“I Give You My Body…” How I Write Sex Scenes by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Dell, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, 2016
Disclaimer #1: Considering the subject matter of the book, this post may be NSFW and is intended for adult eyes to read (albeit not too graphic).
Disclaimer #2: I will admit that I’ve never read Outlander or anything by Diana Gabaldon other than this book and some Twitter posts she’s written. I know who she is by reputation and picked this book to read because of subject matter, so know this going in to my review.
Diana Gabaldon uses a lot of examples from her books to illustrate the concepts she’s talking about. For the most part it’s all right, but truthfully the clips don’t make me want to rush out and read her work. And really, why should I now that I’ve read all the juicy bits in this short book? There’s one particular example that takes up so much space in the book that I actually stopped at one point, wondering why I was reading this post-rapey story (something I generally avoid), then remembered it was supposed to be a book about writing sexy stuff. Really not sexy or particularly instructional if I forgot why I was reading it. Only one time (and not with that super-long example) did she break down, almost line-by-line, what she was doing with her examples. It was about using the five senses instead of two, which was helpful and specific. I’m all for examples, but more breaking down and explanation would have made this a much better book about writing.
One of my favourite things in the book is “A Small Sampling of Synonyms for You-Know-What,” where I learned such eloquent terms as baloney pony and ding dong mcdork (people actually say/write that??). Another fun bit comes (heh) right after that illuminating list where she talks about multicultural and historical penises. And Pamela Patchet’s “Ode to a Penis” is worth a read/chuckle, which you can read here: Ode to a Penis. Something else I learned: the correct term to pluralize penis is penes, not peni (pee-neye) as I’d always thought (in those times I wanted to pluralize penis, which is surprisingly often!). It’s Latin, so, well, now you know and you can amaze your friends with your knowledge. Seems the strength in this book comes from the double entendre humour she uses versus real constructive advice she offers.
Conclusion: if you’re a fan of Gabaldon’s work, you’ll love the behind-the-scenes stuff and her sense of humour throughout. For someone who’s never read her books and just wants to read about writing process, I found this book not very helpful. An ample number of examples have a short description of what you should do, followed by long-winded examples, and little to no follow-up afterward. Some parts noted above are amusing, but I wouldn’t recommend this very short book unless you’re really into Outlander spoilers and/or a Gabaldon completist.