Read I Give You My Body

Read “I Give You My Body . . .” by Diana Gabaldon

In this revealing compendium, acclaimed writer Diana Gabaldon shares her invaluable lessons for creating an immersive reading experience, from evoking a mood to using the power of emotions to communicate physical intimacy. You’ll learn the difference between gratuitous sex and genuine encounters that move the story forward, and how to handle less-than-savory acts that nevertheless serve a narrative purpose. Gabaldon also notes that sex can be conveyed instead of described. With such tips as “The Rule of Three” for involving the senses, handy lists of naughty euphemisms (with instructions for use), and Gabaldon’s own examples from the Outlander novels, “I Give You My Body . . .” is a master class in writing to draw readers in and keep them riveted to the page.

Tl;dr don’t write sex write a conversation with sensual details for character development

Some useful information but a surprisingly substantial portion was dedicated to “nasty sex”…aka rape and assault. I quit reading Diana Gabaldon because so many characters got raped so guess I should have seen that coming. This would have benefitted from examples of sex scenes other than her own. They were quite long, and most useful when she breaks it down describing what she’s doing and why.

I thought it was ironic that she talks about using not funny and not clinical words in sex scenes but all her sample scenes use the word “buttocks” which I find funny 😉

Key Notes

“So how do you make a scene vivid but not revoltingly so? There’s a little trick called the Rule of Three: if you use any three of the five senses, it will make the scene immediately three-dimensional.

“a good sex scene is usually a dialogue scene with physical details”

“By and large, you can “anchor” a sex scene for the reader by providing small cues regarding the physical action and allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the rest.”

“In good sex-scene writing, this particular scene could only have happened to these two people.”

“When it comes to emotions, the less you say about them, the stronger the emotions themselves will play on the page.”

Underpainting is a way of making scenes three-dimensional and immersive, by adding inconspicuous (but well-chosen) details of setting and body language to the dialogue.” – “detail, body language, adverbial tags, the falling of light and shadow, etc., that are not essential to the scene or noticeable in themselves—but that cumulatively give a sense of reality, dimension, and chiaroscuro to a scene.”

Change “focal lengths” – zoom in and out throughout a scene – “You want to focus in on a small detail or an intense passage of dialogue, then pull back out” – “see what else is happening in the room, or go further in, to what’s happening in someone’s mind”

“The use of a sexual context heightens the natural conflict”

“The words that evoke sensuality are important, but they ought for the most part to stay in the background; what’s being said and done is in the forefront of the reader’s mind”

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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