• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

FILM/TV COMMENTARY, Part I: Adaptation, Logistics, and Testicles

Reaffirm Life memeSince book-touring is done (thank GOD!) and the show is on hiatus, we have a bit of time to stop, think, and catch up on the email…

So—I thought I might address a few recent comments and questions on Episode 8. Not to refute people’s opinions—everyone’s entitled to think as they like, and say so—but just to show you a bit about How Things Work.

While most people were riveted—as they should have been; it was a terrific episode—there were a few who were upset at things they perceived to be "missing"—these including:

  • Scenes of one-on-one dialogue between Jamie and Claire
  • More scenes of intimacy
  • Claire patching people up and doing healing
  • And specifically… the "waterweed" scene following the Grants’ raid.

(One person also thought we should have seen the redcoats stalking Claire, rather than have them pop out abruptly to seize her as she reaches for the stone.)

And there were a number of questions regarding the "Deserter" scene—mostly as to whether Claire had actually been raped or not (and if she had, what kind of doofus was Jamie for going off to talk to Dougal instead of tenderly cradling her and soothing her, etc.).


As I replied to one such commenter:

"Well….your comments pinpoint the major difference between Book and Show: Time.

ALL the things you wanted to see—one on one Jamie and Claire, more scenes of intimacy, relationship building, Claire patching people up, etc.—ALL of them, are things that would require extended chunks of time (‘extended,’ in a TV show, is anything that lasts more than 60 seconds). None of these things are ‘action,’ none of them move the plot in any direct way.

The show has 52-55 minutes in which to do everything that has to be done. They don’t have time to do nice-but-nonessential "Oh, wait while I triage the whole group, bandage Angus’s scorched hand and reset Ned Gowan’s tooth," or "Oh, my God, I know we just had sex, but let’s do it again…"

In short…if you want more of all those things—you can have ‘em. In the book. <g>"

Now, a successful adaptation is always balancing the needs of the story versus the exigencies of the form. As Andrew Marvell notes to "His Coy Mistress,"— "Had we but world and time, this coyness, mistress, were no crime…" I have world and time in a novel; pretty much all I want. I can shape the story to fit my own notion of pace, rhythm, focus and climax. So can a show-runner and his gang of writers—but they don’t have world and time. They have to decide what’s essential, and then shape the story to the time available and to the necessity for each 55-minute episode to have a satisfying dramatic arc of its own.


(in reply to the person complaining about the redcoats’ abrupt appearance):

"But…the redcoats came out of ‘nowhere’ in the book, as well, when they pull Claire out of the stream. It isn’t that they aren’t ‘there’—it’s that in neither case does Claire see them, because she’s so totally focused on her goal…and we’re in her head, so we don’t see them, either.

To have shown the soldiers sneaking in from the side, while Claire was laboring up the hill, calling for Frank, would have given us a different sort of suspense in the scene—but would have been a distraction from the growing sense of desperate hope between Claire and Frank. And that was the true point of the scene.

See, one of the main tools of good story-telling is focus; getting the reader/viewer to look where you want them to look. And physical reality is really a pretty small part of that. The fact that X must have been there may be logical—but it isn’t relevant, so you don’t show it. Q.E.D. <g>"

Now, the focus of that scene is really what’s controlling it, and thus dictating changes from the book. Several people expressed disappointment at not seeing Claire fall into the water and be pulled out by the redcoats. Amusing as that might have been, it’s merely a way of interrupting her headlong rush toward the stones and getting her into Captain Randall’s clutches. The way it was done instead accomplishes that same plot goal—but also makes a very solid and dramatic point about her longing for Frank and his for her. So the adapted form is not detracting from the original version; in fact, it’s adding to it, and giving us a really good two-for-one, combining plot and character development/backstory reminder.

When Ron and I met in New York for the first-ever Outlander Fan Event, we shared a long cab-ride to the event, during which we talked Book. I told him why the flowers at Craigh na Dun are forget-me-nots and why the ghost is there (and no, I’m not telling you guys; you’ll find out, eventually <g>), and he told me about his vision of that scene with Claire and Frank approaching the stones from either side. I thought that was a great idea and said so.

See, that’s something that I couldn’t have done in the book, because it’s told entirely from Claire’s point of view. We can’t see what Frank was doing and going through after Claire disappeared. I preserved Claire’s worry about/attachment to Frank by having her think about him and grieve for him periodically—but that’s all internal; the only way of doing internal monologue in a visual medium is voice-overs, and I think y’all would agree that it’s best to keep that technique to a minimum…

But it’s simple to change time, place and viewpoint in a visual medium; one shot and you’re there. Also, since you’re working in a constrained time-space, the balance of viewpoints is easier to manage.

Technically, it’s possible to use multiple viewpoints in a book — (in fact, I got a note from one of my editors (regarding a chunk of MOBY I’d sent him) saying, "Congratulations… I think you’ve just done the literary equivalent of juggling half a dozen chainsaws.") — but OUTLANDER was my first book, written for practice, and I wasn’t out to make things too complicated. Had I used flashbacks of Frank’s life in the context of a book of that size, they’d either be overwhelming, or trivial distractions. Used in the context of a 55-minute TV episode, they were beautifully balanced against Claire’s 18th century life.

In addition, there’s a visceral punch to seeing Frank’s actions that gives you an instant emotional investment in him and his story. I probably have the chops to do such a thing effectively in print now, but I didn’t when I wrote OUTLANDER (and in fact, I wouldn’t have thought of doing it; I wanted most of the focus on Jamie and the 18th century, both because that’s where most of the color and action and Story was, but also to assist the reader in falling in love with Jamie along with Claire, so that we would understand her later choices. But just as the visual invests the viewers in Frank, it does the same for Jamie—are we in any doubt, following "The Wedding" that Claire is falling in love with him?).

See, a visual medium speeds things up. You don’t necessarily need the longer build-up that you have in text, because the images are much more immediate, and easier for the audience to absorb in an emotional way.

OK, moving on to the was-it-rape? scene and the aftermath…

Well, the people who’ve read the book (and remember it <g>) know it was attempted rape. Claire grabbed her attacker around the neck while he was fumbling for a, um, connection, pulled him down and stabbed him in the kidney—but he never did succeed in penetrating her.

The TV-only people probably think he did succeed because one of the "warnings" at the beginning was an "R" for "Rape," even though there isn’t one in the episode. Now, whether whoever put the warning on thought that’s what happened, or whether it’s merely a "trigger" warning (i.e., people with a sensitivity to scenes of sexual assault might want to know there is such a scene in this episode)…I don’t know.

But this is one of those things where stuff from the book actually can’t be shown adequately. It’s absolutely clear from the book, because we’re in Claire’s head, and we know what she was perceiving. But the shot can’t be under her skirt—and unless they put in a line where Claire tells Jamie, "Don’t worry, he didn’t manage to get it in…" (which would not only be crude, but would grossly undercut her—and the audience’s—sense of shock and dislocation)…then it’s not going to be clear to viewers, who will have to be left to draw their own conclusions.

Same diff with the "waterweed" scene. This is a scene in the book that occurs between the fight with the Grants and the men instructing Claire next morning in the art of killing people. It’s a very vivid scene (sufficiently vivid that the U.K. editor asked me to remove it from her edition of the book, she thinking it "too graphic" for her audience. <cough> So this scene is in OUTLANDER but not in CROSS STITCH. The relevant part of the scene is available below, for convenient reference), and extremely memorable to readers, many of whom complained about its omission in the episode.

I didn’t discuss the decision to omit this scene with the production team, both because I try not to nitpick them, and because I could easily see why it was omitted:

  1. It doesn’t advance the plot or develop an important bit of character. It reaffirms Jamie and Claire’s strong sense of/need for each other, but there are a lot of other scenes that do that (we see one within the next five minutes). Ergo, it’s not necessary. (And that consideration is why I reluctantly agreed to remove the scene from the U.K. book. Its removal didn’t damage the plot structure or deprive us of anything we really needed. In that respect, it’s one of only two scenes in OUTLANDER that aren’t structurally attached to something else (the Loch Ness monster scene is the other one)).
  2. See remarks above about time. Including this scene would have meant leaving out something else; and everything in this episode is necessary to the purpose intended by the writer/production team.
  3. The scene wouldn’t have been nearly as effective on film as it is on the page—and the reasons have to do with Claire’s subjective sensory perceptions. You simply can’t show most of what she’s experiencing without it being pornography (and even so, there’s no possible way of showing a man’s testicles contracting at the moment of orgasm, no matter how professionally accommodating your actor may be). But you can describe it, vividly and straightforwardly in text, without it being gross. Without those subjective bits from Claire’s interior point of view, though, the scene doesn’t have either the deep sense of intimacy or the intense sensuality that you have in the book version; it’s just another sex-scene (albeit one admittedly with some fairly funny dialogue). And while some shows would likely use repetitive sex-scenes just because people will watch them… that’s luckily not a technique this show goes for. Every sex-scene you see has an emotional point or a plot point to make.

And now I really must go and do some work. <g>


#ReadWhileYouWait #OUTLANDER #RaidersInTheRocks #NoSpoilersInThisOne

[The rent party has retired for the night, and Jamie and Claire are conversing quietly under their blankets.]

I rolled over and put my arms about his neck.

"Not as proud as I was. You were wonderful, Jamie. I’ve never seen anything like that."

He snorted deprecatingly, but I thought he was pleased, nonetheless.

"Only a raid, Sassenach. I’ve been doin’ that since I was fourteen. It’s only in fun, ye see; it’s different when you’re up against someone who really means to kill ye."

"Fun," I said, a little faintly. "Yes, quite."

His arms tightened around me, and one of the stroking hands dipped lower, beginning to inch my skirt upward. Clearly the thrill of the fight was being transmuted into a different kind of excitement.

"Jamie! Not here!" I said, squirming away and pushing my skirt down again.

"Are ye tired, Sassenach?" he asked with concern. "Dinna worry, I won’t take long." Now both hands were at it, rucking the heavy fabric up in front.

"No!" I replied, all too mindful of the twenty men lying a few feet away. "I’m not tired, it’s just—" I gasped as his groping hand found its way between my legs.

"Lord," he said softly. "It’s slippery as waterweed."

"Jamie! There are twenty men sleeping right next to us!" I shouted in a whisper.

"They wilna be sleeping long, if you keep talking." He rolled on top of me, pinning me to the rock. His knee wedged between my thighs and began to work gently back and forth. Despite myself, my legs were beginning to loosen. Twenty-seven years of propriety were no match for several hundred thousand years of instinct. While my mind might object to being taken on a bare rock next to several sleeping soldiers, my body plainly considered itself the spoils of war and was eager to complete the formalities of surrender. He kissed me, long and deep, his tongue sweet and restless in my mouth.

"Jamie," I panted. He pushed his kilt out of the way and pressed my hand against him.

"Bloody Christ," I said, impressed despite myself. My sense of propriety slipped another notch.

"Fighting gives ye a terrible cockstand, after. Ye want me, do ye no?" he said, pulling back a little to look at me. It seemed pointless to deny it, what with all the evidence to hand. He was hard as a brass rod against my bared thigh.


He took a firm grip on my shoulders with both hands.

"Be quiet, Sassenach," he said with authority. "It isn’t going to take verra long."

It didn’t. I began to climax with the first powerful thrust, in long, racking spasms. I dug my fingers hard into his back and held on, biting the fabric of his shirt to muffle my sounds. In less than a dozen strokes, I felt his testicles contract, tight against his body, and the warm flood of his own release. He lowered himself slowly to the side and lay trembling.

The blood was still beating heavily in my ears, echoing the fading pulse between my legs. Jamie’s hand lay on my breast, limp and heavy. Turning my head, I could see the dim figure of the sentry, leaning against a rock on the far side of the fire. He had his back tactfully turned. I was mildly shocked to realize that I was not even embarrassed. I wondered rather dimly whether I would be in the morning, and wondered no more.

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128 Responses »

  1. Diana,

    I LOVE the tv show. The actors are great. I had them pictured a little differently in my mind but they are so good that I have changed my mind.
    I LOVE your books and read and reread them often. I can’t seem to remember all the details. (I guess that means that I am getting old. lol)
    I had the honor of meeting you at a book signing in Nashville, TN. You are an awesome writer! I am amazed at all the research that it takes to make the books so real.
    How far to you plan to take the books in time?

    Sincerely yours,

  2. We can’t help but compare, these books are a part of us. I will compare and occasional get irritated at how they filmed a scene but I’m so pleased at how true to the story they’re being that my irritations fades away. It’s been a really good production. If they continue staying this true to the books through all filming , we are in for a great series beginning to end. Well done.

  3. Ms. G.,
    You are so patient…I think the way the series has taken your book characters and brought them to life is wonderful. Someone mentioned the book and the series are two separate items – which they are, but somehow the two complement each other because, as you say, one is in Claire’s head and the other is visual. I was surprised how much the show drew me in and helped me “see” Claire and Jamie forming the strong bond which threads through the books. In a way, the books are more real to me now. I have enjoyed both.

    Your comments and understanding of some of us more “rabid” fans is to be commended!

  4. I have loved these books since I first started reading one. Thank you. I also like the tv show. I will probably even
    more when I buy it for myself. Then I can watch them all together. No weekly drama to distract me from what just happened in the previous episode.
    The only thing that really bothered me though is the ring they had Jamie get for Clair. Why did they not make it the same as it looked in the books? They had detailed jewelry back then.

    I am not generally a silly person but found myself giddy when I saw someone starting to read them in the break room at work the other day. It totally improved my day. I figured I’ll wait until they hit book four before letting them no I’m an addict.

    • I hate the “key-ring” as well. Even the jewelry has a role in the books. They’ve totally ruined the lovely reveal of the inscription in Claire’s REAL ring in Dragonfly in Amber, and by not using Brian’s ruby ring for the ceremony ended some of the charm of the ring becoming Brianna’s in the later books.

  5. I have to thank you for giving me a place to go. Many times I have been able to loose myself in you books and do not have many that I can do that in. I have loved them since the first time I read one. I also love the tv show and will probably enjoy it even more when I buy the Box set. Then I can see them with no weekly drama to distract me from what happened in last weeks episode.
    I do have a question about the rings though. Why did they not make the one Jamie gave Clair as nice as in the books? They made fine jewelry back then simple and extravagant.

    • To respond to your ring question–I agree the ring as described in the book would have been beautiful, but I think the importance of the ring is that it’s made from the key to the front door of Lallybroch, or something like that. In the show, Jamie was dismissive of it, like it was some hunk of iron he had hanging around in his sporran. We know Jamie better than that!

      Back to the book–I always thought the timing of the ring was weird. They’ve just arrived back at Castle Leoch, they’ve been gone for 6 weeks and who knew they were going to get married, yet Jamie goes off to Ewer the Armorer and picks up a detailed ring for Claire. Great placement in the story, but strange continuity. Unless I missed something, which is entirely possible!

      • The book plainly states that the blacksmith has a stock of these that he sells on the side. I suspect all that the smith had to do was add the inscription — something that doesn’t take a great deal of time, even done by hand.

      • Dear Lori–

        In the book, Jamie buys the ring from “Ewan the armourer”–not a blacksmith. An armourer would be skilled at fine etching, since the blades, hilts, barrels and grips of metal weapons were often lavishly decorated. And as Jamie (and you [g]) note, the armourer makes bits of jewelry in his spare time. After all, he’s supplying not only Castle Leoch, but likely the nearby villages, as well.



      • Dear Diana – I’m one of the people who’ve read the entire series more times than I can count. Thanks for making it clearer regarding the making of the series. I guess we (my dear friend Patricia, who is losing her sight so I’m reading the entire series to her – we’re on book three!) can deal with it. We simply can’t agree with the ‘ring deal’. I have the original ring purchased from your website when they were first offered. Sorry Diana – we LOVE you and the books. The ‘key ring’ makes NO sense to us when the original is so beautiful.

        Barbara & Patricia

  6. Sorry for the double posting . I had help from my cat.

  7. Thank you for reaffirming my belief that a page-by-page adaptation is not as important as getting to the emotional point of the scene translated into a different medium. I love all of the Frank scenes.

    I think of the book and the show as a sort of Venn diagram of awesomeness, with the union of the two making up a large part of the diagram, but the Book and Show, where they are not in union, are still amazing. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but that’s kind of how I see it.

    Either way, I’m thrilled beyond measure with the book, the show….all of it.

  8. There is so much to love about the TV series but most especially that it makes me love the books even more!! The series is just another way of presenting this wonderful story…and sometimes the visual form needs to be presented in a slightly difference manner. Viva la difference!! I usually watch each episode several times and then dive back into the book Outlander to “flesh out” what has been presented. Enjoying both verra much!!

    That being said… the ONLY difference that I can’t as yet come to grips with is the RING! I just don’t care for Claire’s key-made ring when compared to the beautifully described ring in Outlander. There is probably a good explanation and a ‘secret’ to be explained and the scene did fit….but it appears to eliminate a future scene and dang! it’s just not as pretty as the silver ring that sits opposite the gold band on Claire’s fingers!

    Care to offer an explanation?

  9. Dear Diana,
    As we are celebrating Thanksgiving Day in Canada, I’ve been counting my blessings and feeling thankful.
    One of them is having been introduced to your absolutely amazing books, and now having the pleasure of
    watching the enchanting show based on the first one. Your world of Outlander has become an integral part of
    my life, and I love the part!
    Thank you, Diana, from the bottom of my heart.
    All the best for you and your future endeavors !
    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  10. Thank you for such a lovely explanation – although it wasn’t necessary for me as I am thoroughly enjoying the series and feel RDM is doing a fantastic job in bringing this beloved series to the visual medium. When I hear folks lament about missing a certain scene from the book, I recommend that they read The Exile since it is also a visual adaptation by none other than Herself! Exile is a way of looking at the story through another artistic medium. The music is enchanting and the costuming is brilliant – they add so much to the experience that I’m a regular on both Bear & Terry’s blogs which provide fascinating backgrounds on the production. The actors are incredible – they are truly bringing the pages to life. I also did not love the ring choice (too plain) but that is a small personal observation and did not detract from my love of the series. I do hope they will include the engraving on the inside when they return to Leoch. I think a few folks have been more vocal than the millions of fans who are loving the series and singing it’s praises. I am sorry it isn’t being shown in the UK and hope they get to share in our excitement soon. Thank you again for the research and passion you put into your craft. I had the pleasure of seeing you speak earlier this year in Pasadena and I cherish my autographed copy of MOBY. Looking forward to enjoying your collaboration with RDM, et al for many years to come. DIA is going to be fantastic on screen!

  11. I honestly feel like everyone involved in making Outlander transition from book to tv is really doing everything in their power to make it the best they can be. I feel whatever changes happen are coming from a group of people who all want to preserve the original while making the show the best it can be, and that devotion from you (and everyone involved) really shows.

    I hadn’t read the books before the show, and now I’m reading the books alongside the show (and doing my best to avoid spoilers!) but I love being emotionally invested in something where you know the creator loves it too and will make sure the story always gets the care it deserves, and I just wanted to say thanks for being that person.

  12. Jamie Fraser is not real. As we all read and reread the books, we know this but fall in love with him regardless. I knew, when I heard about the making of the series that there was not a man on this earth who could actually BE Jamie. Oh, how wrong I was… Jamie has come alive right before my very eyes and I am positively Gobsmacked! My better half informs me I watch each episode with constant smile on my face. This I will not deny. Both Clair and Jamie are now very real and I get to enjoy watching their lives play out, yet again, in the flesh. What an amazing thing.

    Diana, as you toured and answered question after question about the cast and you coyley answered “I approve” you must have been chuckling like a mad witch behind those eyes, knowing just what magic was being created. Well played.

    A thousand Thank You’s


    • I agree 100% with you Linda. My aunt and I watched each episode together. We sat giddy like school girls waiting to see Jamie come to life. Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe were meant to play Jamie and Claire. We are madly in love with these characters have enjoyed everything about the series.

      The part about Frank and Claire was beautifully done. I felt Franks loss and sadness more then ever before. The transformation from book to a show is amazing. Thanks to everyone who works so hard in giving the book a visual form.

      Diana you are such a talented writer. Outlander and Lord John Grey series as well. Feeling so lucky that I was introduced to your books many years ago.

      Patiently awaiting,

  13. Dear Diana,

    Thank you for your fantastic writing. I am a devoted reader of everything, but your books have really captured me. I have never (except as a child) been so enthralled in a series of books before. I love the characters and the story. I laugh out loud and startle my husband when I read. I get teary-eyed and laugh at myself. You and I are the same age (I am 2 months older) and I think you have captured the feelings of love, caring and desire in a relationship lasting years and going through many trials. I can’t wait to see where you take Jamie and Claire (and their extended family) next.

    The television production has been terrific. My husband and 18 year old son watch with me and they are enjoying it as much (almost) as I do. Sometimes I tell them about missing scenes from the book, but the story advances well without them.

    Thank you again for being such a clever, prolific writer.

    Best wishes,


  14. The series presently is the best on television. And, perhaps even better than GoT. Sandy watched Outlander as often as she could. Congratulations to everyone involved with Outlander ~~~ superbly done, historically perfect, well written with many “catchy” phrases, & the acting excellent. The hardest thing ~~~ waiting for 14 April! And now Sandy is engrossed in reading Diana’s books!

  15. I really enjoyed reading the process of adapting book to movie! I don’t know if there is any other book which can be read and enjoyed concurrently with the screen adaptation. But I have loved doing just that with Outlander, and felt that the book added to my viewing pleasure and the show added to my reading pleasure!

    As far as the scene where Claire and Frank are both at Craig Na Dun but in different time periods: I actually prefer the movie scene to the book scene. I loved how Frank’s time was in muted, almost sepia tones, yet Claire’s time was in brilliant color.

    I loved how she faintly heard Frank’s anguished calls on the winds of time and realized how she was not only running towards Frank, but running to wards safety.

    And I LOVED how the scene abruptly twists with the soldier’s pulling her away from the stone just as she is about to lay her hands upon it. Absolutely brilliant! Heart pounding! The ultimate twist of fate!

    Just sayin’ my peace.

  16. What can I say? I have watched all the episodes twice, reread the books and the Novellas. Now I will tackle the “Lord John” series. It is something to do until April.

    Diana, you have given many like me ( read, read, read) many hours of great pleasure. Now the series is icing on the cake.

    I hope the next book won’t take 4 years, but am not holding my breath. Now that Jamie and Claire are getting “up there” in age, as am I, I can’t help feeling a little worried about their future (I know they are not real people).

  17. Ron knows?! He better prepare himself for the onslaught of, “So, you know who the ghost is — TELL US!”

    I will try to refrain from doing so. :)

  18. What does Clair see on the ground just before she touches the stone? The camera pans down at the base of the stone and she kinda glances down and looks odd for a moment. It looks like a rumpled cloak or something.

  19. Diana,

    Great TV-Show and great actors. I’ve read all the books in English and German and I am still amazed about the story; hopefully a never ending one :)
    Seeing the TV Show now (got it from iTunes) I wonder how it will be in German when it will be aired next year in spring and hope that not a lot will be lost in translation. It’s often when you see the German version of a movie or show things like ideoms cannot properly be translated so I prefer the Original.

    THANK YOU!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!

  20. Dear Diana

    People never cease to amaze me.

    I finished the 8th book just a few weeks ago, it was, as usual, superb and have now seen the first 7 episodes. To say that this collaboration of your work with Ron D Moore and the cast of actors is outstanding is a great understatement. It is a pity that people couldn’t just set aside their miscellaneous preoccupations with their own views and appreciate that you have raised the bar for television to a whole other level, it’s big now but I really believe that this going to be bigger and bigger.

    The chemistry of our Claire and Jamie, the garment design particularly, the knits are exquisite on top of a tight adhesion to the books, I and the crowd here in Nova Scotia are just waiting for it every week.

    I love the sense of Claire and Jamie’s blossoming devotion to each other and how it shows the world hope of real love. That Diana, is an astounding accomplishment for a world in a state like ours. I really like hanging out in this world you have created not to mention that you have provided so much education about what the Scottish, particularly the Highlanders (from whom I am descended on both sides) endured. It is very reminiscent of what the indigenous peoples everywhere have been subjected to over time.

    Dinna fash lass, ye know what ye are doing ken? ;D


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