• “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.”
    —ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
  • “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.).

OK.

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.

So—

(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>

-Diana


#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.

"Er…yes…but…"

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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127 Responses »

  1. Love the books love the series..NOT NITPICKING OVER ANYTHING!!!

  2. Hats off to the hard working actors, crews and Ron D. Moore. Wow, the last segment where Frank and Claire headed toward each other toward the stones, yes very well done. Diana, keep writing until the hand falls off, you are wonderful. Thank you.

  3. I feel the tv series is capturing some really great moments, that like Diana gabaldon said she couldn’t do in the book. I love the scene where Frank and Claire are approaching the rocks together and seeing Frank searching for Claire really makes me feel for his character. Which in the books I feel I lost that connection. I knew it would be difficult to capture in the book because everything is from Claire’s point of view. The dramatic suspense was great! I was almost yelling for Frank too when I seen that scene. I feel the show captures Claire longing for Frank really well. Also the flash backs to Frank made me connect to him too.

    Now the sex scenes…. come on. Who does not want more of this. This was so tastefully done and I feel it was necessary to see why Claire doesn’t want to leave Jaime. Would you want to leave him after those scenes???? It was great and for those who are looking for a PG show maybe they shouldn’t be watching Showcase, just saying.

    I love that the series is focusing on some elements that were not in the book, if the show was exactly like the book I think it would be too predictable.

    I just love it and cannot wait till April for part two!!!

  4. I just finished reading Outlander and I watched all of the episodes that have aired. I think it’s a wonderful book- to- tv adapation. I never expect movies/tv shows to be exactly like the book. Reading a book and watching tv are two very different things. What works well in the book may not translate well over to the screen.
    Since you are the one who wrote the book, I trust that you know what vision you want conveyed onscreen. :)

  5. I have been hoping for a movie/show ever since I read Outlander over ten years ago. I always thought it’d be a movie but am thrilled with the tv series! It is as wonderful as I thought it would be to see all the characters come to life. Great casting-very believable in their portrayal of some very complex characters. Love it all and can’t wait for more!!!

  6. I love all the books! I think the series has been a very fair representation of the book so far. Enjoyed it very much. Can’t wait for the next book. Thanks for the great story.

  7. I am a die-hard fan of Outlander. I can’t get enough of Jamie and Claire, and the supporting characters that share their world … Brianna, Roger and their kids, Ian and Rachel, William, and Lord John Grey, Fergus and his family etc. When the Jamie/Claire storyline ends, I hope you will consider picking up the story of another character from the series, the way you’ve done with Lord John. I’d love to see Germaine, as an adult, get his own story. You’ve created a character who is worldly, charming, a pain in the ass, endearing, brave and loyal, and he has l theses characteristics as a child. Or Jen, as an adult, with a foot in two vastly different worlds. Thank you for the hours and hours of reading enjoyment you have given me. I hope Jamie and Claire live to be very old and sexually active seniors.

  8. That is supposed to be Jem, not Jen.

  9. I really love the books and have not been disappointed whatsoever by the series so far. They are doing a wonderful job with the adaptation and like most others on this thread I like the changes that they have made to tell the story with actors on the screen. I must nitpick one point, though. While I fully realize that Claire is a natural healer, there is no way that she could have performed plastic surgery back then. Where is the bullet hole scar on Jamie’s shoulder on his wedding night? With the appropriately horrific makeup used for his back-it’s like another character all by itself-I was pretty surprised by the oversight. With the many harrowing ordeals ahead, all aptly described by Mrs. Gabaldon in the books, I would hope that the costume folks use their magic to paint Jamie as the warrior he is.

  10. My husband and I have been watching the show every sunday night since it aired in Canada. I have to admit, the casting is great! Tobias is an exceptional actor and everyone else is wonderful as well. Your book plus Moore’s vision is a wonderful collaboration! I can hardly wait for next spring!

  11. Thank you for that fun informative and educational post! So thankful for the openness of collaboration between you and Ron Moore in bringing the story to life. And in re-reading the books, there is a newness of scenery, costuming, and speaking!

    On a personal note, I’m inspired to find out more of my heritage. My mother said we are descended from Clan Gunn, but I don’t know how…

    Also, I’m thankful for the opening theme music. My golf game has greatly improved as long as I keep the music in my mind as I swing my driver and fairway woods!!

    Thank you!!

  12. The show is wonderful I haven’t read all the books but I have the whole set I’m so excited got my boyfriend to watch he just loves it the show is so close to the books keep up the good work Ron

  13. Hi Diana,

    I have to tell you I think you’re a genius. I also wonder sometimes…since Jamie is from your head, could that mean all us lusting women are in love with you? Haha Silly, I know. Thank you for sharing your gift of words and imagination with the world. It is a gift to all of us who enjoy them so.

    A longtime admirer,

    Michele DG (I just realized my last name initials are the same as your initials)

    PS I think you are so patient and wise to still take the time to comment on so many fan rantings.
    I am thrilled with how wonderful the series has been so far. They have done an amazing job. Love the costumes, characters, etc. I have always liked a book better than the movie, so to have my favorite book of all time be made into a series, I was a little nervous. I am in awe at how they are turning the vision into something we can all see and appreciate. I hope it gets some type of award. Also, I think Tobias Menzes is brilliant as Frank and Black Jack!

  14. Diana, This television adaptation of your books is utterly and wonderfully fantastic and has gone beyond meeting even the highest of expectations. Every actor is so gifted, not just the leads playing Jamie and Claire. I love the weaselyness of Angus, the joviality of Rupert, the intensity of Dougall, the sinisterness of Black Jack and the loneliness of Frank…to name just a few of the fantastic performances. Every character is played to perfection and the show has been very skillfully casted. Sam and Caitriona TOTALLY embody Jamie and Claire in spirit and flesh. Their body language is truly extraordinary, touching and poignant and lingers with me long after I have watched an episode. The chemistry they bring to Jamie and Claire even in the smallest touch of a hand, sparkle of an eye or trepid smile is riveting and magnetic. Thanks to them both for working so hard to capture the heart and soul of these characters. Thanks to the directors, the costume designer, the writers, the actors….and especially to Diana herself for bringing us these wonderful passionate characters steeped in history. I have already rewatched all of the first 8 episodes several times over and I eagerly await the remaining ones knowing the story is only just beginning to unfold. Keep up the fantastic, superb work everyone….and THANK YOU!

  15. Diana, i would have lost a fortune betting that “Jamie” did not exist on this planet” the casting is perfect
    And Sam is Jamie!!!!
    Thanks for the great tv series, and your characters have lived in my imagination for years. I read all your books, and my life stopped as i read them, no cooking or cleaning once I started a book .
    NEVER STOP WRITING.

    ANY CHANCE SUBTITLES FOR THE “GAELIC”?

  16. I have not read the books. In fact, I came to the series as a big fan of Battlestar Galactica, Ron Moore’s other work, Scotland, and, frankly, a good-looking cast. To say that I’m now obsessed is an understatement. My poor husband has given up any hope of tv control until Starz On Demand expires on 10/30.
    But I am not going to reading books yet — I do avoid spoilers whenever I can. After the first year ends, I’ll read the book, even though I’m quite desperate to know what happens in episode 9 and beyond. It will be nice to have a mental image of those beautiful actors’ faces in my mind’s eye from the start, I think.

    • I failed. I couldn’t even make it to December. I bought Outlander and spoiled the crap out the remainder of Season 1.
      And I’m not sorry. Pfffft.

  17. I just want to say thank you for the amazing Outlander series of books and great adaptation by you and Ron E Moore on the Starz series. The entire cast and crew have produced a show that is a brilliant testament of your skillful writing. Everyone in the cast is superb. The introduction of Cait Balfe, Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies to the worldwide audience is has been greatly received. Their acting worthy of the highest awards possible. I can’t even think of enough superlative words to describe how fabulous this journey is for all of us, your fans. I understand the wait until April 4th and quite frankly I’m sick of people complaining about it. Best birthday present I will ever have! Yes, 4/4 is my birthday!! NO COMPLAINTS from this fan, absolutely none. Thank you, Diana.

  18. I’ve read the whole series twice. Love the Starz series. So glad you have kept close to the book and where you varied it has been done well and fits right in. Looking forward to April

  19. Dear Diana,
    I have spent over 40 years of my life either reading books or watching romantic movies/shows. I’ve never done both at the same time much because of the overwhelming disappointment that came from the merger. A prime example is L. Howard’s book, Loving Evangeline. The movie was nothing like the book! I know that is not always the case, but it happened enough to where I decided not to mix the two formats.
    That changed for me when I had a chance to watch the first episode of Outlander. From the first moment that Jamie and Claire met, I knew that I was going to take back my promise to myself and read the book. By the time I saw episode 8, I had finished the book and started buying the others in the series. Thank God for Kindle!!! I am thoroughly enjoying the show and send my thanks to you, the cast, and the crew for bringing this series to television. It has stayed true to the theme of Jamie and Claire’s journey, even if a few variations have been added. The potential for worldwide acclaim is enormous, as more countries gain access (hopefully, that will include the United Kingdom soon). I am especially looking forward to watching Outlander win those well-deserved awards.
    Again, thank you Diana for writing such an amazing, thought-provoking, and heartfelt epic that touches the lives of so many people. I wish you continued success and inspiration as the journey continues. God bless you and yours.

  20. Diana, I’ve been a fan of your books for years and in fact you were the first person I ever wrote a fan letter to in my life (requesting that you sign six book plate stickers for me). I didn’t expect an answer and was thrilled when I received them and pasted them in the six books that I had. That was in 1997 and I followed you ever since. Recently I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and had to have a transplant and in the recuperation period I re-read all of the books over and over. Throwing myself into books was the best thing I could do instead of having my pity parties! I didn’t hear about the Starz series until spring of 2014 and then just by chance flipping thru channels. I’m so thrilled with the way the series is going. I’ve watched those eight episodes over and over and used the book as a companion. Looking forward to seeing the rest of season one and to see DIA after that. You have a God given talent for making a story and characters come alive. I heard not only were you writing book nine but that there is also a book ten. That’s wonderful! Looking forward to reading them both!

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