About the Characters


The Frequently Asked Questions about Diana Gabaldon and The Outlander Series have been taken from her answers to the questions from her online fans (America OnLine and CompuServe). In most cases, the answers are direct quotes from Diana's posts. In others, she has edited the original answer to include more information.

Readers be cautioned that some of the answers to these questions will contain SPOILERS. If you don't want to know anything about the future books, be cautious in your reading. I will try to note which questions contain spoilers.

How do you develop your characters? Do you keep charts or index cards to keep track of them?

Are any of the fictional characters based on real historical figures?

Who is the ghost in Outlander? (SPOILER)

How is Sassenach pronounced?

When is Jamie's birthday?

Is the story of the Dunbonnet and the laird who hid for seven years true?

Who/what is Master Raymond? What is his significance? (SPOILER)

Were Jonathan Randall and the Duke of Sandringham lovers?

How is Laoghaire pronounced? Where did the name come from?

How is Geillis' name pronounced?

Why doesn't Jamie use the endearment "mo duinne" in Voyager?

Who were the Paleolithic lovers in Dragonfly in Amber? What was their significance?

As a scientist what do you really think about the Loch Ness Monster?

What kind of dinosaur is Nessie?

 


How do you develop your characters? Do you keep charts or index cards to keep track of them?

I don't keep charts of characters--I don't write down anything but the text of the book, and I don't even write that in a straight line. I write in scenes; lots of little pieces that eventually get glued together.

In the later books, I do have to sort of count back and see what month of what year it is when a given scene takes place, so I'll know what the weather should be like, but that's about as far as it goes. I don't forget the characters, because I can "see" them.

As for where the characters come from:
There's a local group of fans here in Phoenix who have been taking me out to tea every spring for the last few years. There's a resort that does a full formal English tea, with scones and clotted cream and finger sandwiches and all kinds of goodies--we all have a good time and they get to pick my brains about the book in progress.

Anyway, at one of these teas, the readers got onto Jack Randall, and what a horrible, terrible, nasty, loathsome, repellent....etc. he was. And all the time, I was sitting there, quietly sipping my tea, and thinking, "You really don't have any notion that you're talking to Jack Randall, do you?"

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Are any of the fictional characters based on real historical figures?

There's a "real" female witch (late 16th century) named Geilis Duncane in Daemonologie, a treatise on witches by King James of Scotland (later James I of England....)--the book is about the trial of a coven of witches whom James believed tried to assassinate him via black magic.....(You know how women are always teaming up with the devil to do things like that...). I figured anybody up on Scottish witchcraft would know the name, and for anyone who wasn't, it didn't matter.

It is, of course, not Outlander's witch's real name--we meet her in Dragonfly under (what we suppose is) her original name of Gillian--she took Geillis deliberately as a name, because of the original, whom she of course was familiar with, owing to her researches into witchcraft.

We'll hear a bit more of this when Roger finds his ancestress's grimoire. Jack Randall is not real--so far as I know. I add that proviso, because quite frequently in the writing of these books, I've written someone, presumably out of my head--and then found them, in the historical record. Mildly eerie when it happens, but it always reassures me that I'm on the right track.

Now, Mother Hildegarde was a real historical person, though she lived in the 12th century, rather than the 18th. Likewise, M. Forez, the hangman of Dragonfly, was a real public hangman in the Paris of the 18th century. Bonnie Prince Charlie and many of the Jacobite lords were naturally real people {cough}

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Who is the ghost in Outlander? (SPOILER)

The ghost is Jamie--but as for how it fits into the story, All Will Be Explained--in King, Farewell which is Book Five {running and ducking}

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How is Sassenach pronounced?

SASS-uh-nak. It's actually a little guttural on the end, a bit like the German "ach", but not quite so throaty. That's close, though.

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When is Jamie's birthday?

May 1. I had one reader argue with me about this, insisting that he had to be a Leo, but I assure you he isn't. My husband and kids are all Tauruses, and I know what they're like {grin}. May 1 it is.

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Is the story of the Dunbonnet and the laird who hid for seven years true?

Leap o' the Cask is real--so is the story of the laird who hid in the cave for seven years, whose tenants called him the Dunbonnet, and his servant, who brought the ale to him in hiding. His name? Ah.....James Fraser. Really.

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Who/what is Master Raymond? What is his significance? (SPOILER)

Who he is, is a prehistoric time traveler. I think he came from somewhere about 400 BC or perhaps a bit earlier (not technically "prehistoric," but they certainly weren't using written records where he started out), and the 18th century is not his first stop.

He is--or was--a shaman, born with the ability to heal through empathy. He sees auras plainly; those with his power all have the blue light he has--born warriors, on the other hand, are red (so yes, "the red man" is iconic {grin}). He has a rather strong aversion to Vikings, owing to events that happened in his own time; hence his nervousness when he sees Jamie. He's afraid of them, but he also realizes just what a strong life-force they have--that's why he makes Claire invoke it (using the sexual and emotional link between her and Jamie) to heal her.

His descendants--a few of whom he meets now and then in his travels--have the blue light about them, too; in large degree or small, depending on their talents. So he knows Claire, when he sees her, as one of his great-great, etc. grand-daughters. And Gillian/Geillis is another--you notice she has Claire's sense of plants, though she tends naturally to poison, rather than medicines. {grin}

We'll see him again--though not in Jamie and Claire's story, I don't think. Master Raymond should get his own series of books, beginning at the beginning (Stonehenge) and going on through his travels. So in fact, we'll see Claire, Jamie, and Geillis again, then-- but as secondary characters in Master Raymond's story (you recall, Geillis mentions having met "one other" (time-traveler) in Voyager, but doesn't tell Claire who it is.

Heaven knows just when we'll get to that--in about ten years, at this rate--but we will get to it. {grin}

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Were Jonathan Randall and the Duke of Sandringham lovers?

No, the Duke and Randall weren't lovers, though the Duke certainly understood Randall's psychology, and no doubt used it to control him.

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How is Laoghaire pronounced? Where did the name come from?

I got Laoghaire off a map. {grin} And no, I had no idea how it was pronounced, though I had a guess. The nice actress who does the audiotapes of the books pronounces it "Leery."

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How is Geillis' name pronounced?

Well. {cough} I don't know. FWIW, the reader on the audiotape calls her GAY-liss or GAY-lee, and the reader (Geraldine James) is supposed to be quite good with Celtic stuff, so she may well be right.

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Why doesn't Jamie use the endearment "mo duinne" in Voyager?

Er....well....{cough}. He doesn't say "mo duinne" in Voyager, because between Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager, I acquired the gracious assistance of a native speaker of Gaelic, one Iain MacKinnon Taylor (who kindly advised on all the Gaelic bits in Voyager). Mr. Taylor informed me that while "mo duinne" had the right words for what I meant to convey, it wasn't idiomatically correct--that is, the proper expression would be"mo nighean donn". So I used that in Voyager, wishing (as always {grin}) to be as accurate as possible.

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Who were the Paleolithic lovers in Dragonfly in Amber? What was their significance?

I didn't really have anything specifically in mind about the Paleolithic lovers--they were simply a metaphor for the briefness of life and the importance of love--but then again, often I write something that I intend to be only colour, and it sort of turns into something else in later books.

There's that ghost in Outlander, for instance....{grin}

I got the lovers from The National Geographic, as a matter of fact. {cough} The original were a couple from Herculaneum (or possibly Pompeii) whose skeletons had been found during the excavation, lying the manner I described in Dragonfly--his arms around her, trying to protect her when the fire came down on them. One of the most touching and dramatic pictures I've ever seen. It's stuck in my mind for years and years, so it was there when my subconscious needed it as an image of mortality and love. One reason why writers ought to read more than just their own genre (whatever that may be {grin}).

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As a scientist what do you really think about the Loch Ness Monster?

Well, my best guess is the one Claire and Roger come up with in Voyager--that there's a time-gate under the loch, and various creatures have come and gone through it over the years, each staying in the present-day loch for varying periods. This accounts for a) the occasionally conflicting descriptions of the creature, and b) the fact that periodic searches by boat and sonar have failed to find any large-bodied creature (not that this necessarily shows that there is no large creature there; it's impossible, practically speaking, to search a large body of water with any certainty).

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What kind of dinosaur is Nessie?

Well, the one Claire saw is probably a plesiosaur. I have one of the British Museum models of it on my bookshelf. The model is blue...and so is Claire's monster. {grin} The small details of appearance are based on a knowledge of basic reptilian anatomy, though.

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