What Outlander Taught Me About Writing.

Nov 16 2018, 5:53 pm

If you are not acquainted with the Outlander books and Starz series here’s a quick rundown. The first of the 8 books was published in 1992. The TV series first aired in 2014 and is now in the 4th season.  It’s about a woman, the Sassy Sassenach, who sets her clocks back too far and lands up in 18th century Scotland. Her goal is the get back to the 20th century. But there is a hot Scot, Kilt Daddy, whose goal is to keep her there. Her motivation is to get back to hot baths and toilet paper. His motivation is love. He loved her from the moment he saw her. Sigh. Conflict is behind every bush. Redcoats waring with Highland Clans. Waring 20th and 18th century morals and values. I could go on but think you get the point.

I’ll begin by saying I feel the Starz series does a good job of transferring the book to the screen. I don’t agree with all the changes they’ve made but, no one asked me for my opinion.

I believe no two people read the same book or see the same TV show.  We read/watch with our own POV. Our world views and experiences. Everyone’s mileage differs. This is my perspective. 

The author, Diana Gabaldon, intrigues me most with her characters emotional connections and journeys. Everything between tender to brutal, funny to heartbreak is on the page. Her intimate scenes are more about emotions than the physicality.

Gabaldon weaves her fiction around historical events. She immerses her characters in actual places and events. To the point the settings and events become characters. When the very name of a place is mentioned a reader is able to conjure up the image. Not so much because of complicated physical details but because of the addition of sensual details. I’d venture to say everyone knows what a rock wall or tree looks like. But a rock wall with lichen the same as covered the grave stones. Or the oak tree live the one he’s carved their initials in.       

We are frequently treated to 18th medical practices and all manner of lotions and potions that are used today. There is an Outlander Kitchen Cookbook. Do you remember in a Breath of Snow and Ashes when the kiddos get into the Cherry Bounce? There is very little about taste. There is plenty about the effects. The reactions of the unaffected. The reader can’t help but smile.  I think it tastes like industrial strength cough syrup.

As the family grows so do sub plots. The reader becomes as deeply involved with secondary characters as they are the main characters. Every single character elicits emotional responses from me. When Fergus had his hand severed. O. MY. The death of a beloved child.  Some characters we absolutely hate. These books have many villains. They cause emotional and physical havoc. Secondary characters are popular enough to spawn character spinoff novellas.

I adore the way this author uses animals as characters. Ian’s dog. The family mule. Sassy Sassenach’s chitty. Kilt Daddy’s horses. They have their own personalities. Their interactions with humans is amazing. The readers become emotionally vested in the animal’s stories.   

Okay, I’ve rambled long enough. My point I’m trying to make is the story isn’t simply being told. I feel I know Kilt Daddy, Sassy Sassenach, their family and their connections to each other. When something happens to them I feel it. I have an emotional connection to people, places and animals in this book.

How does Outlander speak to you?  Does it give you ideas to improve your writing?  

 

 

 

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