Tag Archives: Outlander

Great Expectations

Okay, I’m a big fan of Outlander. Not only the series on  Starz, but of the books, as I’ve been reading them since a few years after the first book (named Outlander, oddly enough) came out. I had met series author Diana Gabaldon years ago at a cocktail party at a New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference, where she was so kind to explain to me just how she wrote one of her more grisly scenes (the memory of it and how my stomach lurched, will be better left unwritten at this juncture thankyouverymuch). She was very charming and personable, and years later I had the chance to encounter her again in New York, this time at a Random House Author Breakfast. It was there she disclosed for the first time that just the night before, she had finalized the contract for the Starz Outlander series, to excited gasps from her rabid fan base sitting in the audience, thrilled that Jamie and Claire would finally come to life. But I wonder ever since that day how many of her readers have been disappointed? Because how much is really lost when characters–and storylines–jump from the page to the screen?

I read a romance once where the author stated in her forward that she based her two lead characters, a pirate and a spoiled and screeching noblewoman, on George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Really? The debonair Clooney as a peg-legged arrrrgh -ing privateer? The elegant Aussie as a continual pain-in-the-ass? Didn’t help that all they did in the book was fight. Just didn’t wash for me, especially since I saw Clooney and Kidman as having zero chemistry. But that was beside the point. I resented the fact I was being directed to imagine a character in a certain way, rather than to let their deeds and actions unfold in my own mind as to what they really were about. When I read a book, it’s should be my interpretation of the writing, not that author’s. That’s why there are book discussion groups, as every reader has a different impression of the author’s vision. And in when a book jumps to a screen small or large, that vision is then ceded by the author to the screenwriters and ultimately, the director.

Every Monday morning I read the Outlander recap in The New York Times and invariably, there’s someone bitching about how much the show is missing/has changed/has been altered from book to series. There’s some changes I’ve liked, there’s some that I’ve questioned, there’s some that I outright hate. Comments say the book is so much better, and some, who’ve never read the books, suggest avenues the characters can take. Those who are like me, enjoy it for what it is. I can live with both because I’ve experienced both, and I see each for what they are. As a writer, I know when I put my work out there, my characters are bound to be altered by each person who reads my story, as each approach it with different life experiences and expectations.

But that’s the chance we take when we become writers, as it’s nearly impossible for our vision to be transferred unaltered into another person’s brain. The best we can hope for is it’s intact enough to remain enjoyable and worthy enough to read. And that enough people end up reading it to end up transferring it from a Kindle into a more widely-distributed screen. Or so we hope.

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If it seems like you’ve waited 250 years then yeah, you’ve got it bad

I’ve been told that several “Easter eggs” have been planted throughout Outlander Season Three premiering this Sunday, September 10 on Starz. So what’s an Easter egg? It’s those little hidden gifts the producers like to plant in various scenes that only true fans will know the significance of. Sounds like fun and I can’t wait to look for them. But you’re an old-time devotee of the series, then you’ve already noticed quite a few pieces of coal as well. What I mean is we old-timers have been on the Claire/Jamie team for well over twenty years now since the Diana Gabaldon’s first book of the series, Outlander, debuted in 1992. And as readers of the books–sometimes two or three times–there’s certain things that have veered from the texts. Personally, I’m not complaining, as many variations have either had no significance or even improved the story. And since Diana Gabaldon has had such an active part in the production, she must approve of the changes. Plus ultimately, showrunner Ronald D. Moore is certainly entitled to his own vision and for the most part, I overwhelmingly approve. Still, there are some things that have veered from the written text that stand out for me (and if you don’t want to know what they are, if you think I’m a spoilsport and should just shut up and watch, then stop reading right here):

  • Claire, unlike the very talented, blue-eyed Caitriona Balfe, has brown eyes. In the book they are described as very unusual and “sherry-colored.”
  • The wedding ring Jamie gives Claire is a silver band decorated in the Highland interlace style, a small Jacobean thistle bloom carved in the center.
  • Jamie gets violently seasick, so bad he’s literally unable to come on deck when a ship is in motion. After he is liberated from Wentworth Prison in the book, he’s mostly unconscious and it’s not until France when he’s taken to the monastery to recover. The fact he’s unconscious is a lifesaver. Gabaldon deals with this quirk of Jamie’s in an inventive way with a novel character in Book Three and sailing on a ship becomes pivotal to the plot. Not that I’m telling you here!
  • In the books, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, is described as tall and big-boned, size 16 and six-feet tall. There is no doubt that she is Jamie’s daughter, with her height and flaming-red hair. She was also born and raised in Boston, and there’s no doubt in my mind she pahks her cahr in Ha-vahd yahd.

Don’t get me wrong–I love-love-LUFF this series, and I can live with any of these changes and enjoy it tremendously. But I’m not going to deny the fact as a tall and big-boned woman, I would have loved to see an equally tall and big-boned woman playing the part of Jamie’s daughter, especially in this year of Wonder Woman. But if that would mean living without Jamie each Sunday night at nine, well, come on. Life is all about compromise, isn’t it?

Sunday night at eight.  You’ll know where I’ll be.