Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jamie and the Rule of Three

I had a male reader (Justin Brady (@RandomAngst), who runs the Random Angst book review/rating site at www.randomangst.com) on Twitter just today who said he'd just finished reading OUTLANDER and enjoyed it a lot "until the prison chapters." I tweeted back that I'd be kind of worried about him if he'd _enjoyed_ the Wentworth part {g}, to which he said, "but why put our hero through such pain and suffering? :)", adding in the next, "I know I'm late to the #Outlander party & you've probably already addressed this; but that was intense emotional, physical pain."



I was on my way out to dinner, so said I'd reply to him later (haven't done that yet), but have been thinking at brief moments just _how_ to reply to that. The simple answer is just that that's what I saw happening, but that's not enough for the reader. There always _is_ a reason why things happen or are necessary, whether I know what that is when I write it or not. So what is it here?


In part, it's because it's a High Stakes story. Almost everybody understands that you have to have _something_ at stake for a story to be good. And way too many thrillers and sf/f novels assume that nothing less than the Fate of the Known Universe will do {g}, these authors mistaking scale for intensity. No matter what the background may be, a story that focuses on the impact of events on one or two individual _lives_ will be--generally speaking--much more engaging and emotionally intense than one where everyone is just rushing around trying to save a planet or get their hands on the fortunium bomb that could Destroy Everything!!

So OUTLANDER is a high stakes story--on an individual level--throughout. It's a love story, sure, and it's all about what people will _do_ for the sake of love. Claire, for instance, chooses to abandon the life she knew (and was about to reclaim post-War), the safety of the 20th century (and she of all people would value that safety, having come through such a war), and the husband she'd loved. She chooses hardship, danger, and emotional pain, in order to be with Jamie.


But love for these two is always reciprocal. It's not about one partner making a sacrifice for the other's sake. Throughout the story, they keep rescuing each other. And the stakes are high. Jamie marries Claire originally in order to save her from Black Jack Randall. Would that be a striking thing to do, if Jack Randall was not, in fact, a serious threat? He _is_ a serious threat; we learn that from Jamie's backstory. The man's a genuine sadistic psychopath, who has essentially destroyed Jamie's family and seriously injured him, both physically and emotionally. And here's Jamie swearing to give Claire everything he has; the protection of his name and his clan--and the protection of his body--in order to save _her_ from this man.


He then does save her, physically and immediately, from Randall, when Randall captures her and assaults her at Fort William--even though by doing so, he puts not only himself, but everyone with him, in serious danger, _and_ does so at some emotional as well as physical cost. "I was tied to that post, tied like an animal, and whipped 'til my blood ran...Had I not been lucky as the devil this afternoon, that's the least that would have happened to me. ....[But] when ye screamed, I went to you, wi' nothing but an empty gun and my two hands." The stakes are higher; the threat to Jamie (and Claire) from Captain Randall is increased.


One, two, three. The Rule of Three. It’s one of the important underlying patterns of story-telling; one event can be striking. The next (related) event creates resonance. But the third brings it home—WHAM. (That is, btw, why classic fairy tales always involve three brothers, three sisters, three fairies, etc.—and why the most classic form of joke always starts, “A priest, a minister and a rabbi…” The climax of the story, the punchline of the joke, always comes on the third iteration.) The third encounter with Black Jack Randall is the climax, the point where the stakes are highest. Jamie's been captured and seriously hurt, Claire's come to save him, but Randall turns up and takes her captive, threatening her life.

OK. This -has- to be a credible threat. Ergo, we have to have seen (and heard about) the real damage Randall has done to Jamie thus far; we have to be in no doubt whatever that he'd do real damage to Claire. We can't just _say_, "Oh, he's _such_ a nasty person, you wouldn't believe..." We _have_ to believe, and therefore appreciate _just_ what Jamie is doing when he trades what's left of his life for Claire's. (Show, don’t tell, you know?)

And because we do believe that, we share both Jamie's despair and Claire's desperation.

So, OK. Throughout the book, we've seen that love has a real cost. Jamie and Claire have built a relationship through honest struggle, a relationship that's _worth_ what it's cost them. This is the final challenge, and Jamie's willing to pay what will apparently be the ultimate cost.


Why would I throw that away? To have him escape rape and torture (he--and we--_know_ what's coming) by the skin of his teeth would be to undercut his sacrifice, to make it of little moment. (It would be like someone turning up in Gethsemane and telling Christ, "Hey, buddy, you don't _really_ have to do this. Come with me, I got a secret way outta here...")

So love _has_ a cost, and it's a real one. But they do rescue each other, and Claire saves not only his life, _but his soul_. (Yes, it is redemption and resurrection, and yes, there's Christ imagery all through the story--it was my first book, OK?) His soul wouldn't have been in danger, had he not been really and truly nearly destroyed by his sacrifice.


I.e., had Claire shown up with reinforcements in the nick of time and saved him before he'd been put through such pain and suffering....well, then it would have been a nice, heart-warming story in which Hero and Heroine conquer evil and ride off into the sunset together. But it wouldn't have half the power of a story in which Jamie and Claire _truly_ conquer _real_ evil, and thus show what real love is. Real love has real costs--and they're worth it.


I've always said all my books have a shape, and OUTLANDER's internal geometry consists of three slightly overlapping triangles. The apex of each triangle is one of the three emotional climaxes of the book: 1) when Claire makes her wrenching choice at the stones, 2) when she saves Jamie from Wentworth, and 3) when she saves his soul at the Abbey. It would still be a _good_ story, if I'd had only 1 and 2--but (see above), the Rule of Three. A story that goes one, two, _three_ has a lot more impact than just a one-two punch.

66 comments:

  1. I'm learning to write. Getting pointers from my favorite author while she uses my two favorite characters as examples...priceless. Thank you.

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  2. Its also the rule of the universe Diana...body-mind-spirit...everything happens in three's. Also everything happens for a reason and sometimes that reason is not clear until certain events fall into to place and/or we learn the lesson and/or we ask clearly for what we want.
    The fact that you make a choice not to take the easy way out and add the foo foo that many writers often do is why I love this story...life and love is complex but simple at the same time and Jamie and Claire's story is a perfect example of this...at least to me.
    I read many books (about one a day)romance-sci-fi-paranormal-chiklit and very few authors understand why three is so important.
    Bright Blessings,
    lauren

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  3. I love it! Your explanations of the why of writing are always so clear. I couldn't help thinking about my wip as I read, counting to see if I had three. Thank you!

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  4. great explanation of what the reader feels. I never consciously knew the Rule of three, but of course I knew *g*, I'm familiar with fairy tales from early childhood. Thank you for putting this feeling into very precise words!
    Regine

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  5. Thank you for explaining this! I have never thought about the three-rules, though I guess I-ve heard it before. I agree with Justin, that the Wentworth part is horrible ;). My heart did almost stop reading it.
    But I have to say, that the detailed story is what makes your books so real/good. As somebody here said, you don't take the easy way telling a story! Because of the details the story takes some while to read and that I do love!! When I have read a book it takes some day before I can start a new book. The story stays with me, always. I'm kind of addicted...
    /Mervi

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  6. You are a wonderful teacher! Thank you for sharing your talents.

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  7. What a timely entry, Ms. Gabaldon! I've read every scrap of Outlander-related writing and have been in serious mourning in the recent weeks about the fact that There Is No More (at least for now). I'm taking this entry as a personal sign to start over from the beginning.

    Also, thank you for not shying away from the real cost of love. Sometimes we don't think about what we give for the person we love, but maybe that's because it's not important when you really love someone. That's the message I've taken from your books. If the love's truly there, then the costs don't seem like deal-breakers or even options. They're just what you do.

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  8. Sometimes I forget everything Jamie has to (and has gone) through...it just makes me love him more!

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  9. Amazing. Thank you for sharing this with us. A great reminder why you are my favourite author :)

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  10. Certainly, the scene at Wentworth clarifies the characters in a way that nothing else can. It really tells us everything about several really important characters.

    I am fascinated by the Rule of Three's though. Does that mean that (in the case of the Outlander series) no other scenes with Jack Randall (that follow the Wentworth scene) could be more intense? I was going to say "powerful," but I feel that all the places Black Jack shows up later are meaningful and therefore powerful. But did you think consciously that there would be no 4th, more (for lack of a better word) "nuclear" interaction between Randall and Jamie?

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    Susan
    @the_bothy

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  11. awesome - I think you have your answer to give to your troubled male reader - I am sure you maybe didn't expect to have many male readers of this series - I am curious if said men have more trouble with Wentworth than all the women readers - wouldn't surprise me if so.

    you have a way with words...anyone ever tell you that?

    I miss Jamie and Claire something fierce, 2013 is a ways away!

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  13. Thanks for that, Diana. There's always so much more going on in your books - which makes it so worthwhile to read and re-read.
    I did like your original thought tho - 'that's what I saw happening'. When a friend read Cross Stitch for the first time she was disturbed (as she should be) by that section and asked why it was there and my honest - visceral, even - reaction was 'Because that's what happened'. (Most of the time I do know it's not true btw!!!)

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  14. Brilliant analysis, Diana.

    I have to admit, I never picked up on the Christ imagery (What do you expect? I'm Jewish.) but as soon as I read that, a couple of instances popped into my head. I'm sure I'll find more when I next reread Outlander.

    Thanks again for these wonderful books.

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  15. It was painful to read the Wentworth part but you are totally right...their story needed it. High stakes=high reward. The intensity of their relationship is because of what you put them through. The Wentworth experience runs as an underlying current for them in the following books, almost lurking. Hats off to you for not playing it safe-you gave the readers a run for our money. Can't wait for more!

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  16. And that's why we read these books over and over again. Now becasue laundry doesn't really need to get done I will go get my Jamie fix.

    "You're tearin' our guts out."

    Sound fimiliar?

    A peek at book 8 would be a treat right about now...

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  17. Excellent explanation. Just send that fellow over here. Twitter is too short to sum this up.

    Wow, looking back at Outlander, with the 1-2-3, that's a lot of amazing writing for a first book. I'm blown away all over again just thinking about it. You Rock! Not wonder I was hooked right from the start.

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  18. Man, this seriously makes me want to read the series all over again. I love Claire & Jamie. They're like family, and I really miss them. :)

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  19. BTW, this is an excellent answer to his question. If it had been up to me to answer him, my answer would have been something along the lines of saying the experiences Jamie went through sum up the person he has become & will continue to become. See? Totally falls flat when compared to your answer. That's why you're the author & I'm the reader. LOL Well, said, Ms. Gabaldon! Well said. Loooooove your books!!

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  21. i have to say when I read that part I almost wanted to stop reading the book!
    How dare anyone harm Jamie!!
    my sister is the one who got me into the books and when i came to that part i called her up and said how dare you give me a book like this!
    she just laughed and told me to keep reading.

    But you are right you had to do it.


    I am so glad i did as your outlander series is by far my favorite books that I have ever read!
    And I never tire of them even after reading them for the 3rd time!!!

    Great job as always can't wait to see what you will bring us to in book 8!!!

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  22. I also agree with Jessica that another peek at book 8 would be nice!!!!

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  23. Dear Diana,

    Life is hard and marriage is even harder,putting 200% of yourself into it. Jamie and Claire's love is a remakable story of a love that spans 200 years. You have done such a wonderful job writing this series. I have not watched television since May, when I was told I absolutely had to read Outlander. I started @ the library but was having to wait for the book. I decided to buy all of them in paperback. I have read them so much the pages were coming out. Just last month I bought all of your books 1st edition hardcovers plus all of the Lord John series. I love your writing so much!!! I am reading and reading every book over and over. I think 30 times so far. Please hurry and finish scotish prisoner and book 8. Love ya!! Mercedes

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  24. I love this explanation. The story was perfect. I've always found the love that overcomes the most difficult tragedies to be the most powerful and touching, as I'm sure others have for many generations. Great pain leads to greater appreciation for the good things. Claire and Jamie definitely show that.

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  25. I really enjoyed this post, Diana. I felt the exact same way as Justin after reading the first book and had the same question. So, this is marvelous. Thanks!

    --Amy in Atlanta

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  26. I'm a relative new comer to the Outlander series also. I've been through the whole series now, though. I actually have listened to all of the books (my brain doesn't stay focused when reading all that well). The first time through Outlander, I was enthralled by the story. I couldn't stop listening to it. When it came time for the prison part in someways I was thinking that there were so many obstacles or trials going on that in someways I felt a little bit out of reality. However, later I was thinking about it and life tends to be constant trials or no trials (pretty much when it rains it pours), so closer to reality than anyone would like. I think the brutal honesty about what happens or has happened really allows the integrity, weaknesses and heart of the characters show.

    Thanks for the insights into your thoughts on why you wrote it the way you did. I've loved the whole series and as many people have requested before more Book 8 sneak peaks! (Please.)

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  27. I'm in awe of your response. Thank you for taking time to articulate a lengthy and incredible response.

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  28. I have a vague memory of diagraming plot and character relationships with overlapping circles for a writing class. The patterns were often triads that seemed faintly floral...trefoil, fleur-de-lis. There does appear to be power in three. There is also the strong effect that the readers own personality and life experience has on gut wrenching writing. One of the stories in "Warriors" is "The Pit" by James Rollins. Comparisons are made between dogs and gladiators. I liked it and reccomended it to a friend who is a dog lover. She told me she couldn't read the whole story. For her it was too gut wrenching. Unless your emotional wiring is twisted, identifying with a character who is being tortured can be overwhelming for some folks.

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  29. I put these books down, I pick them back up, because I miss the love & sense of family I find there.....truly, the best I have ever read, and Diana,,,,,,,, you are blessed with a talent so real, I thank you for sharing it with us.

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  30. This is why all of us love your work, Diana: you take the technical aspects of the craft and turn it into art of the highest order. And the highest stakes always pay out the greatest rewards. Tulach Ard! - and keep 'em coming!
    Thank you!
    Emily

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  31. Awesome post! Thanks so much for this amazing insight!

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  32. For me, Wentworth isn't nearly as heart wrenching as the scenes in the abbey ... Jamie is still Jamie in the 'prison chapters'. It's when he begins to lose himself and tells Claire to go back that I have a hard time reading ... which means the author is doing her job! How many times have I read that book? Let alone the whole series? 4 or 5 times? :)

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  33. It's one of this moments i can hardly trust my inadequate knowledge of English language to express my sentiments and thoughts.
    However, i can just say this. As much as i honestly appreciated the whole saga of yours, Diana, the first book has always been my favorite.This very climax you've described, the sacrifices, the obstacles J+C went through and certainly the stakes taken are certainly a majot factor for my infatuation by the book.

    PS
    Before i posted, the comments were 33 like Christ's years. Sorry to break it, yet i HAD to comment! ;-)

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  34. _Slightly_ longer than 140 characters, [g] but good stuff! Love it!! -Penny

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  35. Damn you write well! Even your explanations just flow off the page. Does it take you a long time to write these posts or do they just fly off your fingers onto the keyboard? I'm just in awe of your talent. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  36. Diana,
    what a wonderful post! I love the way you're basically interpreting your own 1st novel and the literary aspect is extremely interesting.
    Though I have to agree with a previous comments - Jamie in the Abbey, almost dying and wanting to die, is much more heartbreaking and devastating than the Wentworth 'events'...

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  37. I just had 2 friends to whom I recommended Outlander get very upset at the events in Wentworth, questioning why I would recommend such a book. But that's out of like, 20 all together, most of whom LOVED the books, so not too bad,
    I have a much harder time with Roger's hanging and losing his voice. I can't reread that.

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  38. Dear Diana,

    After finishing "Outlander", one of my Book Club girls exclaimed: "I loved it, till I got to that prison scene; it left a bad taste in my mouth".
    Obviously, I flipped out at her comment, telling her that the scene was necessary for us to understand just how deep Jamie's love for Claire runs. She still didn't get it.
    I will forward your blog to her, you express it much more eloquently.

    Oh, and by the way, about this:
    >>>(Yes, it is redemption and resurrection, and yes, there's Christ imagery all through the story--it was my first book, OK?)<<<

    No need to be apologetic, last time I checked, there was nothing wrong with Christ imagery.

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  39. I love the novel and continue to be wowed by it--every single time I pick it up, but I can't believe I never realized the truth of what you just said here. When I taught students writing I always told them about the importance of 3s, but I never really made the connection to fiction. And can I just say that your explanation is just as moving and eloquent as the book itself. Seriously, your creation of Claire and Jamie is truly a gift, because their love is just that ridiculously powerful.

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  40. Dear Lisa--

    Well, the reader isn't really _meant_ to see the structural underpinnings that make a book work, you know. {g} But they're _there_.

    I do workshops and things for writers conferences fairly often (I like to teach) and I always point out to the attendees that _everything a writer does is right there on the page_. You can, if you happen to want to, or care to take the trouble, work out exactly how a specific writer manages his or her effects.

    Mind, that doesn't mean you'd then be able to duplicate the effect in a story of your own {g}, but knowing approximately how it's done might be a help.

    All of which is to say that while there are NO "rules" of writing--you must do this, you must never do that, etc. (and some writing books seem to do this)--there most certainly ARE patterns, and being able to see these patterns and use them is the basis for being either an artist or a scientist. (I've been both.)

    --Diana

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  41. Well, I think you should just direct Justin to this blog, because this is the most complete explanation of how a book comes together I have ever read.

    I don't like the prison part either, but I could never imagine this story without it now. It has made Jamie's character even more believable because of it.

    Thanks Diana, I always enjoy your expalnations of your books. It gives us a little insight into how you develop your stories.

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  42. Dear Diana;
    Did this happen consciously, or you were able to see that structure when you read the final work?
    One more thing I personally gathered from the relationship between Claire and Jaime is that is a symbiotic one. Even though they are from the same species, they are from different times and place, but cannot exist without each other.
    When she saves his soul from Wentworth, she risks her life by doing so, but he also risks his by going on living. The scars left by the psychological torture run deeper than the ones on his back. But, he can live as long as she breathes life into him and he can do likewise. For me this pattern is visible throughout the series. As long as one of them is alive, the other one survives. Being time and place of no importance, but the connection their souls have established.

    On a more simplistic note, I would say that if Jaime would’ve not gone through his psychological ordeal at Wentworth, and like you point out she would have save him only physically, he could’ve be mistaken by many readers as “another Fabio” to be found on the cover of some romance novel. Showing his inner frailty makes him real and believable. No, these characters are layered and deep. I truly admire your character development.

    I do have another question. Why do some of your main characters (Young Ian, Claire, and Brianna) have rape as a common denominator?
    Thanks;
    Sandra

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  43. Young Ian was raped?? When? Where? What Book??

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  44. Hi Elizabeth:
    By Gellies, before being rescued. She made him have sex with her. Traumatic, against his will, his life depended on it= rape. I believe is book 3.
    Sandra

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  45. Ms. Diana, I'm so profound and enthralled and amazed by your writing! I've re-read portions of the book, the Abbey, Wentworth and the fight saving Jamie. I'm listening to those same chptrs making sure I'm not missing anything. Am I a sadist, as Claire would have claimed?

    It must be difficult to write about the fall of Jamie, the pain he went thru protecting Claire as he was tortured, AND yet, failed he did, hence giving up living. The emotion you've drawn from Jamie's pain, I must admit, make me felt sorry for Black Jack...a nano second...again, sadist? nah...it's your amazing writing!

    I do have a question if someone can clear it up for me, please. Jamie's turning point, the significant of Claire's breasts and remembering his mother. I've realized that she had to tap into Randall to get Jamie to fight back but I'm lingerring the idea connecting breasts to his mother. Is it the innocent and comfort of a mother's or a female's love that overshadow the torture? Thanks.

    Thank you Diana for such talent, God bless.

    Lanni

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  46. Oh, i'll second Lanni's question. I assume Claire had to "disquise"as Randal for raising Jamie's rage and whatever shreds of living will he still had, yet from a certain point i kind of lost the thread. And that was the confusion between Claire/Randall the lust and a mother's breast.
    I read the book in its origin English - which is not my native language - thus i could be VERY sure about getting everything right.

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  47. Ooops !Correction: The last sentence is " i could NOT bevery sure about getting everything right "

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  48. Diana,
    You are a great story teller. Thanks for your perspective. The Wentworth and Abbey chapters were gut wrenching. You had me hook, line and sinker from that point on. I understood the extent of Jamie's love for Claire by the result of the sacrifice that Jamie made for Claire. I learned the extent of Claire's love for Jamie because she would not give up on him and would not let him give up. She made him fight to recover his health, his sanity, his sole.

    Forever a fan,
    Debbie

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  49. Ms. Gabaldon,

    This is truly excellent. I have been reading your books and blog for some time now. I am so pleased to read this description of the reasoning behind "Outlander" because it explains exactly why I love your stories so much. I applaud your realism, the necessary sacrifice of both man and woman for love, and your exceptionally well thought out plot line. As an author, I hope you get some pleasure in knowing that some of your readers truly understood what you were doing with Jamie and Claire's story (including the pain and suffering). I, as a reader, am greatly pleased that you put those things in your story for the reasons you stated... and not just for kicks (as some authors do)! lol. Love your work. Thanks!!!

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  50. to Sandra G -

    funny how I did not connect Ian and Geillis with rape - social conditioning? hmm... I will ponder that.

    thanks!

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  51. To Elizabeth:
    I know, we think of rape about "incoming and not outgoing." Also, there are two more mentions of rape that I can remember. One in the Outlander series and the other in Lord John.
    In the Outlander series, Fergus was raped by Randall. Then again we think of him as a child of the streets, those things happen, right? Wrong!
    And in the Lord John series, he alleges his sexual preferences of who's on top due to a traumatic rape experience...

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  52. To Sandra:

    oh my gosh - TOTALLY forgot about Fergus - hmmm.

    WELL - Diana, that's a whole lot of rape going on, it must be significant somehow.

    for character development?

    was it a more common occurance pre (what I want to believe as) "more civilized society"?

    altho I am sure if there were statistics, there would not be much change in them century to century.

    sigh...

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  53. Hazel from ShropshireDecember 13, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    Diana, I love all these posts. What a huge and wonderful electronic debating society you have created with Jamie and Claire.

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  54. To respond to earlier posts RE: the Rule of 3: Jamie's three encounters with Randall conclude @ the end of Outlander. However, he begins a new triad in France in "Dragonfly" with the discovery that Randall is indeed NOT dead (which leads to two classic literary situations: Man vs Man/Woman and man against himself when he struggles with whether or not to kill Randall), the rape of Fergus and the subsequent duel, and finally the (not forgiveness. Compassion maybe) setting aside of vengance for the sake of Claire and Frank, as well as for Alex when he offers to walk Randall home after Alex and Mary's Wedding. "Come, man I'll see ye home" (paraphrased, I don't have Dragonfly in front of me just now).

    Countless of us could write (and likely have written ) thesis on literary style, imagery, and the Christ/Hero characters (and I include Claire in this as a Christ/Madonna/Hero also).

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  55. Once a teacher, always a teacher. You are not only an extraordinary author, but you have a that ineffable quality that allows teachers to break concepts down into bite-sized pieces so the student understands. Don't ever stop!

    Cyndi

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  56. I've been a huge fan since the very first and for years (literally--BTW, I'm the one who told you I'd read the series (through Voyager, anyway) 23 times. BTW, the numbers up a few more now).

    I myself am not a writer of fiction. As a lawyer, I write, ok, maybe some of it's fiction ;). I am also a former English major and I taught high school English for a couple of years.

    I would very much like to know if you consciously applied this literary device (among all the others) while drafting Outlander; or do you think they became unconsciously ingrained through your extensive reading, that you unknowingly applied them. Or, as is my personal opinion, it's a some sort of magical and possibly divine gift of the perfect book.

    You have to admit, there have been a whole lot of "coincidences" with these books. Facts and historical names that "just happened" to line up. As Eve Dallas, one of my other most favorite fictional sheros would say, "coincidences are hinky"

    So, for at least Outlander, was it craft or innate skill?

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  57. I always wondered about the Christ imagery in your books. At first I thought, "Surely I'm just reading into this." But then it was so obvious. And then, much to my surprise, I was quite moved by it. (How can that be possible in a steamy romance, time travel, historical fiction kind of thing, I thought.) Go figure. It's what I love most about your books. They never cease to surprise, and just when you're tempted to think it's just a weekend "guilty pleasure" book, something profound pops up. ("That's the 3rd law of thermodynamics." "No, Claire, that's love.") Don't apologize for the Christ/redemptive imagery. It is what I love most about your books because it is (contextually speaking) so jarring.

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  58. What an amazing post! First off, I was thrilled to see that Ms. Gabaldon responded to my question and that then she ended up writing a blog post to explain even further.
    There seems to be some implication in the responses to the post that as a man I would view the Wentworth scenes differently than a women and that it is because of the male on male rape scene. While that does play into the question I asked to Ms. Gabaldon, I was referring to the overall suffering of Jamie. I asked about why does our hero, Jamie, have to suffer so much? That includes the beatings, the whippings, the rape, the hammer and then the nail to the hand, etc. The sadistic nature of Jack and his treatment of Jamie seemed over the top too extreme.
    So I'm glad that Ms. Gabaldon posted this extra insight into the story and was able to put things into a new light for me.
    Justin - @randomangst

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  59. Dear Elizabeth--

    Well, there are two things operating here. 1) I was born a storyteller. I can't take any particular credit for this; it's genetic--I got it from my father, who told stories in precisely the same hyper-detailed, looping, digressive, multi-layered way {g} that I do, though all of his were purely oral and (mostly) non-fiction, being exegeses on people he knew or had known (he was a politician, and had a Very Interesting life). 2) I was, in fact, a professional writer--and had been for a number of years--when I began to write my practice novel. I knew one end of a sentence from the other (less common than one might hope), I knew what clarity, elegance, and euphony are and how to achieve them. I knew how to describe and explain with logic. (Weirdly enough, a lot of novelists don't recognize the need for logic in a story--but it's there!) And 3) this one's both nature and nurture {g}--I was born with the ability to distinguish patterns and draw them out of a chaos of observation. However, I then became a scientist, which is a profession that strongly encourages the fostering of this particular ability. (Most people don't realize that this ability is what makes a good artist, as well as a good scientist.) _And_ I'd been reading novels for thirty-odd years; I'd observed (first unconsciously and then much more consciously) the patterns of fictional craft and literary device.

    So the answer to your question is: both. {g}

    --Diana

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  60. Hi, Justin!

    Glad you made it over here. {s} And that you found the explanation of the structures in OUTLANDER useful.

    --Diana

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  61. I staggered through these parts of Outlander -- Wentworth and its iterations -- but they almost kept me from continuing throught the series. I dare say that had that sort of delivery of sadism et. al. continued I would never have kept reading, not only because I couldn't take it but more importantly, because I would have seen it as exploitive purience. As it is, I have come to see it as a crucial part of the story, no matter how one analyses it, and am hooked on the series.

    I occasionally have to suspend my disbelief (just *how* old is Rollo at the end of bk 7?) but the emotional truth of the characters is unbelievably compelling.

    I am also very much enjoying the Lord John bks, especially _And the Private Matter_ even though I am rarely fond of detective fiction.

    Looking forward to #8 and more Lord John as well.

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  62. PS -- Have just started the new bio of T.E.Lawrence, _Hero_, by Korda, and found myself wondering if reading _The Seven Pillars of Wisdom_ or third party accounts of Lawrence's, um, sojurn, with the Turks at Deraa was any part of your research for the horrors at Wentworth.

    BMH

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  63. i read outlander in 3 days and just loved!!! i suffered with claire and jamie and loved the love story. i imagined randall dying in a more dramatical circumstances. mea culpa!!! i wanted a very painfull death. just waiting for the next book is translated in my language. contratulations dear diana and hope you still with this great imagination. kisses from portugal :)

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  64. Diana,
    I am such a great fan and love the way you make me feel present in each of your books. I sometime become one of the characters, depending on what part of the story I'm in. Tonight I have just finished 'An Echo In The Bone' for the second time, and was sorry to reach the last page knowing that good as you are, it's not possible to "pop" books like these out overnight. I always read the the books twice, the first time I devour,he-he- the second I "live" the story. I also always read the credits, these are almost as memorable as the stories themselves, and tonight I was reading the 'author's notes' and saw the reference to Lord John's adventures in Canada. The 'Custom of the Army'. I would love to be able to get my hands on this book but so far I've been unsuccesful. I have a special interest in this book as my ancestors lived in Quebec and some of them had farms and lived by the plains of Abraham, in all probability fought in that war as well. As a child in a french catholic school I was given the french version of what happened but as I grew up I learned that there are always two sides to every story, right or wrong.
    Lord John is a super character, Hmmm...wonder if Jamie will still feel the same about his best friend now?
    I know that the story I refered to is part of the anthology titled 'Warriors' but I've still had no luck so far. I would really appreciate it if you could lead me in the right direction to find it?
    ~~Fran (a Canadian fan)

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  65. Wow, I would love to read this one. I find the subject fascinating and would love to know more about the latest studies and research.
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