The Book is the Book & the Show is the Show

BookVsTV (2)

I’ve been hanging out on the CompuServe forums quite a bit lately, and have been seeing an interesting trend in the comments. My ‘take’ is that the majority of the forum are book lovers that watch the show based on their love of the books.

As a side note, this is a place where there are many opinions and much nit-picking, but done with courtesy and respect. It’s a nice breather from most of the social media out there.

What I see as a trend in the comments, all over social media, is the disappointment of the show cutting out wonderful bits of the story claiming there ‘just isn’t time’ yet inserting other things that are totally off book that take up time. If they can do that, why can’t they use the wonderful material provided for them right there in the books?!

Now, I don’t have a degree or even much study in TV production. I have read what was basically a text book about TV production (A book called “Inside Section One” about the making of the original La Femme Nikita series) which opened my eyes to many things about making a weekly TV show that would never have crossed my mind. In this post I am merely taking my minor experience with acting, doing theatre (both on stage and behind the curtain), having participated in a movie, reading that book and just my own thinking and formulating one possibility as to why the show is going the way it is. It is an opinion, nothing more – I have no idea if I am thinking correctly or not.

The Team has said from day one that this would be an adaptation that would adhere to the story of the books as closely as possible. They have also said, absolutely, that while they will do their best to satisfy the long-standing fans of the books, their first priority is to make good television.

The term ‘good television’ is, somewhat, subjective. I know some people that think good TV is 24/7 sports. Others, find good TV in blood/guts/gore. Some, think reality TV is the greatest. Comedy, drama, soaps and so on….everyone has their own idea of what is good or bad television. For the bean counters, it is a show that will include the biggest possible audience that will draw in advertisers and grow to keep making money. There is quite often a ‘target’ audience. I know with LFN the original ‘target’ was 18 – 35 year old males, hence Peta Wilson in the title role. However, as the show progressed, while the producers got that target audience, they were shocked to find their biggest most supportive audience was 18 to 65 year old women because of the lead male role of Michael played brilliantly by Roy Dupuis (who they didn’t want originally).

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I would say, JMHO, that for the particular show of Outlander, good television is meaning that it appeals to a fairly large audience (those interested in the books, Scotland, history, drama, and adventure with the added twist of time-travel). Good television has to capture an audience with EACH episode. One never knows when a viewer will stumble upon an episode having no idea the show exists or, never having watched it, and – lacking better options at that moment chooses to watch. So, there has to be tension, some comedy moments for relief, some conflict that can happen and be resolved in that timeframe while leaving a bigger thing hanging to draw viewers back to the next episode. A lot to balance.

Diana is a wordsmith of epic proportions – literally. Davina Porter reading the unabridged version of Voyager goes 42 hours and 50 minutes. The Team is trying to shoehorn this story into around 13 hours. Bloody YIKES!

Like all the Outlander books, Diana has woven a rich, thick, complicated tapestry of a story. Even many of the ‘secondary’ characters (Mr. Willoughby/Yi Tien Cho is a great example) have pages and pages dedicated to ‘their’ story. All these wonderful side bits and stories within stories that she can layer in because she has the time and space to do that – and while they are rich material, those bits might be far too complicated to get across in a one hour-ish episode with lots of other stuff going on.

So, here is my thinking. The team takes the important bits of the story that need to be kept in to keep cohesion (Jamie & Claire’s relationship, young Ian being kidnapped, going after Ian which takes them to Jamaica and beyond) and breaks those important elements into the 13 episodes they have been given to work with. Then they have to fill the time for those episodes in such a way to make it ‘good television’ (all the points I mentioned above) and keep the flow of the story. To me, this means inserting less complicated bits to hit all the notes they need to while keeping with the main push of the story and ending the episode in such a way people will want to come back.

I know many book people are disappointed with missing so much of the rich material that is in the books, but really, because it is so layered and nuanced, it is hard to give it any kind of justice in the time they have. Likely it is far easier to invent a simple bit of tension; the “Jonah” arc in “The Doldrums” episode rather than trying to actually explain the entire story behind Yi Tien Cho. It keeps to the overall story in plausibility without stripping a good piece of writing down to so little as to be meaningless and still be plausible within the frame of the original work.

I have truly never minded the differences because I started out on the journey of the series expecting them. I can embrace them because I like being shown a different facet of the same story – seeing it from a different perspective that challenges my own thinking. Also, the books will always be there to drown in and enjoy in a way, no matter how much you might like the series, simply has no comparison.

Again, this is only MY opinion and thoughts.

Cheers!

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Highlanders vs Vampires

2 August 2017

As anyone with any knowledge of me knows, I have a ‘thing’ for vampires. Long before they hit mainstream popularity – again – these creatures have intrigued me. They are compelling in their complexity while being simple predators. So many different directions an author can go with them by tweaking various points of vampire lore…….ok I’ll stop now because it really isn’t vampires per se I wish to discuss here.

I recently left my co-pirate and our boat to travel back to Washington State to help some friends with a major move. Vancouver, WA to Colorado Springs. Major because these people are not quite pack-rats but close and not very organized. They had been in the same house for years and are some of my oldest/dearest friends, so on a plane I hopped. They gave me an amazing deal on an extra vehicle they didn’t want to try to move which gave me transportation. With that, I went (between the moving packing due to my friends schedules) for a quick visit with my sister’s family and to help my dad do a yard / estate sale. All told, I was gone three months. Very glad to be home.

I tell you this because, while I was with my dad, he took me to a half-off book place. WOW! Not a safe place for me to hang out as I am addicted to the written word and being on a boat, hard copy books just don’t do well due to moisture and lack of space. However, they have pocket books on sale for 25¢ each on Tuesdays and I managed to get the Sookie Stackhouse books (2-8) by Charlaine Harris for that fantastic price. This is a series I had wanted to ‘try out’ for a long time but just hadn’t gotten around to it (so many books – never enough time). I tracked down book one and dug in. I had found and read all 13 books in the series twice within a few weeks. (I read through fast the first time for the story as a whole then go back for detail – yes….even with Diana’s books).

Why do I bring this little story here – to a predominately Outlander fan page? Well for those that don’t know, the Sookie Stackhouse novels became HBO’s series ‘True Blood’. After reading the books I commented on social media somewhere I would have to track down the series to watch. I was warned, several times, that the series deviates from the books – BIG TIME.

Once I got home, I tracked down Season 1 of True Blood and have watched it. Yes…it varies hugely from the book. Part way through S2 and there are bigger and wilder variations from the book. There is one story line I’m not fond of – not because it is SO far removed from its book elements, but because it is very dark and abusive.

Where Outlander has combined some minor characters for time / continuity or had a major character pick up some small thing to avoid bring in yet another character – True Blood has major characters going WAY off book (this is highlighted with Sookie’s brother Jason in S2 which we are part way through) doing things that book Jason wouldn’t dream of.

So, how do I feel as a book lover first seeing these huge departures from the story I fell for? Great! I mean….it’s the same characters with a different spin, two great stories in the same universe with the same characters. It’s interesting to see the differences and some of them, I actually like better. Now that one story line I’m not thrilled with…..so what. Overall the show is a good watch with great twists. I’m not going to bag the entire show for one storyline that I’m not thrilled with. If I felt I had to do that I’d never watch ANY series.

Ron Moore and the entire team that bring fans the Outlander series have done a phenomenal job of being true to the books. Yes…there are a few tweaks and changes. As has been discussed, ad nauseam it seems sometimes, television is a completely different medium than print with different constraints and structure. While some people would like to see 20+ episodes per season, it is just not going to happen. I already did a post on Outlander vs other cable series and how we are spoiled with our numbers. (THANK YOU STARZ) changes that have been made might bring out something book people feel is minor or tweak something so it flows better on screen. The always present combining of minor characters or having a major character ‘pick up’ something so another character doesn’t have to be introduced. This is all common practice when converting from book to screen.

My point here? The series CAN NOT – WILL NOT – SHOULD NOT follow the book verbatim. How boring would that be?! Embrace those changes as new facets and nuances on much beloved characters and story or make yourself miserable. Outlander fans have no grounds for griping about ‘changes’ IMO – after watching what was done with True Blood.

And please Outlander readers….if you truly can’t stand the series and the team’s vision of it – just stop watching and go back to curling up with the books. Don’t feel the need to dump your aggravation and disappointment on people that are enjoying the show for itself. I’m told there is actually a subculture of people out there that watch shows they hate simply so they can hate them via social media. What a sad, sad thing. Life is too short to embrace so much negativity.

Not everyone love the same things. I’m sure many reading this don’t like True Blood or even want to see/read it. That’s ok. Some people like all the super-hero shows out now while others are firmly entrenched in comedy. If you find you don’t like something – GREAT! One less thing to clutter up your life with. Find something you love and share that with the world. You never know, sharing your positive thoughts, love of new shows/books/music etc. may turn someone else onto it and make new friends.

Cheers!

Perception and Prejudice

Each person that reads or watches or experiences something, brings a lot of themselves into the process. How and where they were raised, their spiritual beliefs, education, the people they spend time with, the other books they read, movies they watch and things they study. All of these factors are mixed into to whatever an individual is currently ‘experiencing’ and colors it to their unique perception and prejudice.

So we can hope to come at this blog from a similar direction – here are some definitions:

 

Perception: a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression; intuitive understanding and insight

Selective Perception: Selectivity of information that is perceived. Process in which people tend to ignore information that conflicts with their values while accepting other information that agrees with their values.

Prejudice: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience

 

When I write my fiction, I tend to go lean on details unless I need the reader to grasp something specific. For me, not having each thing spelled out for me (as a reader) allows me the fun of having my own view or perception of a scene. A field of wildflowers in a passage may give me a totally different image (coming from the Pacific Northwest) than someone reading the same passage that grew up in the mid-west or on the east coast or in Switzerland or New Zealand.

Take this bit from the book I’m currently working on:

            Jasmine felt as if she was being turned inside out then found herself swaying slightly in a well-appointed sitting or living room. It had a look and atmosphere of old-world grace and money, but she didn’t have time to study it. She turned quickly as the enemy placed her soul sister on a plush sofa.

 “There should be a blanket in the chest just there, why don’t you get one so we can cover her.” Nicholas watched this woman carefully if discretely. She was struggling – fighting a war within herself – and if she was who he suspected, he could only imagine how abhorrent this situation was for her.

            Jasmine flipped open the cedar chest and found a soft, light blanket. Cashmere? Quality, as everything seemed to be here, and stepped over to cover her friend. The temptation to just cover her face and kill this arrogant aristocrat was hard to resist, but she needed Sunny in her life almost like air or food. Since she had lost her brother, Sunny was the only thing that had kept her at least somewhat sane. She had to strike out somehow and since she had promised not to kill him – words were her only option.

 “Nice place, Vlad. Lots of color, very few cobwebs – I’m impressed.”

 

I have a very specific picture of this place in my head as the author. The furniture I picture, the colors, the fabrics, the trinkets or priceless pieces of art that may be present. I asked my partner what he pictured and it was similar but not identical to my thoughts. Not surprising since we have been mostly together for over 20 years and come from somewhat similar backgrounds growing up. But ask yourself what you pictured? How might your partner or best friend picture the same scene? None of the ‘visions’ is more right than any others, they are just different; colored and nuanced by each individuals myriad of experiences.

Prejudice, at least how I want to talk about it here, is a bit more complicated.

While where prejudice comes from holds true for all the same things as perception, it’s how it applies to reading a book or watching or movie or dealing with a different culture that I want to address. People tend to judge things, be prejudiced for or against them, based on their perceptions – but they often neglect to take into account the differences from where the thing is coming from.

 

Take the novel Outlander for example. People tend to judge/be prejudiced about the characters based on current time perceptions. You really can’t do that. To say something that was a cultural norm several hundred years ago was ‘wrong and/or out of character’ based on current ideas and perceptions robs the person experiencing the work of inherent lessons, insights or differences. While we as a modern society may not agree with something done in the 1700’s for a variety of reasons, you also can’t just dismiss them as wrong. Understand where that particular ‘norm’ came from and why. How was it important to THAT time and place? Embrace it for how it is different from current thinking and so expand your vision of things outside your own actual experiences.

This is true of almost any work set in times and places different from what we know and are comfortable with. While some readers may vehemently disagree with the scene in which Jamie thrashes Claire for her blatant disobedience and endangering of their party; others understood where/when it came from and, while they may have found it distasteful, didn’t let that one scene ruin the whole book for them. Some, not so willing to step outside their own perceptions and prejudices, put down the book at that point never to pick it up again.

Some people are very uncomfortable reading explicit sex scenes – this can be due to many factors. They can skip past such things or let it ruin the entire story. That is a choice. While I don’t judge people for their comfort levels, I take real issue with people that will go through library books and black out things THEY find offensive not giving others a chance to decide for themselves.

I guess what I hope to accomplish with this post is to get people to think a little bit. To, perhaps, listen to another’s viewpoint without judgment to maybe expand their own thinking and ideas. Even if it doesn’t change your mind, you’ve been exposed to other ideas and, hopefully, won’t berate another for their perceptions. You and they are coming to a specific experience from (possibly) vastly different directions and so your perceptions will not be the same.

I saw this during the recent upheaval with the political race and it is so appropriate.

perception1

Both people in this picture are right – they are also both wrong. It is a matter of perception.

My fervent wish with future posts is that people will keep this in mind while reading what I write. I come from my own unique place and so my ‘view’ will be different from anyone reading my thoughts. It may be only slightly different or a huge swing towards one side or another. It doesn’t make me right and anyone else wrong – it’s just a different perspective. My hope is that my own ideas and perspective might allow someone else to see the same scene or book or character in a slightly different way and so, expand that experience for them with a different facet to and already precious ‘gem’.

It is also my wish that – especially here – discussions are conducted in a respectful manner to expand each person’s experience rather than dismiss their perceptions as irrelevant.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Outlander: The Series

The last blog gave readers a chance to find out a little bit about me and my background. The idea was to let people in my head a bit for why I say some of the stuff I do. Of course, there is a lot more to it all – how I was raised, by whom, when, life experiences. All this figures in to how every person views things, makes decisions about them, likes them or not. What I like, others might not and that is ok. That is great in fact because, if we all liked the same things it would be a very boring place.

Anything I write – like any other writer out there – comes from a compound of all we do and know. Taking all the bits we’ve learned from infancy to now; school, reading, meeting people, listening to the news, deeper research into something that is of more keen interest and, in more recent years, surfing the web. No one dictates to me what I do or don’t like – including my life-mate. I don’t want to be (but likely will be) called a kiss ass, suck up, puppet or anything else suggesting my opinion is not my own. I also don’t want to be called bad names if I point out something I don’t like. My opinion is my own, not dictated to me by someone else to be regurgitated. I think for myself and write what I think. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it……………………though reading differing opinions can stimulate interesting discussion.

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With that thought in mind, this is what I think of the series Outlander adapted from the books by Diana Gabaldon.

 Bloody brilliant!!!!!!!!

 I could stop there – but just a short explanation.

Ronald D. Moore, the writers, Maril and the other producers, the entire crew (Jon Gary Steele and his team, Terry D and her team, set dressers, animal handlers, the people that have to schlep gear all over the Scottish countryside, and all those I’m missing)…henceforth known as “THE TEAM” – these people are taking a huge, many layered, rich, profound story of history, love, intrigue, politics plus much more and trying to cram it into being a television show. TV – generally speaking – isn’t all that deep. There are some great stories out there, and things that are fun to watch, but television is entertainment first and foremost. There is no way to cram thirty nine hours of book (audio book time is 39 hours 6 minutes for DiA) into just under twelve hours of television and make everyone happy.

Diana Gabaldon has woven so many enchanting, laugh inducing, tear spilling scenes into her books that are wonderful to read and enrich the story – but aren’t necessarily fundamental to the plot. These very scenes are often fan favorites that would be great to see, but there simply isn’t time to have them all.

For instance: the scene of Jamie avoiding some nasty guys intent to do him harm where he grabs a rather large, hard sausage as a weapon and ends up ducking into a brothel to avoid detection. Sam would have made this an absolute treat to watch and I would have loved seeing it – but I totally understand why it wasn’t in the show. The scene simply did not advance the story in any meaningful way and so the space was given to other things that did.

There are fans that say some of the scenes don’t have anything to do with the books and why are they there…they are a waste of time! This other ‘junk’ is taking away from Jamie & Claire and their ‘relationship’ (a note on that in a minute). It may not have anything to do with the BOOKS, but it may have a great deal to do with the STORY that is being told on screen that we as viewers don’t KNOW yet. Have patience. Have a little faith.

There have been many complaints about J & C not getting enough screen time for their ‘relationship’ (SEX). I disagree. I see a much deeper connection between them now than when they were burning up the screen. The intimacy is definitely there and sex isn’t necessary to drive the overall story right now – there are other things that need to be seen. I enjoy a good sex scene as  much as the next person, and while Sam & Caitriona are beautiful people that have explosive chemistry on screen making such scenes a joy to watch, I think it would have been distracting given the complexity and gravity of the time and place they find themselves and how compacted the storyline needs to be to get through the entire book. It’s obvious they ARE intimate – every look, touch, interaction lets you see that. It isn’t necessary to play it out on the screen. Of course – that is just MY opinion and I doubt it will be a popular one.

Overall, I love what THE TEAM is doing and will continue to watch and support the series however I can. Does this mean I totally agree with EVERY decision they make? Nope. But I trust that they are making a great television show based on some favorite novels. I like the differences, the points of view contrasting my own to give me new and broader perspective on the story as a whole. What would be the point of keeping it exactly the same? If I wanted exactly the same story, I’d turn off the TV and curl back up with the books.

Please share with all involved doing the show as I know I’ll miss people when I do my tweet! THANKS!!!

Cheers!

More to Life

omputers……so useful……so hateful……necessary evils in our current time. Mine crashed recently and, aside from terror at the possibility of losing all my data (yes I will be religious about off machine backups now), it was wonderful!

For the first time in years I was almost completely unplugged and it was really quite peaceful and productive. Very little Email or Twitter, almost no web surfing and no Facebook (I don’t do all this stuff on my phone…it’s a phone). It was nice and made me realize I had become very unbalanced.

Most of my online focus has been on Outlander – including this blog. There are so many great sites out there already about the story and many of them have been around since long before the series. Since I didn’t feel adept to keep up with sites like

Outlandish Observations
The Ladies of Lallybroch
My Outlander Blog
Outlander Musings now Dear Outlander

I chose instead to write about the fandom and my observations regarding that facet of things. It’s a fascinating subject.

The Outlander Fandom rotates me through joy, anger, awe, disgust, insight, frustration and a myriad of other emotions on all points of the spectrum.

Outlander (and all the other books within this world) is a brilliantly written story. It is an awe inspiring, thought provoking, lesson learning narrative with characters that are flawed, make mistakes; live, love, laugh and die. REAL. A story to get lost in, leave your own existence for a time and experience another and in doing so perhaps gain new insights with which to view the real world. But……in the end……a STORY, a work of FICTION.

The Outlander Series is another story. While based on the book(s), it has its own medium and voice; completely separate and unique from the book(s). (But that’s not what’s in the books!!!!!) Amazing actors, awesome backdrop (sets, costumes, music, Scotland), wonderful writing and a unique guiding vision. Still, at the end of the day, it’s a television show.

This whole thing with “Droughtlander” il_fullxfull_478145691_guj1

There are times I expect to see/hear of people smearing ash on their faces, wearing sackcloth and ripping their hair out. For the sanity of all involved – GET A LIFE!

They are books, a TV show and people. That’s it. All great, all worthy of attention and admiration; I am not dissing the story or anyone involved in it.

What I’m saying is that there are thousands of books out there….thousands of stories, hundreds of TV shows and many truly talented people you may not have found yet. Expand a little – hobbies, a different genre, new actors and authors to discover. Don’t give Outlander up – balance it with other things.

This fandom has done some truly awesome things (Outlander Fans #DoEpicShit); it has done some really ugly things. Some things are done I just can’t wrap my head around. Like this: Sam Heughan Owes You Nothing
As a fandom, as people …… should we not think before we act or type? Would Jamie say something hurtful to another clan member just to be snotty? Would Claire wound someone deeply, viciously out of jealousy? Would Jenny sit around whining that it was winter or would she get in and do things should couldn’t manage in the distractions of spring?

Would any of the real people involved here (Sam, Cait, Diana, Ron, Maril, Graham, etc.) invade someone’s privacy? Steal funds meant for charity? Stab people, which are supposed to be friends, in the back on social media in ways that are malicious and cruel?

I am completely aware that the Outlander fandom is not a singularity in all these actions. I’m starting to think “fandoms” are a good microcosm view of society at large….and that makes me very sad. If we have this much upheaval in a relatively small community that has a very singular focus……what hope is there for the world at large?

I might influence others, give them something to ponder – but the only person I can truly change is myself. To respect myself while trying to treat others with courtesy and common sense.

What about you?

The Lie of the “Romance”

I’ve noticed on Twitter and other places, how Herself doesn’t consider the Outlander novels to be ‘romance’. I heartily agree and thought this would be a quick and easy rant about why can’t other people be sensible and see this obvious fact.

DG on set
For a change, rather than just spouting off my own – usually fairly informed – opinion, I thought I’d do a little digging to support my statement. Should be an easy thing to establish after all. However, in doing that digging, I ended up doing more and yet a bit more and now – this quick and easy little rant about how Outlander is NOT a romance – has morphed into something else.

I first found the definition of a ‘romance’ on the RWA website which reads thus:

Romance fiction is smart, fresh and diverse. Whether you enjoy contemporary dialogue, historical settings, mystery, thrillers or any number of other themes, there’s a romance novel waiting for you! Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel. An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction. Click here to better understand the subgenres within romance.
About the Romance Genre 

Well bummer. By that definition, Outlander, as a stand-alone book, fits the definition – mostly. I’d say the RWA is a fairly authoritative reference. Wiki has a slightly different take:

The romance novel or romantic novel is a literary genre. Novels of this type of genre fiction place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” There are many subgenres of the romance novel including fantasy, historical, science fiction and paranormal.
Romance Novel – Wiki

It’s taking me a long time to write this because I’m struggling with several different thoughts about it. By the above, Outlander fits into the ‘Romance’ category – yet it doesn’t. You can’t say the entire book is focused on Claire and Jamie getting together when she spends so much time trying to get back to Frank. While Jamie is around and very important to her as a guide and protector in this hostile environment, she isn’t focused on him as a love interest – not even when she agrees to marry him! That book has a reasonably ‘emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending’ ……… but there is so much more to come!

Does Outlander and the following books have romance? Heck yes! Sex? Raw and real! Is that the entire focus of the book? No way! I found the ‘romance’ and sex to be very realistic in that they aren’t always pretty and perfect. Jamie can be quite primal – and so can Claire. It can be very explicit without seeming pornographic or OTT. It’s a natural part of life and the story. Here, Ms Gabaldon herself explained the sex in Outlander best, so I’ll stand aside and let her do it.

“     I do think that the sex scenes are both necessary and integral to the story, or they wouldn’t be there. These aren’t romance novels, but they are (among other things) the story of a very long and complex marriage. Now, there may possibly be long and successful marriages that don’t include sex, but I don’t personally know of any.

Neither are any sex-scenes included for the sake of gratuitous titillation (any titillating that happens is purely fortuitous, I assure you), nor are any of them just about sex. They have structural and emotional reasons for being where they are, and the book would not be the same story, nor have the same complexity, without them.”
Language, Language….(Part I)

In doing my ‘research’ for this (I’m sure Diana would laugh at this statement as I looked up a few minor bits online – this is by no means exhaustive, thorough or unbiased). I came across a couple of other definitions for fiction on Wiki that also seem to be appropriate for Outlander.

Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Historical fiction can be an ambiguous term: frequently it is used as a synonym for describing the historical novel; however, the term can be applied to works in other narrative formats, such as those in the performing and visual arts like theatre, opera, cinema, television, comics, and graphic novels.
Historical fiction-Wiki

Obviously Outlander qualifies in this category. When I was working in a second hand store running the book department, I always either just displayed the Outlander books (they sold too fast for me to shelve them most of the time) or put them with General Fiction. I never ever shelved them in Romance. (I always recommended them to people looking for something to read and if someone already knew the books I made sure they knew about the series.)

Magic realism or magical realism is a genre where magical or unreal elements play a natural part in an otherwise realistic or mundane environment.[1] Although it is most commonly used as a literary genre, magic realism also applies to film and the visual arts.
Magic realism-Wiki

This was a new one for me – I’d never seen this particular definition before. The magic of the stones in an otherwise normal historical setting makes this another appropriate possibility.

BJR

Realistic fiction, although untrue, could actually happen. Some events, people, and places may even be real. It may be possible that, in the future, imagined events could physically happen. For example, Jules Verne’s novel From The Earth To The Moon was proven possible in 1969, when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon. Science fiction often predicts technologies that later become a reality.

Another subgenre of realistic fiction is crime fiction like Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie, Alex Cross by James Patterson, and so on. All these works depict a fictional but plausible story.

Historical fiction is also a subgenre that takes fictional characters and puts them into real world events. For example, in the early historical novel Waverley, Sir Walter Scott’s fictional character Edward Waverley meets Bonnie Prince Charlie and takes part in the Battle of Prestonpans.
Realisitc Fiction-Wiki

Obviously our esteemed author has done this not only in Outlander but the entire series, so this too is an appropriate categorization in my opinion. My mate disagrees. He says that since time travel is used to get the characters where they need to be, it suspends the real and so is NOT a proper category.

To me, the obvious thing is that Outlander is a superb story that crosses several genres as any good literature does. There is a great blog that was pointed out to me where someone compared DG’s writing to Shakespeare – very apt I think.
By Any Other Name: Genre Gabaldonian

This brings us to the conundrum that has made this blog both longer and far more difficult to write than I first though it would be. The bigger issue is – why is having Outlander labeled as a “Romance” so distasteful to so many, including the author?

What is the first thing that you (and probably most other people) think of when they hear the words “Romance Novel”?

“Some dialog with no real plot to tie sex scenes together.”

 “Soft porn for women.” 

“Completely unrealistic situations and relationships that no real person could live up to.” 

“Bodice ripper. I mean just look at the covers!” (My mate’s response) 

“I’d never read that trash!”

It seems to me the problem is that ‘Romance’ as a genre has gotten a really negative reputation with the general reading public. The consensus seems to be that ‘Romance’ means sub-grade writing, little to no plot, and lots of torrid, unrealistic sex. How did this happen?! I mean….that can be true of ANY genre (John Norman’s GOR books come to mind for Science Fiction) so why is Romance so picked on? The idea that ‘romance’ isn’t ‘real’ writing or worthy of anyone but middle-aged women with no other outlets to read.

I was reading through Diana’s blogs** and I found this:

     “Robert Louis Stevenson – One of the earliest and best of the romance writers—back when “romance” meant adventure and excitement, escape from daily life. TREASURE ISLAND? KIDNAPPED? THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE? The titles alone are enough to transport you, but the clean prose and vivid characters bring you back again and again.”
INFLUENCES

So what the heck happened? Why do many intelligent women now have to gloss over the idea of reading a good romance? It is other people’s perception of what the genre is or is not, and it’s so very wrong. Ok, yeah…..there is a whole sub-genre of ‘bodice rippers’ out there. There are people that like them or they wouldn’t sell. Fine. But that one little sub-genre should not dictate the image of the entire grouping.

Just so you all know – I read romance. I tend to lean toward the paranormal ones or romantic suspense, but a straight up romance is sometimes just what I need. There are some great romance authors out there. A favorite is JR Ward who writes the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yeah, they are vampires – but they are kick ass warriors with attitude. I found Grey Goose because of these books. (No worries, whisky is still my favorite.) These books are all about how these big tough guys melt for their ladies, protect them and treat them right while keeping innocent humans from getting pulled into their war. The stories are good, interwoven between books, consistent and smart. What I love is the characters and the snark. The sarcastic, snarky dialogs seem to draw me to most of my favorites. I would pick up a Harlequin Historical (yeah those little purple ones) or the Intrigue and read them on lunch. Short, easy reads that I didn’t have to concentrate on because I was constantly interrupted – but decent stories for what they were. Some of the best known, biggest authors started out writing for Harlequin – but people don’t realize that. (Nora Roberts comes to mind here. Janet Evanovich, Iris Johansen and Kay Hooper wrote for Loveswept which is similar and I’m sure there are lots more.)

I too had a really bad image of ‘romance’ for a long time. I picked up a Nora Roberts trilogy bound into a single book for a dollar at a book store sale so gave it a try. I was really rather impressed. I read a lot of her early stuff in that 6 – 12 months just because of what I was going through mentally and emotionally at the time. I got burned out on her though as the more she writes the more alike the stories seem to be. There are several authors that do ‘highland’ romances and I tend to snag those if I’m feeling the urge for such a book. As you will see from my previous post, I have now discovered  JD Robb books (aka Nora Roberts) and loving them. Like Outlander, there is a serious, sensual, deep ‘love story’ as a main thread in the books – but they are murder mysteries with a kick-ass female protagonist. Go Eve.

There is another whole sub-genre of ‘romances’ called ‘Love Inspired’ that are basically a Christian romance novel. NO sex, the couple might kiss….maybe. Very wholesome, well thought out stories but in the same short, quick read format. Lots of morals and values. These too have a ‘suspense’ category and surprisingly Amish/Quaker stories are incredibly popular. Interesting fact: the Love Inspired books are a division of – you guessed it – Harlequin.

It’s too bad that Romance has gotten such a bad name in the literary world. There is a place for these books just as there are every genre out there. There are things I just don’t read because I don’t enjoy them. I’m not a big ‘horror’ fan – I’ve never read Stephen King though I guess his books are really good. I had customers recommend Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett to me over and over saying it was the greatest novel they had ever read – I gave up about a quarter of the way in because I just couldn’t get into his writing style. My dad shuns ‘romance’ yet loves the Eve Duncan books by Iris Johansen – who started out and still writes romance. He is also the one that got me started reading the JD Robb books which he is reading through a second time. Different strokes.

Is Nicolas Sparks a ‘romance’ writer? I got heated debate on that one. I haven’t read him yet (so many books, never enough time) but I had people look for him in both romance and general fiction. I shelved him in general fiction – that was my choice in my department. Because he was a guy? Hmmmm…maybe. Hadn’t really thought about that. What about Audrey Niffenegger and the Time Traveler’s Wife? What about Sense and Sensibility? IS it actually a “romance”?

Genres and shelving classifications are a necessary evil in my mind. You group like books together so people who are looking for something specific have far less books to look through to find what they want. Then there is the problem of authors who cross genres and drove me nuts! Do you cheat and put all their books together in the area they are most known for or shelve the books by genre even if that means having the author show up in three different places?

Personally, I like a heterogeneous library. I read all sorts of books from self-help to humor to romance to spy novels and everything in between. I go on binges of fantasy/sci-fi and a newer category is ‘urban fantasy’. (Back to my love of sarcastic, solid characters with great interaction, I found the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher to be a really fun read. Some good underlying truths and morals in there too if you bother to look.) Books I read, like people I hang out with, tend to be so much more than can be pigeonholed into boxes.

In my very humble opinion – Outlander is NOT a “romance”. To label it this does it a huge disservice to the depth and scope that it has. Like any truly great, classic work of literature it has romance, and adventure and intrigue and betrayal and real life staring back at you. It didn’t happen, but it could have. These are characters – and great friends. To put it simply, and something I think we can all agree on, it’s a thumping good story that can be recommended to just about anyone who likes to read in any genre.

I know this is long – a lot to cover. I’d really love comments & discussion on this! Thoughts as to  why Outlander is still perceived this way and what can we as lovers of the story perhaps do to help adjust that perception.

Cheers

**OH! Side note here! For any who have not taken the time to read through her blogs – you are SOOOOOOO missing out. I just skimmed looking for some things to add in this blog and spent a couple of hours just immersed in thorough enjoyment.
DIANA GABALDON BLOG

Outlander-books

Would love an “In Death” series – Who for Eve/Roarke?!

The “In Death” Series by J. D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)

During an extended visit to my dad, I was looking for reading material. I finished the novel I was writing and wanted a nice break. My aunt had gotten my dad hooked on this series so he had most of the books there waiting to be read. This particular series moved very quickly when I ran a book department, but I had not gotten around to them in my huge list of things I wanted to read.

I am having a great time with this series, love the characters and am currently on book 25 out of 40! These are murder mysteries that carry the same characters throughout the series. For most of the books it takes me 3/4 of the way through, at least, to figure out ‘who done it’. This is good as I can usually figure it out earlier than that and I love a challenge! In some of the books, the who is given early on, but the how and why is very elusive. One of my favorite things in these books, however is the character interaction. The characters are layered and ‘real’ – they grow and evolve as the series is progressing. Being set a bit into the future lets the author have a bit of fun with things too.

Eve Dallas is the lead character; a tough as nails homicide cop who has a lot of personal demons to deal with every time she walks on a scene. She’s been alone most her life and, as the series is progressing, is slowly starting to get a small, loyal group of friends around her that she isn’t quite sure what to do with. She’s a good cop with a sixth sense of getting inside the bad guys heads.

Roarke is Eve’s counterpoint in the books. Irish, brought up in very rough circumstances and chose not so legal ways of making his fortune. Tall, dark, handsome & rich – he’s more than a bit dangerous both to Eve and any that would hurt her. Robb has written some smoking sex scenes between these two, but it’s also appropriate to who the characters are and, while well done, doesn’t overpower or detract from the stories. (I mean, my dad reads these!) Roarke is a very complex and layered character that struggles between who he has always been; stepping over, around and sometimes through the law to achieve his goals – and this ‘by the book’ cop he suddenly can’t seem to live without. It is not always an easy pairing.

There is a medley of supporting characters that are unique and intrinsic to each story. These characters, too, travel through the books adding depth and a growing sense of family. The interaction between all the characters is a huge part of what keeps me reading these books. A person could probably pick up any of these books to read and enjoy it as a standalone story, but starting at the beginning and working through is preferable to get the ongoing story of the characters in order.

I don’t tend to get hard ‘pictures’ of characters in my head – probably why I didn’t flip out at the casting for Outlander. I have a sense of the character more than a face or an exact body type. I got to thinking though, there are plenty of books for several seasons of episodes; who could I see as Eve & Roarke if this were a series or movie. This is what I came up with.

MariaHill1-Avengers EVE DALLAS – THE WOMAN BEHIND THE BADGE

Cobie Smulders plays Maria Hill on the Avengers movies. She seems (to me) to have about the right body type and height to play the kick ass Eve, though here hair would have to change to a mixed brown. She can definitely do the attitude and the moves that Eve is so known for.

For Roarke?

ROARKE – THE MAN BEHIND EVE

Now my guy came up with a this thought for Roarke……must admit, the idea is growing on me.

Zach-McGowan-23 with credit
I could see Zach McGowan as Roarke…. the more I think about it the more I like it. 🙂

You can learn more about the books HERE