Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Read, Chapter 24 Part 1

Welcome to this week’s read of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Here, we take a look at what works in a bestselling story. Normally, I cover a single chapter a week, but since chapter 24 is over 50 pages, we’re going to take it in parts.



Chapter 24: By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Summary: Back at Castle Leoch, Claire and Jamie only have a brief time to savor the well wishes on their marriage. News comes that Dougal’s wife has died, so Dougal leaves Leoch to handle the funeral and other arrangements. Still, Claire and Jamie enjoy their time together.

Near the paddock one day, the subject of the relationships between husbands and wives comes up. Jamie expresses the hope that someday he and Claire can be close, not like most marriages where the husband and wife are in it just for the production of children and whatever was agreed to when the marriage was arranged. But Claire doesn’t dare give him hope. How can she when she still intends to leave and return to the man she first swore wedding vows to?

Later that day, after a liaison in the stable loft, Jamie spots his young cousin Hammish, Colum’s son, sneaking into the stables to try and ride the one horse that not even Jamie can ride. Jamie stops him before any harm can be done. He gets the boy acquainted with a tamer gelding, a far more suitable mount to graduate to after Hammish’s pony than a horse that will likely kill him. In the midst of this, Hammish asks Jamie all sorts of questions about marriage and whether what other boys say about bedding women is true. Claire, still hidden in the loft, struggles to keep from laughing at the boy’s humorous and astounded reactions to Jamie’s answers.

That night just before bed, Jamie enters their room soaking wet. Apparently, Hammish left the stable door open and the gelding escaped and took a swim in the loch. Jamie had to fetch it and miss supper. He’s riled and determined that the following evening he’ll take Hammish out in a boat, pitch him over the side and let him swim to shore and miss his own supper.

He climbs into bed with Claire, and they detect an odd smell. A quick search reveals a thorny plant tied with black thread beneath the pillow, and with it a primrose blossom. Claire picks it up only to get pricked in the thumb. Jamie throws the whole thing out the wind and slams the window shut. When Claire asks what it was, he merely insists it was only a dark joke.

Writer Comments: This chapter contains numerous scene breaks, which is great for me reading and composing these posts, but they serve other purposes in a novel. Scene breaks can give a sense of greater speed to a story, much like shorter paragraphs or sentences.

Also, the way Gabaldon handles them here gives the sense of time passing. We see quick burst of life, just enough to let us know how things are progressing for the characters.

Especially in this first scene, Gabaldon establishes a sense of how life goes for Claire and Jamie. Certainly, there are problems still to be faced, but not every moment is full of excitement and immediate danger. Much like how an author should establish a sense of how life is normally before derailing it, Gabaldon does so here to give us the feel of how Jamie and Claire fall into their married lives together at Leoch

But that aside, all these scenes follow the same rules as chapter endings. Like chapters, scenes should end with a hook that draws the reader into the next scene. Especially with delineated scene breaks as Gabaldon uses in this book, it would be easy for a reader, even one who is thoroughly invested in the story, to put the book down and walk away for a while. Ideally as authors, we want readers to forgo all else while they enjoy our books: sleep, food, real life. Without intriguing, unresolved tidbits at the ends of chapters and scenes, it would be extremely difficult to arouse this state. So Gabaldon ends all her scene breaks so far with something that pulls readers into the next scene.

With the first scene, it’s the question of what the bad news is. The second scene ends with Jamie proposing a tryst that might well get him in trouble with Old Alec. The third scene ends with the humor of Hammish declaring that, when he gets married, he’s not going to do it face to face because he wouldn’t want anyone watching him do that. The fourth scene ends with the ominous plant beneath the pillow. As you can see, there are all sorts of ways to end scenes, but all scenes should end with unresolved questions, unresolved tension, or the promise of something enticing in the next scene.

Stepping back from scenes, there is a portion of the third scene that made the editor in me jerk awake. As Jamie talks to Hammish, there are a lot of things that are out of POV. So far, this book has been entirely from Claire’s perspective, but sometimes, Gabaldon slips and relays information Claire couldn’t or shouldn’t know. Mostly this refers to another character’s thoughts or motivations, sometimes history or information it’s unlikely Claire would know. The editor in me demands these bits be corrected; however, this clearly was not though necessary in the books own editing. Regardless, it goes to show that even highly successful, well-written books are not perfect and that a few imperfections do not destroy a book’s success.

Thank you for joining me for this read of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. We’ll resume this read and this chapter next Monday. Until then, swing back by Friday for further forays into fiction, the speculative, and life.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Vacations: Experiencing LIfe

Sorry, everyone, for the late post today. I wish I had a really good excuse, but I don’t. I was merrily researching vacation site and totally let it slip my mind that I needed to actually write something for my post today, much less post it!

So as I’m short on time and feeling very guilty, I’ll make this quick so I can get it up as fast as possible. Which means we get to talk about what’s currently occupying my mind: vacations.

Growing up, vacations for me mostly consisted of visiting family. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as an adult, I’ve wanted to be able to see and experience other places beyond the houses of relatives. One of my dreams for retirement is spending months at a time wandering around the countryside able to check out whatever strikes my fancy or linger in a place I love enough to really soak in.

Until then, I get to make do with brief glimpses of life in other places. This year, I’m looking at Civil War battle sites and campgrounds. I’ve been to Shiloh before, a place that definitely gave me the creeps, and I’ve been camping numerous times as a kid, but with the advent of the internet, it’s like combing through rice to find a single hair to figure out the best place to go based on reviews. It’s time consuming, but hopefully I turn up something particularly satisfying.

On my list of future places to visit include: Alaska, Iceland, the Rhine in Germany, and Scotland.

How about you? Do you have any dream vacation spots or any place that’s in the plan for the near future?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Read, Chapter 23

Welcome to this week’s chapter of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Here, we look at what works in a bestselling story.



Chapter 23: Return to Leoch

Summary: Claire wakes with a start, realizing she never asked Jamie how his meeting went with Horrocks. Blearily rousing, Jamie tells her that Horrocks informed him that Randall was actually the one to kill the man Jamie is accused of murdering. Too, a message has come from Colum summoning Dougal back to Leoch. The Duke of Sandringham is coming to visit, and Dougal thought it might be beneficial for Jamie and Claire to come too, as Sandringham might be able to swing a pardon for Jamie.

But Sandringham is the man Randall works for.

When they reach Leoch, Jamie carries an exhausted Claire into the castle and creates quite a stir when he tells Mrs. Fitz and Colum that they’re now married. Colum is clearly not entirely pleased, but he reminds Jamie that there are things now due to Jamie as a result, including a portion of the MacKenzie rents.

Jamie takes Claire up to their new bedroom where she practically collapses in exhaustion, then he heads out again. It occurs to Claire that he might be going to the girl who he’d previously kissed before they left Leoch, the girl who was quite shocked that Jamie came back wed. In short order, Claire works herself into quite a fit, upset over Jamie, thinking he just married her to get the rent money, thinking he might now be making nice with the other girl, realizing that she’ll be deeply upset if she ever gets back to her own time and has to leave Jamie, realizing too that she can no longer remember Frank’s face.

Jamie returns later looking happy, and this upsets her further. She alludes to the other girl and tells Jamie that, as she has no claim on him he can take his pleasure where he likes. Jamie loses his temper at her and hauls her off to the bed to take his pleasure where he likes. Claire fights him and accuses him of being as bad as Randall. Jamie releases her and tells her that if she really believes that, she can leave and he won’t stop her.

She stares at him, realizing he means it, then chooses to stay. The tension diffuses a little, and Jamie asks the meaning of some of the words she’s hurled at him. Too, she confesses what actually most upset her, that he married her just to get money. He laughs hysterically at this, then confesses that his share of the rents barely amounts to the cost of half a cow in a whole year. But with it, he’s bought her a wedding ring. She’s touched to tears and agrees to wear it, and with that and their following lovemaking, she becomes even more entangled than before.

Writer Comments: There are two primary things I want to point out in this chapter. First, the reference to Sandringham. Gabaldon drops the name only a few times so far in the book, before Claire goes back in time and later while she’s in Randall’s office. However, Gabaldon reminds her readers of Sandringham during the scene between Claire and Randall, undoubtedly in part to prepare the events that are coming. When a character or event is important later in the story and is only mentioned at the beginning, it helps to remind readers of it shortly before its appearance.

Second, the issue of who Claire’s heart sides with is a crucial one in this chapter. She accepts Jamie’s ring, is jealous over another woman, wants Jamie to want her, and allows herself to be taken in, met soul to soul, with Jamie in a way that deepens their relationship significantly and, I would venture, takes her to realms she never reached with Frank. This is crucial because the story is in part about a war within herself between two world and two men. Gabaldon must raise the steaks to make this conflict increasingly compelling. By drawing Claire more deeply in emotionally, she raises the stakes.

Thank you for joining me for this chapter of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. We’ll resume this read next Monday. Until then, join me Friday for further forays into fiction, the speculative, and life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Importance of Opposite Gender Beta Readers

My main beta readers are a group of wonderful ladies who are instrumental to helping me create polished fiction. They’re supportive and honest, two of the most desirable qualities one can wish for in beta readers. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

However, I also highly value my husband’s input on my stories, and it isn’t because he’s an insightful reader, which he is, or because he sugarcoats his critiques, which he doesn’t. It’s because he’s male.

Growing up, most of my friends were boys. I was the one girl in my Venture Crew in high school, and I threw myself into a lot of my father’s and brother’s interests to the point that my mother feared I’d never stop being a tomboy. So I have a lot of experience observing male behavior. I actually find it rather fascinating. But I’m still a girl, and I cannot escape that fact as a writer. Even if I was considered highly skilled at writing men, which I hope someday to be, I could never fully cross the gender divide and assume I finally fully “got it.” That’s where a male reader is essential.

For some genres, this might not be as crucial. Fiction that caters to an audience that’s almost exclusively female doesn’t need to worry so much. In fact, if an average guy picked up a romance novel and suggested changes, he’d probably make it unpalatable to most female readers who want to read about guys women idealize. Conversely, genres that primarily sell to male readers, adventure or hard science fiction perhaps, should definitely get a male reader’s perspective. And a story written by a man for a primarily female genre would wisely solicit the advice of women. There’s nothing wrong with the fact, but the male and female perspectives are different, and for a story to comprise both, it should seek the input of both.

Part of what I ask my husband to do when he reads my work is to check the realism of my male characters. I enjoy writing male characters, but sometimes they exhibit female traits I never intend. Occasionally they say something that my husband says a man would never say or in a way that’s decidedly female. I’ve read books where I had to grit my teeth at the female characters because they basically acted like men with girly anatomy. Sure, you can have a character like that if you wish, but if all or almost all your female characters are figuratively overdosed on testosterone, there’s a problem. On the other hand, if a story involves male characters that are overdosed on the estrogen, that’s equally as troublesome and removes a huge chunk of realism and suspension of disbelief.

As an example in my own writing, in my current WIP (work in progress), a king at the deathbed of his child confesses that he’s afraid. I wrote this king intentionally to make him weak, and so he often spouts things I know might to be standard for a king. He isn’t the hero at all, and in fact, he’s quite a problem for the hero. However, my husband pointed out that, as a guy, he wouldn’t confess something like that. He’d say something more like, “I don’t know what to do.” It’s a small change, but it can make the difference between eye rolling and believability to a reader. As the writer, I just have to go, “Oops, I guess I let my female tendency to value the expression and confession of emotions crop up where it shouldn’t have.”

So especially if you write a genre that caters to both genders or one that sells primarily to your opposite gender, be sure to get at least one male and one female beta reader. They don’t have to agree, and you certainly don’t have to make the changes they suggest. However, if they mention something that to them violates what their own gender would do, give it serious consideration. It’s no different than writing a story involving a certain profession such as a firefighter or artist and having someone who works in that profession read your story for accuracy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Read, Chapter 22

Welcome to this week’s chapter of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Here, we take a look at the techniques Gabaldon uses to tell her bestselling story.



Chapter 22: Reckonings

Summary: After the rescue, Jamie and the rest take Claire to Doonesbury, a coach stop with an inn on the path of their flight from Randall. No one will talk to Claire, and after eating supper in chilly silence, she’s more than happy to go up to bed with Jamie. However, when they reach their room, Jamie takes off his belt as promised.

The prospect of getting beaten horrifies Claire. But Jamie insists it’s a lighter sentence than what a man would receive. Had a man done what she did, disobeying orders and endangering everyone, he would get his ears cropped, be flogged, or possibly killed. It’s justice he intends to make her bear, but it’s far from just in her perspective. 

She resists, but he finally talks her into taking the first strike. Then she fights and he holds her down and finishes.

That whole night, she doesn’t sleep. She’s too pained from the whipping and too furious at Jamie for giving it to her. Too, though, she realizes that she hadn’t taken this time period seriously, treating it more like an elaborate play than an environment that was real. Too, compared to the horrors of World War II, the sight of a handful of men butchering each other hardly made a dent on her psyche.

The next morning, she’s still furious with Jamie and bites him. At breakfast, the other men start talking to her again, playfully teasing her, and gently chastising Jamie for half-killing her the previous night. A lighter sentence might have done, but they still insist on riding on. One gives her the mercy of a cloak to pad her saddle, and the men frequently make excuses to stop and give her a break as they flee into the night.

Eventually, though, Claire can’t stand to ride any farther. She invents the excuse that her horse got a stone in its hoof, that she pulled the stone out but better walk the animal for a while. Dougal allows this so long as someone stays with her, a chore Jamie volunteers for.

Walking is painful at first, but after a bit, her body starts to relax. Jamie walks beside her and tells her of times when he’d been beaten for various bits of mischief. Claire can’t help but laugh at his tales, and after a while, she finds herself starting to forgive him.

Too, he tells her what truly lies between him and Randall and of his father’s death. Not only did Randall rape Jamie’s sister, he propositioned Jamie in exchange for offering to drop Jamie’s second flogging. Jamie refused, thinking of what his father would say. (His father had come to Fort William to try and help Jamie, and Jamie saw him then for the last time, just before he went into Randall’s office and heard the captain’s offer.) Jamie so feared that his terror of getting flogged again might overwhelm him and cause him to change his mind about accepting Randall’s proposition, that he refused with as much name calling and foul remarks as he could think of. Randall is naturally infuriated and takes out his rage on Jamie during the next flogging. At one point, everyone thought Jamie had died during the second beating, and at that moment, Jamie’s father, who was watching, had a stroke and died. Jamie wonders whether his father would have lived had he taken Randall up on his offer rather than suffering the second lashing.

This naturally stirs Claire’s sympathies so that, by the time dawn draws near, she’s feeling much more inclined toward him. He asks if she understands why he felt like he had to beat her. She says she forgives him for that, but she cannot forgive the fact that he enjoyed it.

He laughs a long time at that and confesses that he did indeed enjoy it, but she ought to be grateful he used restraint in not “rogering” her afterwards and instead chose to sleep on the floor. She becomes even more enraged at him.

After a while, Jamie confesses that he now regrets bringing the whole topic up, that what he was really trying to get at was to ask her if she’ll allow him back into her bed now. She takes her time about answering and at last says:

“Will you do me the honor of sharing my bed, O lord and master,” I asked politely. 
Obviously suspecting something, he considered a moment, then nodded, just as formally. “I will. Thank you.” He was raising the reins to go when I stopped him. 
“There’s just one more thing, master,” I said, still polite. 
I whipped my hand from the concealed pocket in my skirt, and the dawn light struck sparks from the blade of the dagger pressed against his chest. 
“If,” I said through my teeth, “you ever raise a hand to me again, Jamie Fraser, I’ll cut out your heart and fry it for breakfast!” 
There was a long silence, broken only by the shiftings and creakings of horses and harness. Then he held out his hand, palm up. 
“Give it to me.” When I hesitated, he said impatiently, “I’m no going to use it on ye. Give it to me!” 
He held the dirk by the blade, upright so that the rising sun caught the moonstone in the hilt and made it glow. Holding the dagger like a crucifix, he recited something in Gaelic. I recognized it from the oath-taking ceremony in Colum’s hall, but he followed it with the English translation for my benefit. 
“I swear on the cross of my Lord Jesus, and by the holy iron which I hold, that I give ye my fealty and pledge ye my loyalty. If ever my hand is raised against you in rebellion or in anger, then I ask that this holy iron may pierce my heart.” He kissed the dirk at the junction of haft and tang, and handed it back to me. 
“I don’t make idle threats, Sassenach,” he said, raising one brow, “and I don’t take frivolous vows. Now, can we go to bed?” -- pages 304-305
Writer’s Comments: Normally, I’d break up my summary of a chapter into sections and give comments along the way. This time, however, I put it all together, though the chapter is lengthier than most, because it all deals closely with the same themes and issues.

This chapter comes head to head with the differences between modern mores and premodern. To Claire and to Gabaldon’s readers, the very concept of Jamie taking his belt to Claire is abominable. However, to Jamie and the men and women of his time period, it was the norm.

One major challenge of writing historical fiction of any type is portraying the different mindset of the time without diluting them with modern philosophies and beliefs. Those authors that ignore such things do not do the history or the people justice. Those that give such characters modern perspectives despite the culture of their age aren’t being honest with themselves or readers. Gabaldon handles the issue maturely because she acknowledges its existence and gives Jamie a reasonable perspective on beating his wife given the time he lives in. True to Jamie’s character, he is sympathetic to the fact that Claire hurts and doesn’t like causing her pain, but he genuinely believes she needs a lesson to make what she did sink in and to mollify those she wronged by endangering their lives needlessly and selfishly. He approaches the matter with consideration for her, but neither does he yield. Yet, as readers, we have Claire to sympathize with and whose perspective through which we can view the whole ordeal.

At the same time, Gabaldon does not paint Claire as the one and only wronged party. She is honest with us and has Claire acknowledge some of her own fault. Truthfully, Claire did endanger the others and gave little thought toward the repercussions of her actions. Too, she hadn’t taken the lives of those around her very seriously. She hadn’t considered that, while the events and loyalties of the men around her are little more than remembered history lessons from school, to the MacKenzies and Jamie, they are very real and personal.

All this is dangerously precarious to write. Gabaldon could easily offend some readers if she tilts one way or other readers if she tilts another. But she manages, as I believe all good writers should, by approaching the subject with as honest a perspective toward her characters and time period as she could.

Thank you for joining me for this chapter of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. We’ll resume this read next Monday. Until then, swing back by on Friday for further forays into fiction, the speculative, and life.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Editing Albatross

Of all the people who ever try to write a novel, the vast majority don’t succeed because they never finish writing the first draft. But of the few who manage to write “The End,” there is an even greater burden of work waiting: editing.

I call editing an albatross because it is much like a weight tugging at a writer, a constant, always-in-the-back-of-your-mind pull that can spoil happy moments. For serious publication, for any publication for that matter, editing is a necessity and a pain. Editing requires looking into your writing soul with a hard, exact, and brutal eye and amputating any and all imperfections in the work that reflects that soul. And it’s something many writers would rather do without.

To the beginner, it’s easily overwhelming. Where do you start? When do you stop? What sorts of things do you need to edit? Do you need to get feedback from someone else? Do you really have to hack away that beautifully crafted sentence? What do you mean there isn’t enough tension/character development/action? What do you mean the hero is unlikeable; I understand and like him just fine! Do you really have to get rid of all those being verbs?

To the experienced, editing is part of the process, but it is a slog most of the time. It would be so nice if that first draft could be the end of things. But we know that the final result after multiple edits really makes for a superior story. Just go back and read your first draft. Odds are, you’ll cringe.

I have a friend who just finished his first book that he’s sitting down to edit. He’s learning the hard way the agony all writers must endure. Editing usually takes far longer than one would hope. It’s usually far more complicated than expected as well, especially for someone who hasn’t developed their own process and gone through the editing obstacle course a few times. When he was writing, he always spoke of his project with enthusiasm. Now that he’s hit the editing phase, that enthusiasm has definitely dampened.

But there’s one thing my friend has that I know will bring him through the difficult part, and it’s the one thing that separates those who fully finish novels, editing and all, from those who stop at first drafts: the determination to finish. Grit you might call it. Grit will get you through the roughest spots, and the good news is that grit can be nurtured and grown. Practice never giving up, look at struggle as part of the process, at failure is just another way to improve, and you’ll develop the grit to truly finish a novel.

For those writers who enjoy editing, the rest of us envy you.

So once you write “The End,” be prepared for the easy part to be over. From there on out, it’ll take even more determination to take a messy first draft into a polished work of literature that sparkles.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Read, Chapter 21

Welcome back to this read of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, where we examine what techniques are used to make this book a success.



Chapter 21: Une Mauvais Quart d’Heure After Another

Summary: While waiting for Randall in his office, Claire does her best to wreak havoc. She writes rude words, overturns sand over his spare wig, and drips as much muck as she can manage onto his nice, thick carpet. She knows there’s no hope for her. Jamie and the others could not possibly know she’s at Fort William, so no one will rescue her. She decides instead to go down as brazenly as possible.

Randall finally arrives with a horse whip in hand and clearly tempted to use it on her for the mess she made of his office, but he’s not allowed to whip women, at least not for the offenses Claire has committed. Instead, he tries to intimidate her into speaking with the threat that he intends to send her to Edinburgh to the Tolbooth, a prison so awful that its inhabitants rarely survive long enough to reach trial.

Claire pulls out the one, tiny hope she has of getting the upper hand with Randall. She alludes to the Duke of Sandringham, a name she only vaguely remembers being associated with Randall’s. The reference so startles Randall that he spills his tea all over his fine carpet.

But it’s not enough to save her. Despite his initial shock, Randall refuses to believe she’s working for Sandringham and threatens her at knifepoint that she will reveal everything she knows about the duke. When she remains silent, he tries to rape her. Knowing it’s probably pointless, she screams and struggles, stopping when she realizes that her screaming makes Randall enjoy it more.

Then Jamie comes through the window, pistol pointed at Randall, and demands Claire’s release. Randall puts the knife to Claire’s throat and informs Jamie that he’ll drop the pistol or he’ll become a widower. Jamie drops the pistol, Randall picks it up and aims it at him, then continues on with trying to rape Claire.

Then to Claire’s horror, Jamie lunges at Randall, pistol and all. Randall shoots and nothing happens. The pistol is empty. Jamie knocks Randall out and whisks Claire out of the fort while his accomplices blow up a building on the other side.

Writer Comments: This is certainly a enjoyable scene. It’s full of tension, witty dialogue, humor, and heroism. But the scene’s strongest quality is Claire’s spunk. Few heroines would have the nerve to make a mess of the office of the man about to torture them. Fewer heroines could do so with such perfect poise and calculated mischief.

Then there’s Claire’s witty banter as Randall interrogates her. Here are a few examples:

“I am afraid I must still insist on the name of your employer. If you have indeed parted company with the MacKenzies, the most likely supposition is that you’re a French agent. But whose?”
He stared at me intently like a snake hoping to fascinate a bird. By now I had had enough claret to fill part of the hollow space inside me, though, and I stared back.
“Oh,” I said, elaborately polite, “I’m included in this conversation, am I? I thought you were doing quite well by yourself. Pray continue.” -- pages 272-273

Later, after already sipping claret, Randall has tea brought, to which Claire gives him further grief:

The tension was slightly relieved by the entrance of an orderly, bearing a tray of tea things. Still silent, Randall poured out and offered me a cup. We sipped some more.
“Don’t tell me,” I said finally. ‘“Let me guess. It’s a new form of persuasion you’ve invented--torture by bladder. You ply me with drinkables until I promise to tell you anything in exchange for five minutes with a chamber pot.” -- page 273

This last quote comes right after Randall informs Claire that he intends to send her to Tolbooth:

“Just as you like,” I said calmly. “What do you suppose the Duke of Sandringham will have to say about it?” 
He upset the hot tea on his doeskin lap and made several very gratifying noises.
“Tsk,” I said, reprovingly. 
He subsided, glaring. The teacup lay on its side, its brown contents soaking into the pale green carpet, but he made no move toward the bellpull. A small muscle jumped in the side of his neck.
I had already found the pile of starched handkerchiefs in the upper left-hand drawer of the desk. alongside an enameled snuffbox. I pulled one out and handed it to him.
“I do hope it doesn’t stain,” I said sweetly. -- page 275

Such things are the stuff we average humans dream of saying and doing, but rarely have the nerve to manage. Such are heroic qualities and make Claire and the story all the more enjoyable.

Summary: The MacKenzies make a run for it with Claire to Mackintosh lands as they’re the closest where they might have a chance of escaping Randall and his men. But Jamie is outright rigid and standoffish to Claire, a fact that’s far from helpful as the shock of what happened is sinking in and making Claire shaky and upset. She accuses him of sulking, and he takes her off the side of the road and motions Dougal and the others to go on without them.

He yanks Claire off their horse, shakes her, and the two start yelling at each other. They say a lot of things to each other, fueled on fury and fear. Insults and accusations of disobedience and who’s to blame, also hints of deeper emotional wounds, like how used Claire feels and how Jamie still can’t completely trust her, are tossed with abandon, though with far less kindness and far more poison. Claire accuses Jamie of being more concerned with his pride than with her or her feelings.

Then he, he says:

“You saw the post in the yard of the fort?” I nodded shortly.
“Well, I was tied to that post, tied like an animal, and whipped ‘til my blood ran! I’ll carry the scars from it ‘til the day I die. If I’d not been lucky as the devil this afternoon, that’s the least as would have happened to me. Likely they would have flogged me, then hanged me.” He swallowed hard, then went on.
“I knew that, and I didna hesitate for one second to go into that place after you, even thinking that Dougal might be right! Do ye know where I got the pistol I used?” I shook my head numbly, my own anger beginning to fade. “I killed a guard near the wall. He fired at me; that’s why it was empty. He missed and I killed him wi’ my dirk; left it sticking in his wishbone when I heard you cry out. I would have killed a dozen men to get to you, Claire.” His voice cracked.
“And when you screamed, I went to you, armed wi’ nothing but an empty pistol and my two hands.” Jamie was speaking a little more calmly now, but his eyes were still wild with pain and rage. I was silent. Unsettled by the horror of my encounter with Randall, I had not at all appreciated the desperate courage it had taken him to come into the fort after me.
He turned away, shoulders slumping.
“You’re right,” he said quietly. “Aye, you’re quite right.” Suddenly the rage was gone from his voice, replaced by a note I had never heard in him before, even in the extremities of physical pain.
“My pride is hurt. And my pride is about all I’ve got left to me.” -- page 282-283

With this confession and Claire’s realization of what Jamie risked for her, coupled with her own realization that she was more upset than she’d realized, the two apologize and forgive each other. But forgiveness cannot erase the words that were spoken before or the things they suggest or wounds they leave behind.

Writer Commentary: First off, take note of the fact that, while Gabaldon has once more rescued Claire from Randall, she’s set up a new conflict between Claire and Jamie, one that will undoubtedly require more than a quick and flashy rescue to resolve. She closes the chapter with the pain of this tension and the separation it creates between Claire and Jamie. As readers, the need to see that separation healed pulls us into the story deeper.

Lastly, take a look at how Gabaldon handles with argument between Claire and Jamie. As an author, Gabaldon reveals Claire’s thoughts fairly frequently as they occur, but she isn’t one to explain and tell how Claire feels about thing, at least not often. Rather, she relies on Claire’s action and tone to indicate Claire’s emotions.

In this instance, Claire and Jamie’s emotions, both of which are complex and layered by this point, spill over into a full out fight between the two. It’s messy. It’s brutal. It’s very, very human, and therein lies its power. Claire becomes aware of her emotions as they occur and as we readers see their impact. This gives the scene more immediate force and impact.

But Gabaldon doesn’t stop there. She also brings the argument to a reasonable, believable conclusion. Though Claire and Jamie may not have admitted it to themselves, they’re falling for each other. They both care deeply about the other and are good people. This allows them, especially Jamie, to admit fault and try to make amends. It allows Claire to be open to this and to acknowledge Jamie’s efforts on her behalf. They want resolution, so they’re willing to grasp it when their initial buildup of emotion is released.

Further, Gabaldon takes into account the fact that Claire has been through trauma, and this trauma influences how she reacts to Jamie and what she says. Even Claire comprehends that, in a calmer, more rational state of mind, she would not dare think of some things the way she does now. Jamie too is wound up from a series of emotional strains that explode in this scene. Together, the result is a satisfying fireworks show of tempers and, ultimately, affection.

Thank you for joining me for this week’s chapter of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. We’ll resume this read next week. Until then, swing back by on Friday for further forays into fiction, the speculative, and life.