Thoughts on “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK OUTLANDER AHEAD.

Strap in, folks, this is gonna be a long review. Then again this was a long book, so what do you expect?

What I liked: 

The great characters. I didn’t always like Claire, but she always felt like a person and not just a vassal through which the author could carry out the story. Everyone had an interesting backstory and their own distinct personality, which really helped me get into the spirit of the novel. The dialogue was very personalized as well and I was impressed at how each character was able to give lengthy exposition without it sounding too unnatural. I also found that, despite the Game of Thrones level number of characters, it was easy enough to remember who each one of them were because of how unique Gabaldon made them.

The immersive environment. It’s very easy for a reader to lose themselves in this book. The way Gabaldon is able to describe the lay of the land is impressive and I never had any difficulty wondering where exactly these people were or what the environment looked like. What I can appreciate is the environment isn’t just a backdrop, it’s engrained into the story itself.

Sexy times for all. While the romance between Jamie and Claire may have been a bit rushed, what with Claire still having a husband back home, I believe the chemistry between these two is strong. The fact that they’re both well-developed characters helps me care more about their relationship and I think Gabaldon writes sex pretty well. She doesn’t explain so little that you can’t tell what’s happening, but she also doesn’t explain so much that it comes across as mechanical and weird.

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The historical accuracy. It’s obvious that a lot of research went into this novel and as someone who has tried to write historical fiction with mixed results, I can really appreciate her efforts. The details she put into this really help the story come alive, especially when she writes about the environment and costumes people wear. She also doesn’t shy away from describing the abominable odors that persist in these types of places back in the 18th century. I was doubly impressed when she went into details about which herbs to use for healing and how to describe how someone would properly attend a wounded man back in those days.

What I didn’t like: 

The focus was all over the place. I don’t think I would be out of line for saying that this book is by and large plotless. While there are many obstacles that the lead characters run into, there is no centralized conflict. For the most part, the structure of the story is “this happened, and then that happened, and then this happened.” It didn’t ever seem to be leading up to anything. On the one hand it left me guessing as to what would be the final outcome of the story, but on the other hand it made me wonder just what the point of all of this was. This is a shame because there were so many points of interest such as Claire missing the modern world, Jamie’s outlaw status and, I think most importantly, the inevitable doom that is to befall the Highlanders.

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Claire’s unrealistic reactions to killing. The book makes it clear on several occasions that Claire is accustomed to seeing people dying because of her position as a nurse during the War. However, I’d like to point out that there is a huge difference between watching someone dying and actively participating in their murder. In my humble opinion, Claire’s reaction to having murdered someone is disturbingly understated. Granted the person she murdered was trying to sexually assault her, taking a life is an unnatural act and a psychologically stable person would be horrified at having to do so. Especially one who swore an oath to always preserve life in any way she can. I thought they would explore this more after she was forced to murder a 16 year-old in order to save Jamie, but even then she doesn’t seem to feel that guilty about it. What makes this even more difficult for me to swallow is that this boy really didn’t do anything wrong. He was just a young lad who was trying to do his job to the best of his ability. He just happened to be on the wrong side.

It went on for too long. I think much of this can be attributed to the fact that this book lacked a plot so the author just went along with the story until she felt like stopping. While I enjoyed this book, most of this story didn’t actually need to happen in the grand scheme of things and I’m actually shocked at what they left out. For instance, the final battle to collect Jamie from the infamous Scottish prison….happens off screen…….

We spent pages and pages talking about Claire fighting a wolf (a conflict that I don’t believe even needed to exist since it doesn’t contribute anything to the plot), but when it comes to the climax, the great escape, the novel’s main villain dying….it happens off screen…….

There was no reason to cut that part out. There were so many other pointless scenes that could have been scrapped. They did not need to cut the one part that needed to be in there.

I admit, I’ve gone into this fandom totally blind so perhaps Black Jack comes back with a cyborg eye and there will be a real show-down. I don’t know. I’m just judging this book by its own merits.

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What the hell is up with Chapter 39? So the scene where Claire tries to save Jamie’s life after his torture at the hands of Randall while they’re at the monastery….Can anyone tell me what happened in that scene? I think she was trying to rekindle his will to live but…that should not have worked. Mind you, I only have a passing knowledge of psychology when it comes to PTSD related events, but I’m pretty sure forcing a patient to relive a traumatic event literally days after it happened in an uncontrolled environment would not result in a sudden miraculous turn-around in their mental behavior. Particularly when they are at death’s door to begin with. In fact, I’m reasonably sure that should have made him keel over.

Jamie’s torture. I’m gonna be honest, I thought it was overkill. The extent of his injuries and psychological torture should have left him a completely unresponsive husk of a man or dead. At least if this had stayed as true to life as it had been before. One of the most interesting aspects of his torture was left, for the most part, unexplored. While recounting the horror he faced while against Randall, he lets slip that the sight of Claire makes him ill because Randall basically conditioned him so every time he thought about Claire he would either be beaten or worse. In one of the most emotionally devastating scenes in the whole book, he tearfully explains that he doesn’t want to see her again because just her being there reawakens all of these awful memories.

Me:

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Wow. That is dark. More than dark, that’s completely and utterly heart-wrenching.

Aaaaaaand after Claire’s Most Awful Idea Ever, he’s totally fixed and ready for some bairn-making.

Ummm……

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There’s no reason why this should have worked. You can’t just undo classical conditioning.

Mrs. Gabaldon, you seem like a smart lady and all, but I don’t think you understand how psychology works. Sadly, once a mind is screwed up that badly, the damage is usually permanent. If not, it takes a looooong time for an individual to overcome it.

I think that Jamie’s aversion to Claire would have made an excellent jumping off point for the next novel and would justify a book of equal length, especially if she found out during this debacle that she was pregnant with his child. Not only would Claire have to deal with the impending slaughter of the Highlanders and the Dragoons looking for Jamie, she would also have to confront the possibility of raising a child in a foreign country in the past alone. That’s more than enough conflict for a book, in my opinion. But instead we get a miraculous recovery from Jamie and they all live happily ever after. At least for now.

Overall opinion: 

I enjoyed reading this novel and I’m more than a little interested in reading the next installment. However, I also believe this book could have been so much better if some things were cut and if the story had been given more focus. It was interesting just watching them go about their daily lives, but I think actually giving it a plot would have raised the stakes a considerable amount.

If You Want To Be a Writer, Lower Your Expectations a Lot

When you decide to become a writer, there’s one truth that you must confront at some point: what you write will probably not be as good on paper as it was in your head.

I’ve come to realize this after multiple drafts and constant rewrites of fiction, nonfiction, blog posts and etc. I know it’s not just me who feels this way. Writers and artists like Philip Pullman and Leonardo da Vinci complain that their work is not a perfect reflection of their intentions either.

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It was Leonardo D that once said “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

So how do you know when to abandon your work?

Well…you don’t….

That’s what makes rewrites so exciting!

You never know if what you’re doing is improving your work or if it is becoming exponentially worse due to your constant attempts at redressing problems that may or may not exist, and therefore you chip away at your metaphorical sculpture until little remains but rubble and a caffeine high you obtained from drinking six cups of coffee in a row so that you could finish this one draft before you begin your shift in the morning at your dead-end job that you applied for to pay for your college loans and keep yourself a float until you get published which at this rate may be quite a long time as you’ve read from multiple sources that the likelihood of you getting your work seen by another human being, even if you chose to self-publish, is ridiculously low because so many people are more interested in making their own voices heard that they choose to ignore the other three million people who want the same thing so now you are all just screaming into the abyss, being heard by no one and eventually you become so spiritually malnourished that you start taking whiskey shots in your coffee every morning just to keep the edge off—

Fun!

But I would suggest getting a second opinion from someone you trust. Someone who reads as much as you do. They’ll tell you if you need to continue or not. And if they think it’s done, consider that it might very well be.

You do eventually want to finish this thing. Then it’s on to the next project. Aaaand it’s likely the same thing will happen all over again.

…….If anyone wants to start a support group, I’m on board.

Opinion: Peter Capaldi is Leaving Doctor Who and That’s a Good Thing

As crappy as it is that Peter didn’t get a fair shake at being The Doctor, this decision to leave is for the show’s benefit.

Doctor Who has been in dire need of a direction change for years now and I think it would really benefit from a clean slate. Many people are complaining that ageism is somehow responsible. That the reason people haven’t been tuning in is because Capaldi is an older gentlemen and not a handsome hero like Tennant or Smith.

“Go back to your Twilight fanfictions!” they cry.

However, it’s pretty clear that’s not the case. The reason I don’t care about the show anymore isn’t because the actor playing The Doctor is older. I don’t care about the show anymore because The 12th Doctor is…kind of annoying. Sometimes he can be funny and, in rare moments, charming. But his character went from being this dark, almost Valeyardish Doctor to just being a grumpy curmudgeon that wants everyone to get off of his lawn.

I really wanted to see how dark The Doctor could be, but it seems like the writers were too scared to go all in. To make matters worse, the humor they used for Capaldi’s Doctor just…didn’t work. It’s like Steven was still trying to write lines for the 11th Doctor. It was cringey. Seriously cringey.

Also his character hasn’t really gone through a compelling metamorphosis like The Doctors past. He just essentially became another character entirely with no hint of natural progression.

Capaldi’s a good actor, but a good actor can only do so much. If a line sucks, a line sucks. It doesn’t matter how much passion you put behind it.

If I had to sum up Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor, I would say “wasted opportunity.” And that’s if I were being charitable. If I wasn’t, I would call it….well…”dull.” There were moments where I thought this Doctor was beginning to come into his own, but then he would almost immediately retreat back into his veneer of grumpiness.

I don’t wish Capaldi any ill will and I don’t blame him for the show’s downfall. However, I think his leaving is best for the show.

Here’s to hoping Chibnall can give Doctor Who the kiss of life and make it the hearts-stopping, family show that it used to be.

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

Life has been sucking recently so my writing has been put on the back burner….well, my writing is usually placed on the back burner, but now that life is not going that great, I at least have an alibi now.

I haven’t updated my blog in two weeks. From a professional standpoint there’s no excuse. Tolstoy wrote War and Peace and he had 13 kids. It’s not for nothing, I have been busy. I started a new semester and am currently working with my college’s newscast and this was my first week working at a new place, but I should be better at balancing out my life.

I also had a major life-changing event occur that totally ruins everything.

But, you know, I’m cool.

Everything is totally alright.

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I would make a promise that I’m going to try to update more frequently as I resolved to do, however, I’m not sure if that is going to happen. I just figured I owe it to people who read this blog to let them know where I am.

I’m not giving up on blogging, it’s just that the length between posts will likely increase.

I have a few ideas for posts, but I’m not sure how they will pan out.

Until then, remember me as I was: a slightly less embittered individual with a propensity to procrastinate to the point of self-paralysis.

Good night.

My Mystery Blogger Award Nomination!

I would like to thank the beautiful hope.s of “The One With Feathers” for nominating me for this award!

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“Mystery Blogger Award”  is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.

– Okoto Enigma 

The rules for this prestigious award (courtesy of Okoto Enigma, the almighty creator) are as follows:

1)  Display the award logo on your blog.
award2)  Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
3)  Mention the creator of the award and provide a link.
4)  Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
5)  Answer 5 questions from the nominee.
6)  Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers.
7)  Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
8)  Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including 1 weird or funny question.
9)  Share the link to your best post.

Three things about myself:

1. I love dogs of every sort.

I know the stereotype that most writers prefer cats, but 1) I’m allergic to cats and 2) I like the temperament of dogs more than cats. Dogs are loyal and love you no matter what and look adorable doing so. What could be better than that?

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2. I’m pretty sure I know more about British history than I do American history. 

I didn’t realize just how lacking my knowledge of American history was until we learned about Pearl Harbor in one of my history classes and I had to google who the president was at that time. Yet I could write a 10 paper over what World War II was like for the British without needing any secondary resources.

Nothing against the good ‘ol US of A, but I just find British history (particularly English history) to be more interesting. I mean, come on, they’ve got royalty. What do we have? A bunch of peasants throwing tea in a harbor. Okay, I’m being too harsh. Still, Europe is so much older than the United States so their story has more depth and intrigue. Plus, they have castles. Frigging castles.

3. I think Math is the most awful thing ever invented. 

No one has ever rejoiced more than I did when I passed my final math class of my school career. Learning math, for me, was like taking a class taught entirely in Russian. Sine, Cosine, Pythagorean theorem-

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I have had countless help from countless tutors, spent hours on single problems, and have dedicated years to trying to get this crap, but it’s never sunk in. One thing I can console myself with is I knowing that I have the ability to make change if necessary and that geniuses created tiny rectangular devices that allow us to calculate sums without using our fingers and toes.

Nominee Questions Answered:

1. If you could be considered an expert at something after 15 years of diligent study/work what would you want to be? 

I guess the obvious answer is become an expert at writing (I consider myself an ambitious amateur at the moment) but if I had to chose something besides this I would want to become an expert at guitar or piano. It would be nice to sit down and create my own music, but I didn’t learn how because I gave up on piano too easily :/

2. What is the first thing you would do if you suddenly woke up 100 years in the past? 

Probably cry because there is no internet. However, I would pick myself up eventually, and then heavily invest in the automotive industry. Or become a bootlegger. What? Worked for the Kennedys, old sport.

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3. What is your “pointless” superpower? 

I am good at doing impressions and making animal noises. Especially squirrel sounds. The reactions to this gift are usually shock and awe.

4. If you won a free trip to a destination of your choice, where would you go? 

I think I would want to go back to Edinburgh, Scotland. I spent a few days there last summer, but there was so much I wanted to do that we didn’t have time for. I would like to go on another haunted tour since I had so much fun on the last one.

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A photo I took from the top of Edinburgh Castle.

5. Where is your favorite reading spot? 

My bed. I have a million pillows to lay on so it’s nice and comfy.

I think my favorite post that I’ve published is I Cant Write At Home. The Internet Wants My Soul. 

I nominate Stuart McEwan “Forge from Reverie,” A.M. Bradley The Forgotten Writer,” Candace “Literary Dust,” ArcaneHalloween Precinct 1313,” Austin L. Wiggins Writings By Ender

Questions for nominees:

  1. If you had the opportunity to rewrite any novel, which novel would it be and what would you change? 
  2. Name the funniest book you’ve ever read and why it made you laugh.
  3. Where is your favorite place to write/read?
  4. If you could have drinks with any literary character, who would they be and why?
  5. What’s you philosophy on life? 

Again, a big thank you to hope.s for nominating me for this award! To my nominees, keep up the excellent work, I enjoy reading all of your content.

Opinion: Instagram v. Twitter

As a writer who is trying to gain recognition, I’ve done what dozens of writing magazines, podcasts, and Facebook pages keep telling me to do: have multiple platforms on multiple social media sites.

This has been a…mostly unsuccessful endeavor on my part seeing as I find social media a distraction from what I really should be doing (a.k.a writing). However, I have found a friend in Instagram, what I once believed to be one of the most self-indulgent websites out there.

I used to think Twitter was my best bet for gaining attention (and perhaps it is) but I find Instagram to be miles superior for these reasons:

There isn’t nearly as much drama on Instagram as there is on Twitter.

Or at least I’ve found this to be true in the writing community. Every time I logged on to Twitter I was instantly flooded by tweets about who was pissed with who. If I were to rename Twitter I would call it Who Are We Mad At Now? It was like being stuck in high school math class all over again. On Instagram, people just take well posed pictures of books, spiral notebooks, or their laptops. Nobody is offended, nobody is being offensive. Everyone is just having a good time looking at cool pictures.

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You can type much more. 

People often praise Twitter for it’s brevity (it being the soul of wit and all), nonetheless, I think that’s how most people get in trouble. They can’t adequately explain themselves in that many words so they often come off as arrogant or uninformed. I much prefer Instagram with it’s (so far) 2,200 character limit. I don’t think anyone needs that many characters for a single post, but it’s good to have that much space available.

You don’t have to constantly think of something witty to say. 

Updating on Instagram is easy. All you have to do is snap a picture of something, make a hashtag, and boom. You got a post. With Twitter I had to continually read and reread my tweet to make sure I wouldn’t offend someone, rework it, and before I knew it, I had spent 10 minutes on a single tweet. This is a colossal waste of time. I would much rather take a photograph of a gorgeous bookstore I saw than try to convince people how smart I am because of who I voted for in 2016.

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If Twitter is your thing, that’s fine. But if you find yourself getting tired of the constant drama and character limitations, I recommend giving Instagram a try. I’ve followed a lot of interesting people this way and I truly believe it’s the superior website if you’re looking for people to communicate with on books and writing.

 

A Good Habit is Hard to Find

I’m trying to change my habits.

But the bad ones just seem so engrained into me that if I were to exfoliate them like dead skin off of a calloused foot, I would have to keep going until I hit a bone.

My bad habits are the axis on which my bizarre world turns. They make up who I am.

Luckily I don’t smoke or drink in excess. However, my propensity to procrastinate on my life goals and resist improvement are just as hazardous to my future.

If I have an assignment or task given to me by a third party, I have no issue doing it. When it comes to providing goals for myself that have no consequences for anyone else, however, I struggle to keep them.

Especially when it comes to my writing goals.

I open the story, type one sentence, decide it sucks, and then set my laptop on fire.

My Instagram feed is awash with inspirational quotes about persistence, but none of them sink in. Even if a chubby old nun were to burst into my room one morning and sing at me to climb every mountain, I’m still not sure if the message would come through.

Regardless, I desperately want to be the type of person that sets goals and achieves them.

I also want to be the person that can look up funny internet videos until 1:00 in the morning and be fully awake for their morning shift.

But mostly that first one.

I just have to remember that others have stood where I stand right now and were able to overcome even greater odds. I will keep my head high and remind myself:

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Quality Posts vs. Quantity of Posts

I don’t really do New Years resolutions, but I am hoping to produce at least two blog posts every week in the future.

The problem with this is it can be difficult coming up with something to blog about.

I can make a list of all the things I want to write, but most of these ideas never come to fruition. Sometimes I don’t have as much to say about the topic as I thought I did, sometimes I have too much to say, or sometimes I just lose interest in the subject altogether.

I could write every single day if I wanted to, but in the end it all boils down to quality v. quantity. Conventional wisdom says you should favor quality over quantity. However, realistically, you’re expected to have both.

I don’t know about you guys, but I have to meditate on things. I have to let ideas stew in my head for a long time before I can properly articulate them and share them with the world. On occasion, I become so wrapped up in creating the best possible post that I go weeks at a time without posting anything.

However, I’m going to attempt to let more of my thought bunnies free rather than keep them cooped up.

Being a perfectionist, I think, can be just as bad as churning out crap every day. How can you improve if nobody sees your work?

So here’s me trying to update more frequently and produce fun content for all the book and writing nerds out there.

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Sucking (Writing) a Little Every Day Part II

I wrote a post around 6 months ago about how I was going to write every single day, no matter how much the product sucked.

And for a while, I stuck to that goal. However, in recent months I’ve had difficulty maintaining.

Some reasons are legitimate like I have had homework to do and personal matters arose. However, a lot of this stems from my self-doubt and internet addiction (see “I Can’t Write At Home. The Internet Wants My Soul”).

Half of the time it’s like I’m pushing against an invisible barrier that I can’t seem to budge. I prepare myself to write, but as soon as I open the page or word document, I freeze up. Everything goes blank.

Maybe it’s because the story I’m working on is going to take more time and effort than I originally thought, or because I am wanting to change the direction of it and am afraid that I’ll take away all that was good about it before.

Since I’m due to graduate soon, I will be expected to get something called a…jobe? Joab? Something like that. Anyway, I won’t have nearly as much free time at my disposal. This means I need to kick it into high gear if I want to birth a book into the world before I’m in my 30s.

I need to go back to writing for at least an hour every single day. That’s every single day.

Not days that I feel like it, not days that it’s convenient, every day.

Even when it feels like I’m sucking.

Thank You To All The People That Follow Me

I wasn’t going to do a Thanksgiving post, but then I got to thinking of how far I’ve come in the last year or so.

I went from having zero likes and scant amount of views to having a fair few faithful readers who are willing to read my stuff and give me their feedback.

I want to thank you all.

It’s not easy for a writer out here. Especially when you feel as though you’re drowning in a sea of people who are wanting to be noticed as much as you. That being said, I’m appreciative of those of you who take the time out of your day to indulge my ridiculousness.

So Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Even my British readers!