Meaner, Smarter, Sexier

I ran out of banked blog posts, so I was wondering what I was going to write about this week. I didn't want to do another Outlander related post because I did one last week. While this is not exclusively an Outlander blog, there is a lot to learn from this adaptation process. It opens up new avenues of discussion on material many of us are already familiar with and I like that. I'm don't do weekly recaps, or reviews. I like analysis and the debates that arrive from discussing the many layers of this story.

One of the things that has come up in some forums after The Wedding episode is the question of whether Dougal MacKenzie is made to seem more of a villain in the show than he was in the books. I don't think so. I know what you're thinking, I'm Dougal's chief apologist and to a certain extent, you're right. I love Dougal, because he's a challenge. Who doesn't love a guy who is described like this?

One thing to be said for Dougal MacKenzie was that an encounter with him stimulated the mental processes, out of the sheer necessity of trying to figure out what he was actually up to at any given moment.
— Dragonfly in Amber

However, I could just as easily be an apologist for Laoghaire or Jack Randall (Yeah, I said that.) That's because one of the things I like most about Diana Gabaldon's books is that none of her characters are purely bad or purely good. They're all human. The ones we love, like Jamie and Claire make mistakes. I won't mention them for the sake of spoilers. And the ones we hate like Jack, Loaghaire and Dougal have some goodness in them. They have some vulnerability. Dougal for example cares very deeply for his men and his clan. We saw that when Geordie got gored by the boar, and we'll see it again in Dragonfly in Amber. Jack loves his brother and in a strange, twisted way I think he loves Jamie. And Laoghaire is just immature and insecure. This is true of the later books as well. Antagonists like Stephen Bonnett and Malva Christie, show some vulnerability. There is a reason why Disney saw fit to make an entire film, Maleficent, around one of their classic villains, because we like villains. And we like it when they have weaknesses.


The antagonists in my work have their own vulnerabilities. Blackbeard in The White House despite being brutal and single-minded in a way that I think Dougal MacKenzie would admire is also tired and lonely. Dr. Manney in A Fond KIss, just wants the best for his children although his idea of what's best isn't always the same as theirs. I won't name the bad guys in The River Maiden, but they're there and trust me, they're not purely bad either.

It reminds me of a favorite quote from Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. (see image to right) DG likes to relate a story of sitting down to lunch with some readers all talking about how evil Jack Randall is not realizing that she is Jack Randall. She's also Dougal, and Loaghaire and Bonnett and Malva and Rob Cameron...That's how this fiction writing thing works. 

We're like actors, except we don't need costumes or make up and we write the scripts as we go. I've just spent the last several days trying to find the voice for a particular character. This one has given me fits, because she's pretty different from me. I was having a hard time finding that common thread that tied me to her so that I could write HER words. Much like an actor might search for the right sense memory to get into a scene or a character's head, writer's do the same. Music is a big help for me. Certain songs can pull me into the head of a character or set the tone or pacing of a particular scene. I've heard other writer's talk about using certain hats. I do have a shawl that I find especially helpful for a certain character. Tobias Menzies has said in interviews how important his costumes are for helping him switch from playing Frank to playing Jack. Because those things whether they're clothes or music or a certain scent (lavender anyone?)  put us into those characters. 

Still, no matter how immersed I am, there's always something of me in the characters, "even the villains. Especially the villains."