It is Wednesday, and on this Wednesday I am going to take the theme of a book that inspired me as a writer and twist it a little bit. Today I am going to talk about a book that didn’t exactly inspire me, but it definitely made me think as an author!
The book–or series, rather–that I am going to discuss is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. My unpopular opinion: it wasn’t that great. However, I did (eventually) feel compelled to read all 8 books that the series has so far. And it did inspire me to write an entire blog post on the series, so there is something to be said. Let’s dive into it.
First of all, I picked the first novel in the series up at an airport (on my way to the Vegas writing conference), and I nearly ditched it in the plane when I landed. The writing was slow and wordy, the plot didn’t catch me right away, for the first time in my life I was about to abandon a book! But I didn’t. However, it took me a long time to get through the first book for reasons I already named added to the fact that I found the story line implausible. Maybe this is my cynical side taking over, but who would stay in the 18th century over the 20th century simply for love? This isn’t very generous to more romantic sensibilities, but throughout the entire series I found this to be a hard hurdle to get past. If it were me, I don’t think I would give up present day safety and technology advances.
Secondly, the books made me angry and frustrated on my journey as a writer. Here I am all year desperately trying to get published while reading these books that have been wildly successful. Should have been an inspiration, right? It was not. While I got back letters from agents admonishing my use of adverbs and exposition, Gabaldon’s prose mocked me with its casual use of verb modifiers and excessive description of her characters’ hair color. Most pointedly in contrast–her characters used elevated language and highly eloquent word choice, while Capacitance was being criticized for characters “not talking like actual people.”
Essentially, it seemed that Gabaldon does not follow the so-called “rules” that are supposed to apply to aspiring authors. While I admire her intelligence and obviously vast knowledge of the historical periods about which she writes, I found her characters and her choices for the plot a little hard to swallow and, at times, to stay awake for (over 100 pages dedicated to the events of one day, hmm..).
Now to give Gabaldon credit, which I must do! I did read every one of the books, and I will read the subsequent books when they come out (I believe there are supposed to be 2 more). This speaks to her as an author because she has created a compelling story line (even though the plausibility doesn’t sit right with me at times). I want to know what happens to these characters and I will slog through the slow parts just to finally see what happens. At the end of the day, Gabaldon is a successful author and businesswoman because of this–she has created a marketable product and essentially has free range to “break the rules” and write however she wants, and isn’t that the ultimate goal?