Conflict and character are the heart of good fiction, and good mystery has both of those in spades.
But it wouldn’t have half the power of a story in which Jamie and Claire truly conquer real evil and thus show what real love is. Real love has real costs—and they’re worth it. I’ve always said all my books have a shape, and Outlander’s internal geometry consists of three slightly overlapping triangles. The apex of each triangle is one of the three emotional climaxes of the book: 1) when Claire makes her wrenching choice at the stones and stays with Jamie, 2) when she saves Jamie from Wentworth, and 3) when she saves his soul at the abbey. It would still be a good story if I’d had only 1 and 2—but (see above), the Rule of Three. A story that goes one, two, three, has a lot more impact than just a one–two punch.
One of the general patterns of good (i.e., striking and memorable) writing is the effect of repetition. If you use a certain element—a plot device, an image, a noticeable phrase—once, readers may or may not notice it consciously, but it doesn’t disturb the flow of their reading. If you use that element twice, they won’t notice it consciously—but they will notice it subconsciously, and it will add to the resonance of the writing or to their sense of depth and involvement (and if it’s a plot device, it will heighten the dramatic tension). But if you use that element three times, everybody will notice it the third time you do it.
Just as an effective advertisement or page layout includes a lot of white space, a powerful scene requires immense restraint. Show things as simply as possible.
#Outlander QOTD Claire and Master Raymond.Snapped abruptly to a realization of how rudely I had been staring, I blushed and said without thinking, "I was just wondering if you've ever been kissed by a beautiful young girl?" I went still redder as he shouted with laughter. With a broad grin, he said "Many times, madonna. But alas, it does not help. As you see. Ribbit.
Okay. This has to be a credible threat. Ergo, we have to have seen (and heard about) the real damage Randall has done to Jamie thus far; we have to be in no doubt whatever that he’d do real damage to Claire. We can’t just say, “Oh, he’s such a nasty person, you wouldn’t believe…” We have to believe, and therefore appreciate, just what Jamie is doing when he trades what’s left of his life for Claire’s.
For a different woman, a different relationship, a different situation, gentleness might have been the proper, the only approach—but not for this woman, in these circumstances. The only thing that will cleanse Claire (and reassure her: look at what she says at the end of it. She feels safe again, having felt the power and violence in him) is violence. And—the most important point here—Jamie pays attention to what she wants, rather than proceeding with his own notion of how it should be, even though it’s a sensible notion and the one most people would have.
Snapped abruptly to a realization of how rudely I had been staring, I blushed and said without thinking, "I was just wondering if you've ever been kissed by a beautiful young girl?" I went still redder as he shouted with laughter. With a broad grin, he said "Many times, madonna. But alas, it does not help. As you see. Ribbit.
Almost everybody understands that you have to have something at stake for a story to be good.
Jamie’s viewpoint is expressed almost entirely in metaphor: If she was broken, she would slash him with her jagged edges, reckless as a drunkard with a shattered bottle. He’s using physical language, but he isn’t talking about the physical details of the situation. Claire alludes to her emotion and shows it by her actions, but Jamie is thinking directly in pure emotions.