Intro to Drums of Autumn!

Hey, Outlander fans! How’s everyone doing with this year’s Droughtlander? Ready to dive back into the lives of those crazy cats Jamie and Claire? Well, I hope so, because it’s time to talk about Drums of Autumn!

PS: No, literally, we’re going to talk about Drums of Autumn. If you haven’t read it yet, there will be some crazy spoilers below. You’ve been warned. (And hey, if you want to read it and come back later, click HERE. It’s only, like, 900 pages long, so we’ll see you in a couple months!)

For everyone still with me, we’ve got a lot to discuss before the Starz show starts up again this fall, so without further ado:

It’s Drums of Autumn Time!


Okay, so as devoted novel2screeners know, our site is committed to exploring how literature is adapted to the screen.

In order to do that, we first dive into the book itself, talking about what we think worked, and what we think didn’t work, and then we can play some fun guessing games about what will and will not make it into the TV adaptation.

Now I’m going to go ahead and admit that I had a tough time with Drums of Autumn, probably more so than with the previous three books in this series. I know Diana has some SUPER devoted fans, and I know I’ve stepped on some toes before by criticizing some of her choices, but, hey, that’s kind of the point of the site, right?


I know, Diana, I’m sorry. But I have to say this!

So Diana is an author who REALLY likes to let her audience sit with her characters for a long time before getting down to the nitty gritty of plot and stuff. I get it. I really do. It’s sci-fi; it’s about world building, it’s about letting the sights and sounds and languages of this strange and distant land really settle in around us as we read. And of course, Diana knows that Claire and Jamie are deeply beloved characters, and therefore people want to spend some time just being in their vicinity.

It is, after all, why people come back to this series, right? Because they love the characters.

So I’m willing to roll with a book that isn’t in a huge hurry to get the plot started. I could even see hanging out for 100 pages before the inciting incident occurs. Heck, I could see hanging out at Walden Pond—sorry, Fraser’s Ridge—for almost 200 pages, even, just to let Claire explain to us for the third time exactly what shade of red Jamie’s hair is. (It’s super red, by the way. Like, golden reddish amber—it’s just super red.)

But… and it’s a big but… Diana is not content with 100 or 200 pages of red hair descriptions. She makes us wait over 400 pages before the plot BEGINS in this book.

download (3)
Maria Doyle Kennedy will play Aunt Jocasta

So I know some people are saying, “What are you talking about, Rebecca? There’s tons of plot in the first 400 pages. I mean, they get their jewels stolen by that Stephen Bonnet guy they rescued from hanging, and they find Aunt Jocasta, some chick dies during a botched abortion (PS: that storyline went nowhere, huh?), and there’s a bear-killing scene, and then they start building a cabin in the woods and Jamie gets lost that one time and Claire has to rescue him, and then later Claire gets lost that one time and Jamie has to rescue her, and then they have sex and he orders windows…”



Yeah, none of that is plot. That’s set-up. All of it—set-up. How do I know?

Because this is the plot of Drums of Autumn:

Brianna, discovering that her parents will be killed in a preventable house fire in the 1700s, travels through the stones to warn them, but her plan is irreparably endangered when her fiancé Roger decides to follow her. 

Sophie Skelton as Brianna

Yes, the main character of this book, ladies and germs, is Brianna. It is Brianna who creates all the action of the book, and thus all the conflict of this book. It is Brianna who goes on a hero’s journey throughout this story, and changes dramatically from beginning to end. Claire and Jamie are not the protagonists of this story, and I know that because they are essentially the same people at the beginning of the book as they are at the end (just in a different house).

It is therefore quite problematic, storywise, that Brianna doesn’t really appear in this story (with the exception of a couple early chapters that are basically filler) until HALFWAY through the 880 pages of Drums.

And that, my friends, is a lot of pages for a story to not have its hero(ine).

Now this is not a new phenomenon for a Diana Gabaldon book. My longtime readers will recall that I had a similar problem with the last novel, Voyager, which doesn’t really get its plot started until halfway through either. (The first half of that 900 page book is just Claire returning to Jamie. The real plot—Young Ian being kidnapped and our heroes following him to Jamaica— comes at the midway point.)

My longtime readers will also recall that, due to this fundamental problem with the structure of Voyager, I recommended some pretty drastic changes to pacing and structure of the TV show. In fact, I made a series of MOCK EPISODE TREATMENTS to illustrate what I would do to get the plot started sooner.

And, naturally, my longtime readers will also recall that I was DEAD WRONG! OMG, was I wrong. I was wrong like Columbus landing in Haiti and thinking it was India wrong. I was Hindenburg wrong. I was wrong like Vegemite.

Why, Rebecca, why??

The writers of last season’s Outlander actually PROLONGED Claire’s decision to return to Jamie, and then shortchanged the whole second half of the novel, which they condensed down to just a few episodes.

So what am I going to do this year? Well, not spend three months writing a bunch of mock episodes, that’s what.

But I’m still going to play my favorite game on the planet, and here’s the fun part because, kids, you can play along at home. And it goes like this:


Ooh, I love this.

Yes, over the next several weeks, we will dedicate a series of articles to taking apart a specific element of the book that we think worked or didn’t work—plotting, character, milieu, supporting players, etc—and put our collective heads together to see if we think it should be voted off the island or not.

And for article #1 in this series, I nominate:


Okay, so first thing I’m thinking, if I’m Ron Moore and I have a hit show on Starz… wait, let me just sit with that fantasy for a second… okay, I’m good… first thing I’m thinking is: “Get me some Brianna in this sucker, STAT!”

download (4)Now I’m sure the first couple episodes will probably hew pretty close to the book—give us lots of Claire and Jamie, lots of making love naked next to a stream, lots of Aunt Jocasta, lots of establishing Fraser’s Ridge. After that, if it were me, I’d bring Brianna front and center, ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Truthfully, because the first half of the book is so drawn out, and because each episode of Outlander is a true 60 minutes—which is a lot of screen time to fill each week—I’m thinking we won’t even need to lose anything that happens with Claire and Jamie. We can fit it all in and still get to spend some more time with Bree and Roger, letting Bree’s decision to return (and Roger’s discovery of that decision) hit the road running a bit sooner.

So that’s CHANGE ONE that I’d like to see in this season of Outlander: More Bree screen time early on.

There’s another element to the pace problems with Drums, of course, and that’s its missing antagonist (or largely missing, anyway—I’m looking at you, Stephen Bonnet). And that will be the subject of next week’s article.

But for now, let me know below if you agree with me or not about bringing in Bree a little sooner.

Till next week,


Keep an eye out for DOWN WORLD, my original sci-fi novel, which will be available on Kindle this summer! More info to come.

To catch up on my Outlander reviews and exclusive content, be sure to click HERE. And don’t forget to follow Rebecca Phelps on Twitter @DownWorldNovel, “like” us on Facebook at Novel2Screen, or just follow this blog.

To read my Voyager mock-episode series in its entirety, click here. Also, be sure to check out my writing on TV Topik.

And if you’re looking for Outlander-themed jewelry, here’s the link:  Sassenach Jewelry

*Photos courtesy of Sony


19 thoughts on “Intro to Drums of Autumn!

  1. My issue with book 4 and 5 is I really dont like Bree! Ian yeah, Bree and Rodger nope!! It’s like she combined them into the book but really wanted them to have a separate story. I may be in the naughty corner but I’m not a fan of them at all.


  2. I hope there are more than 13 episodes. That was the problem last season, to much left out. Too slow to start and too rushed at the end. Bree and Roger need to be brought in early. This was my favorite book of thr series. I read it twice! The first tme in my life that I read a book twice. I’m always an one and done kind of girl.


  3. Hello! I think bringing Breanna in earlier is a good idea. It’s verra interesting when we flip from the different eras. I don’t even mind that the films aren’t exactly like the books. I can read the books over and over and enjoy the visuals! Keep up the good work!


  4. Sam Heughan said the Jamie/Bree meeting is about to be filmed. If they’re filming in order, it would seem that the real Bree action won’t come till the second half of the season. I would like to see her sooner, but I don’t think it will happen.


  5. The nice thing about DoA is that Bree and Roger exist in present time. This leaves room for TV cut-always to them without taking away from the JamieClaire storyline.


  6. I would rather see the dastardly Steven Bonnet than hear a bunch of soul searching between Bree and Roger. We need to see how despicable Bonnet is in order to appreciate what he does to Bree and what her parent’s reactions are to this, once they know.


  7. Sorry, lady, I think you’re a blooming idiot, but you are entitled to your opinion. Just don’t treat it like it was handed down on stone tablets from on high. The books have been read over and over by devoted fans and don’t need your input and the TV series has grown in viewership over the last three seasons despite having to leave out a lot of the books due to time constrictions. Your idea of leaving out the main characters for a character that isn’t that popular (more popular with readers than viewers) is kind of ……stupid.


    1. I am unsubscribing. I thought this would be fun to share our passions for the characters and series I don’t agree with calling people blooming idiots for having a different opinion. This world has too much incivility and lack of ability to discuss.


  8. Speaking as a Baby Boomer, Bree is classic for her culture. She’s obnoxious and full of herself. She grows on you after she begins to settle into the century and both sides of her parents begin to show through.


  9. I love the books and don’t like to see many changes. After all, it’s the books that started it all. I don’t find anything boring about Drums of Autumn and love to read and watch the characters of Jamie and Claire. I find Bree to be harder in the TV series than she is in the books and perhaps that why people comment that they don’t like her. What I hate most…adding that scene of the blood bath was super ridiculous and making Geillis thin instead of fat, as written. That was so far from the book and I immediately thought it must have been a Man who decided all that. Just had to add more sex? I mean it changed the whole feeling and the story. In fact, so much of that part of the book was changed. That really pissed me off.


  10. Brianna is probably my least favorite character ( along with Roger..) . She grows on me later in the series, but at this point in the story , well, I just don’t care about her. She needs something to go back to. If the scene is not set, then there is no Fraser’s Ridge, there is no cabin to burn, there is no one to write that article. It is necessary to have all that exposition. ( And I rather read about how Claire experiences Jamie’s red hair a hundred times before I read once about Brianna whining about something or Roger feeling insecure ) Brianna may be the “protagonist” in Drums of Autumn , but the series is Jamie Fraser and Claire’s story. There is a bigger story arc at play and that should be the cornerstone in which the whole series is built. IMHO… 😀


  11. Another note, I really hope that they do end up in North Carolina. Georgia is too far from the action in the later books. It is too far from Boston, NY, Philadelphia, Virginia, and much of the Revolutionary War action. Does some of it happen in Georgia? Yes. There are even Cherokee in GA that get involved in the war action and that could be made to fit with Ian’s storyline. But the bulk of the action , specially in the later books, happens further up north. Lord John will have to travel much longer to visit Fraser’s Ridge, unless he moves further south as well…


  12. Wow! Some vociferous fans here who don’t like Brianna and Roger! In the beginning, Brianna is a bit of a brat, but then, she’s still in her teens when she first appears. She needed to grow up. Finding out the truth of her parentage the way she did could smash the most stable teen’s self-image. Much of her story involves the way she finally accepts and integrates both parents into her being. That takes time. I don’t mind seeing that unfold. I can be patient. As far as Jamie and Claire are concerned, they sacrificed so much of their lives so she could be born and raised in a more stable atmosphere than they knew she would if she’d been born in Scotland in 1746. Yes, this is Claire and Jamie’s story, but Bree is a vital part of it–especially considering Faith’s loss.

    I actually loved Roger’s character almost as soon as we met him as an adult (and in the series, what a cute cherub, right?). I want to see more of him. He’s older than Brianna by several years, so, while he also changes his life’s course as a result of encountering Claire and Brianna, he does it without freaking out the way Brianna did (and I must say–since I was only a year older than Brianna in 1968, that the times may have had something to do with the way she acted, too). I love the way Roger Rankin is playing him, too.

    I believe the showrunners will do something like they did in Season 3. They will show events happening in both time periods during the initial episodes, much in the way we saw Claire and Frank scenes interspersed with those showing Jamie’s difficult life after Culloden. I wasn’t one who hated the fact that the last half of the season was condensed. Diana had a great time putting in stuff like the botched smuggling raid, the trip to Paris to meet with Jared and Rothschild the coin merchant, and all that sailing around the Caribbean, especially going BACK to Hispaniola to get to Abandawe–and I love to read it–but I DIDN’T need to see it all on screen. People were already screaming about how much time was spent on the Artemis. Condensing so much of that part of the book made perfect sense to me, especially moving Abandawe to Jamaica, to make it more realistic that Claire and Jamie were able to reach Ian in time before Geillis had the chance to kill him.

    Another reason I expect to see more than a little of Bree and Roger in the twentieth century has to do with budgets. It’s a heckuva lot easier to film those scenes on a budget than some of the Colonial America scenes. We may not like it, but budgets do play a significant part in how the series is shaped. I do want to see Bree travel back in time to meet her Aunt Jenny and Uncle Ian, too. I hope that sequence is included. That may be a setup for future seasons, but it’s an important one to my way of thinking. So I don’t think Bree and Jamie will meet too early in the season.

    Considering the length of Drums of Autumn, the pace of this season will probably be almost as rapid as last season was. As long as the key events appear, as they did in Season 3 (Turtle soup, anyone?) I’ll be content.


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