Welcome to this week’s chapters of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Here, we look at what works in a best selling novel.
Chapter 19: The Waterhorse
Summary: The next night, Claire and the rest camp on the banks of Loch Ness. The area isn’t that different from when Claire saw it in the future with Frank. She finds a quiet place by the shore a little set off from the camp and takes a rare moment of solitude. Now that she’s married to Jamie, she isn’t followed constantly.
As she looks into the lake, the waters are disturbed, and a great monstrosity, the monster of Loch Ness, rises from the loch’s surface. Claire stares at it, enraptured and not afraid. The creature sinks back into the water, and Claire finds that she has move forward onto a rock jutting out into the water.
She turns and discovers Peter, one of the party’s drovers, staring, a bucket in his hand. He clearly witnessed the creature as well, but his reaction is far from Claire’s calm and rational one. He throws himself at Claire’s feet, makes the sign of the cross, and begs her mercy. Claire finally succeeds in dragging the man to his feet and back to camp, and even though she resolves not to say anything about what they saw, the superstitious man’s gaze on her lingers.
Writer Comments: This chapter is about two pages long, shockingly short. That’s an instant indication to readers that this scene is extremely important. Though, I suspect the importance will be less about Claire’s experience with the waterhorse and more about the trouble Peter is likely to cause her as a result. There is much I suspect Gabaldon is setting up with this one incident, hence why she gives it a chapter all to itself.
The other main significant tool Gabaldon uses in this chapter is her choice of details. She compares through Claire the subtle differences in the loch and its surroundings between now and the future. These subtle details, like how the trees are slightly darker now, makes everything seem more vivid and real. At any given moment, an author could pick from dozens or scores of potential details. The trick is to pick just a few that highlight the mood and tone of the scene and characters, those one or two that really bring a story to life.