Brianna…a hard nut to crack

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We are mid “Droughtlander” and anxiously awaiting a few casting announcements.  Brianna and Roger haven’t  been cast yet or if they have there hasn’t been an official announcement.  As anxious as I am for a peek at who they have chosen, I have to say I’m glad they are taking their time choosing these two.  Getting these two characters right is a big deal!  They are important to the rest of the books and hopefully, to the rest of the series.

I’ve talked to very few book fans who weren’t half in love with Roger. He’s very likable and an interesting mixture of strength and vulnerability.  He is every bit as emotionally intelligent as Jamie and I’ve always felt that he “gets” Claire. In fact, I’ve felt they have a lot in common.  He is patient, forgiving, caring, smart, strong, and capable of loving unconditionally.  He stood up to Jamie and earned his respect. That fact alone tells you that Roger is a man worth admiration and respect.

Then there’s Brianna… she tends to inspire a variety of fan responses.   Some fans love her and some hate her.

I’ve always felt that Claire and Jamie were pretty easy to figure out.  It isn’t hard to understand what motivates them.  Claire is a kind woman who cares about the people around her.  Jamie does the best he can with the gifts and people he believes God has entrusted him. I’ve come to see their daughter as a bit harder to figure out.  I’ve come to see her as complex.

I once had a conversation with some fans where I mentioned the fact that Brianna was probably more difficult to write because of her being inserted into the story as a baby. Diana had to start from scratch! Add to the difficulty of creating a persona for an already established character, the fact that she is the child of two very strong and well-loved characters and you get fan expectations. In fact, one of the fans I was discussing Brianna with said she believed “Diana got lazy with Brianna’s character. Just because she was hard to write doesn’t give her permission to do a poor job.”  SAY WHAT?!

Further questioning revealed that this fan didn’t like Brianna as a character. I believe the words she used were selfish and bratty. I can remember at the time feeling a little incensed that someone would call Diana a lazy writer.  I still marvel at how she connects every little detail, every character to the on-going story.  You better remember what she writes because somewhere in one of the eight books those details and characters are going to come into play. Lazy? Have you seen the size of those books? And how many best sellers has she written? And whose books are so full of entertaining characters and plots that they made it a TV series? Lazy? Soooo not buying that one. But, when I was thinking of the casting of Brianna for the show that conversation came back to mind; selfish and bratty. Was she?  If not, then why would someone think that I wondered? Did Diana try to make her difficult to like?

As you probably know, Diana Gabaldon often shares insight into her writing process.  She once said that when she writes she is usually dealing with three types of characters; onions, mushrooms, and nuts.  Claire and Jamie are considered onions, they are multiple-layered and with each new book she gets a chance to add to the layers. Lord John is an example of a mushroom, he just sort of pops up fully formed. Then there are the hard nuts, characters like Brianna who HAVE to be written because they already have a place in the story.

So, I started thinking about how Diana chose to write Brianna. The reader might expect that the daughter of these two characters would be pretty wonderful, perfect in fact. Given how wonderful her parents were it would be reasonable to expect Diana to write a character that reflects the best of their character traits.  But, Diana is pretty good at not giving us the usual and the to be expected in her characters and story.  Brianna should be a character that is a perfect blend of Jamie and Claire…to quote Diana, ” says who?”

I think Diana made Brianna unique.  She IS a great mixture of the two of them, but there is the key word…mixture. Jamie and Claire each brought unique skills and aptitudes and personalities to the moment of Brianna’s conception.  But, like when you mix vanilla, flour, sugar, and eggs together and then bake it you have something entirely new…cake.  Jamie and Claire are some great genetic ingredients, but sometimes just a little too much of one thing and not another can change the taste of the whole thing! And then you still have to have the right temperature and bake it the right amount of time, etc.

So, I believe Diana decided that Brianna would be a product of both nature and nurture just like the rest of us.  The fact that she is a child of the fifties and sixties in America really should impact who she is a person, as does being raised by Frank and then finding out he wasn’t her father. Her mother broke through gender barriers to become a doctor in a time of emerging feminism, that had to have made an impression.  In a way, Bri going back through the stones would have been an even harder adjustment than what her mother experienced.  At least Claire had some understanding of how to be the ” little woman” or what it meant to be submissive to men. I dare say Brianna never saw her mother playing the submissive role.

I’ve heard fans say they don’t like how she treats Roger. What I’ve seen is that she expects to be treated as an equal. She sticks up for herself and her needs. Maybe this is where people get the idea she is selfish and bratty?  But, isn’t that what we say we all want for our daughters, the ability to stand up for themselves? Brianna knows her own worth and expects to be treated as worthy of respect and fair treatment.  Roger, bless his heart, believes she is worthy too!  She isn’t easy, but he’s up for the challenge. It takes a strong man to love a strong woman.

So, what kind of person did Diana decide to create in the character of Brianna. I believe Brianna is the modern woman; she is

confident

loyal

empathetic

in touch with her own needs

not willing to settle

self-sufficient

passionate

stubborn

kind

bold

Yep, the nut didn’t fall far from either tree! Can’t wait to meet her on the screen!

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40 thoughts on “Brianna…a hard nut to crack

  1. Ellyn Foltz

    Great post Beth! When I originally read the OL books, I struggled with the Brianna character. I found her spoiled, annoying and lacking self-awareness. Now, older, and mother to much-loved millennials, I “get” her and appreciate her so much more. As always, enjoy your point of view.

  2. Julie P.

    You nailed it, Beth! Agree with everything you said. And, Brianna didn’t have an easy time of it – – she went through an awful lot and made a lot of sacrifices, not only for herself, but for Roger and their children, too.
    I’m also looking forward to young Ian’s casting, as well as Lord John’s. Such wonderful characters we get to anticipate!

  3. Barbara Brown

    There is also the fact that Brianna was raised as an American; even with the strong European influences of Claire and Frank. And as you mentioned nature and nurture, she left her teen years and became a young adult in two different centuries! Sometimes when I’m reading about her “brattiness” (I dislike that word.), I think that she has had so many diverse realities thrown at her in such a short time, that it amazes me she can be as even tempered as she is. Being a product of the 1960’s in America, and of Claire and Jamie, she has a commanding presence and persona. It’s not always pretty but it is always truthful, in my opinion. For any woman to be true to herself has never, ever, been easy (IMO).

    Well, Ms. Beth, fellow teacher (but I’m retired), thank you again for popping up with thought provoking Outlander themes and sharing them with the fanmily. You do have a knack for filling in the Droughtlander cracks!

    Off to the voting for today!

  4. Cathy

    I loved all the female characters in the books including Mrs. Fitzgibbons. Standing up to Father Bain. They are strong AND opinionated. A friend read the first book and didn’t care for Claire. Thought she constantly did not listen to people and did as she pleased. I was shocked and admittingly wanted to smacked by friend. I went back and reread a few of the books. She is an amazing writer and you’re not to bad yourself!

  5. Yaya

    After recovering from the shock of being reminded that we are only MID-Droughtlander, I have only one word for you and your posts, Beth….Brava!

  6. S. A. Young

    Another gem, Beth. I, too, am glad that it appears Ronco are taking their time with these two characters. I want the actors chosen to embody Bri and Roger as well as Caitriona and Sam embody Claire and Jamie. They are nearly as important to the continuation of the series.
    I also don’t get how anyone could be ambivalent about them. I adore Roger and Bri, together and as individuals (my reasoning seems to mirror yours so I won’t rehash them). As for DG getting lazy, that is beyond laughable. There are a lot of writers who sprang out of the gate full of vigor and promise and who ran out a team way before the 8th book and are still coasting along on the vapors of name recognition and genre loyalty. Diana Gabaldon is NOT one of them. She’d probably chuckle and come up with a witty retort and move on. I’m insulted for her. Lol. Love this post

  7. Beth, thanks for this very insightful look at Brianna. When she was first introduced in the book, I remember thinking that life was very complex for her…even though she didn’t know about her Mom’s life, she had to have been impacted by Claire’s sadness and by the lack of love between C&F. I really appreciate how Diana has shaped and developed Bri…a strong, capable, daring young woman. I also can’t help but think that her height contributes to the Bri that we’ve come to know and love (well most of us!). Life is not always easy for tall women. Some slump to try to be shorter. And some hang their head down for the same reason. Some get teased for their height. Some, if marriage is their vocation, worry that they won’t meet a taller man. Maybe some of those things happened to Bri. Would love to ask Diana if she thought about Bri’s height impacting her character and personality. Really looking forward to the casting of Bri and Roger too. Thanks again, Beth, for your great writing, of this post as well as every post you’ve put on your blog!

      • MaryKathryn! I loved your reply. And, Ms. Beth, I always enjoy reading your thoughts on the OL characters. It was tough for me being both boy crazy and 6′ tall at 13; 110#, looked like a spider … all legs and ungainly. Plus, the only boy taller than I was the class dummy ,… well, sigh … I was a Very Good Student! My mother was 6’2″. I was always encouraged to be proud of me, to stand tall. Bri’s height definitely impacted her character. Fortunately, that same height was a part of who she accepts her excellent self to be. She is rightfully proud of Bri! I found it especially interesting that Frank spent many years with his Brianna, working with her, teaching her (subtly) how to survive in the 18th C. Were those shooting classes intentional? As a 20th C woman, it’s interesting to me that Bri knew how to DO so many things. I like her!
        I’ve maintained to my very tall children, “The mark of a man’s stature is not based on his height!” (And I’m now the short person in the family!)

  8. Lea Markum

    Beth, I have also read comments elsewhere where commenters have called Brianna and William both spoiled and bratty. But what I saw was that they both had the circumstances of their birth thrust on them as young adults after growing up being told a different story altogether. They are initially disbelieving, then angry, then they broke things and stormed out. They were naturally angry at being deceived by those they trusted most. I don’t think they are bratty at all. They’re normal. I am eager to meet them both, and I can’t wait to follow William’s journey in book 9. Thanks for another insightful essay on Outlander.

  9. Jules

    When you think she is Jamie and Claire’s daughter and know that fire that has been there that had been stuck for a period of time… We know she was raised by Frank, but I think he was able to pass the good things about him to her. I got her reaction to the news of her heritage, but I started really loving her when she sent Claire away in Voyager, and I’m so glad that she became who she is know. She grew, same with Roger I think!!

  10. I agree! I am re-reading DIA and I am paying attention to Bree, more so than before. I was also musing about her and thought What a really hard character to write! 3 parents, all those influences of the era, very complex, a very hard nut.

    Bree is a deep well, we do not hear inside her head very often. She thinks and contemplates, watches and assesses. Then she will fess up to Roger or C about how she really feels.
    There are times I do dislike her but I don’t know why. Maybe she comes across as cold, it is my mission to investigate my reactions!
    DG asked me once if I like Bree. I said yes, but her physical appearance resembles that of my husband’s ex wife. Sometimes that made me cringe. I do like her overall. I just need to figure out that little niggle that runs me the wrong way.
    Still working on it!

  11. Pam Phillips

    I think that Brianna is a “modern woman” thrown into a very difficult situation. She’s looking at 18th century life through the eyes of a woman who has far more options than were afforded to women of that time, and trying to cope with it. She’s intelligent and sees nothing wrong with using her knowledge to make improvements for her immediate and extended family’s lives (the huge kiln and water pipes as an example). Claire, in the other hand, came from a completely different generation and I think that has a lot to do with her choices. However, her war experiences colored her outlook on life and what women can and can’t be, so she entered that century as the role of women in society was by necessity changing dramatically.

  12. I love Brianna. She is the blend of Jamie’s strength and Claire’s compassion. She is intelligent. She may be a bit of a bull in a china shop. What she lacks a young woman is the art of diplomacy. That usually comes with age. While I’m chomping at the bit to see these two characters, I applaud the show for taking their time, making sure the right actors get the role.

  13. Great article! I have to agree with you on so many points, and agree Diana Gabaldon is anything but a lazy writer! I do agree that at first Brianna is a little spoiled & bratty, however, but feel this was craftily created by our unlazy favorite author. She is raised by a physician & professor in America, during the height of “high society”. Sent to good schools, lives in a fine home. She’s what-18 at the start of the story? Of course she’s a little spoiled & bratty. But being Jamie & Claire’s child, not to mention a product of Frank’s nurturing, she is not a fool, and quickly & bravely wades herself out of that and begins to mature as the story unfolds. But, as life would have it, she’s not perfect, and stumbles here & there along the way. Sorry, didn’t mean to give a whole character description here! lol

  14. Catten

    Hi, and let’s not forget that Jamie when young, was also a bit “bratty”, making fun of Mrs Fitz and then getting strapped for it in the big hall at Leoch when he was sixteen (see Outlander). And in France (see short story Virgins) where he also couldn’t always keep quiet when it was maybe the more prudent thing to do …. but he eventually learned and by the time Claire meets him, he has had time to mature and become more diplomatic and insightful. So IMO Brianna and William are just displaying some of Jamie’s character traits (although we haven’t yet read so much about his adolescence). And as stated above already, Bri grew up in the sixties when women were more self aware and maybe also a more “selfish” behavior (for lack of a better term) didn’t automatically exclude an individual from help / protection / rights (the young became an important consumer group in the fifties) and I assume by the sixties were well aware of the adoration of youth that has in fact persisted in culture and media until today in our western society. Just like you today can behave completely selfishly and still be entitled to society’s acceptance, this was (albeit still in development) certainly already affecting Bri when she was growing up. She also was an only child and as such not overly used to considering anyone but herself. Should be interesting in Book 9 if/when Bri and William can develop a relationship and see how their respective characters will develop and any insights this would bring to both of them.

  15. Nic

    The only time you see anything of brattishness in Brianna is her first reaction to Claire’s story when she smashes the Manse’s window – and given what she’s just heard, who could wonder? I think, as other commenters have mentioned, that we have also forgotten the huge difference there would have been between pre-WW2 Britain and 1960s America – I sometimes think the differences between these two eras are bigger than the differences between Britain in WW2 and 18th C Scotland. To me, that makes Brianna’s choice to go back really interesting and she adjusts way better than I would. My parents grew up during WW2 in rural Britain and outside toilets were the norm (Dad’s family actually shared their privy with the rest of the street, Mum’s family were “posh” cos they had one to themselves!) Dad’s family tickled trout and snared rabbits to put enough food on the table in wartime.
    I find Brianna really interesting. At times I want to shake her because she sometimes seems to forget that different times would have different types of behaviour, and as a mixture of Claire and Jamie she has some of their worse points too, but I have grown to love her! And as for Roger? Well, I suspect that he is the only person besides Jamie who really “gets” Claire, again possibly due to his sense of being untethered and an outsider after the Reverend dies. I await their casting and how their story arc differs in the show with interest.
    Hope this makes sense – typing on my phone and it’s not easy to scroll back and check I’ve not repeated myself!

  16. Laura

    Really enjoyed reading your post. I have always loved Bree,I never saw her as bratty .I have been reading Outlander for so long I’ve forgotten when I started but I love Diana’s world and there’s so much to learn from each character. I think Bree is very unique because as you said she is a modern woman .

  17. ‘Seems I agree with your assessment and that of most of your respondents. I disliked Bree initially–thought her bratty despite her obvious affection and respect for her mother. Gotta admit, though, that Mom’s revelation re. her conception must’ve been pretty hard for a sheltered young woman to handle. What bothered me most was her treatment of Roger–poor love-struck Roger–and I wish this had been handled differently–along with the pirate/rape/Jemmie business. As the story continued, however, Brianna’s character emerged as more loving, courageous, and wise, displaying some of the finest attributes of both parents. She matured in all respects including as a loving wife and mother. OK, I began to like her and am anxiously waiting for book #9 as the little family returns to The Ridge. Thanks for the post.

  18. Cynthia Peterson

    I think I can understand why your friend considered Brianna “bratty” as that’s exactly what I felt like when she first reacted to the fact that Jamie was her biological father. Mainly in the way she treated Claire – and even her reaction to Roger when she realized he was trying to convince her that her mother’s story was true. However, after reading the rest of the series I have seen her grow into anything but a brat. I mean really, how many people do you know who would promise to give a merciful death to someone like Steven Bonnet because she knew he feared death by drowning. Whenever I reread DIA I have to remember she’s still very young, she’s lost her father recently, and then she gets hit with a story about time traveling and having a father from the 18th century. I guess I would have thought my mother was crazy and needed help – and how scary would that be in your late teens or early 20s – especially with no other family to help you.

  19. Caroline McCord

    Those of us who grew up in the 1960’s remember what a confusing time it was for girls, especially those who had old-fashioned parents. We were torn between two worlds. Yes, we were bratty. We weren’t sure where we were going, and very irritated with our progenitors because the way was so unclear. Our parents were fearful because of what they had been through, war and depression, and they wanted safety and security for us, which was not what we wanted at all.

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