#TT: How do the Outlander showrunners break down the books for the series?

Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room
Photo credit: Outlander/Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

With Outlander Season 5 production starting soon, the showrunners will need to start breaking down the books. Just how do the Outlander showrunners decide on the storylines to use in the TV series?

Breaking down the 800+ page novels into a 13-episode season isn’t easy. For Outlander Season 5, there’s one less episode, which means breaking down the 800+ page novel, “The Fiery Cross,” into 12 episodes. That’s not something I’d want to do. There are always going to be storylines that some fans want in and those storylines won’t always match the story that is told in the end. So, just how do the Outlander showrunners break down the books for the series?

#TransformationTuesday seems like the perfect day to look at the transformation of books to show. What do you think?

Researchers and writers start breaking the books down

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It all starts with researchers and writers breaking down every single book, chapter by chapter. That then leads to breaking down by scenes. It’s all laid out, allowing the Outlander showrunners the chance to select the most important scenes–the scenes that the majority think are important for the storytelling.

From here, the showrunners have their whiteboards that break down the storylines by episode, delving into each episode at a time. Previously, the showrunners have shared how each episode has to have its own drama but that’s not the way the novel is written. For Outlander Season 3, “Freedom and Whisky” had the added drama of Claire not wanting to leave for Brianna.

During this stage, it’s clear which storylines won’t make the cut. It’s also clear which storylines need moving slightly. From here, the Outlander showrunners can get a clearer idea of each hour of television. They will then go back to the books and delve into that specific storyline within the book.

Outlander Season 4
Photo credit: Starz Image acquired via Starz Media Room /

Some things are left for the future

There are times that lines of dialogue or small scenes mean the world to fans. Sometimes they don’t fit into the hour of television, so the Outlander showrunners have to put the moment to one side to fit in later. This could be for an episode or two later or it could be for a couple of seasons later.

Deleted scenes from Outlander Season 3 showed one instance of this happening. Fans spotted moments when Claire and Jamie had the “J” and “C” carved into their thumbs. This is something that happens in the second book but didn’t fit there, so the writers and showrunners tried to move it to the third season. It didn’t end up fitting their either, but they know it’s important to the fans and keep looking for a spot. Maybe the fourth season is the charm.

Next: Season 4 spoilers: Brianna and Roger will get more screen time together

There’s a long process in adapting one of Diana Gabaldon’s novels. This is a process the Outlander showrunners will be doing now for Season 5. Are you excited?

Follow Claire and Jamie on Facebook for more insights into the world of the showrunners.