Why Diana Gabaldon opted for the 20-year time jump

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly /

Dragonfly in Amber opens with the 20-year time jump. Just why did Diana Gabaldon decide on that time jump? She shared all in a recent interview.

Diana Gabaldon never writes anything without a reason. Her historical characters have been developed with research in mind, while Claire and Jamie have been created in a particular image. Did you really think the 20-year time jump in “Dragonfly in Amber” was for no reason at all?

Opening the second novel up to a storyline in 1968 was risky. The TV show made it a little confusing by putting Claire in 1948 (so Tobias Menzies could easily be included). But in the end, 1968 was the date the show ended with and “Voyager” gave us more in that timeline.

But why, exactly? It turns out we can blame Brianna.

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Well, more like, we can blame Brianna as a child. Gabaldon shared with Parade that writing children is boring. She didn’t want to have to write those 20 years, so opted for a time jump instead of having to create a full 20-year storyline with a child in tow.

"They’re boring. I just didn’t want to go through 20 years.”–Diana Gabaldon"

Plus, the time jump was realistic for the Outlander storyline. In “Dragonfly in Amber,” the Jacobites were at war. If Claire had remained behind, we know that she would have followed Jamie on the battlefields. She would have fought to be with him every step of the way after. That wouldn’t have been easy with a baby in her arms.

It’s just not interesting and that’s not what I wanted her to do.

–Diana Gabaldon

As the storylines continued, she’d have a child needing her, while she desperately wanted to follow her husband. To keep Claire in the 1740s in the third book, a storyline would have needed to be created. This could have pushed “The Bakra” storyline or something else forward, maybe even putting Fergus at risk instead of Young Ian for the sake of the timeline. Claire would have wanted to run off with Jamie to save the day but couldn’t with a child clinging onto her.

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

Gabaldon didn’t want to do that. She didn’t want to have to write that. So, she opted for the next best thing: the 20-year time jump.

"Claire is an adventurous person by nature and also by calling. I wanted her to be able to follow Jamie on the battlefields, to be putting people back together, things like that. But this is a very risky proposition for a mother of small children. You probably wouldn’t do it if you didn’t have to.— Diana Gabaldon"

I think it worked and it’s the best thing for the series of books and the show. Plus, it wasn’t like the 20 years didn’t make sense. Claire was able to become a doctor and put her daughter first, while Jamie didn’t have to worry about the safety of his wife and child too much (he could just believe they were safe in the future).

dark. Next. Frank's transformation during the 20-year separation

What do you think about Diana Gabaldon’s thoughts on writing children? What did you think of the 20-year time jump? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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