‘Outlander’ creator Ronald D. Moore talks adapting novels for TV: ‘We always start with the book’ [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Ever wonder how much work goes into adapting a series of novels like “Outlander” into a successful Emmy-nominated television series? TV creator Ronald D. Moore recently spoke in depth about his process at Starz’s “Outlander” Emmy FYC event, moderated by Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil. “We always start with the book,” Moore says in reference to Diana Gabaldon‘s novels that serve as the TV show’s source material (watch above). “At the beginning of the process we have assistants and researchers and people in the writers’ room who literally break down the entire book, chapter by chapter and then scene by scene.”

Moore continues on, “You put the whole thing up on these big white boards that essential lay out the major plot story. Step one is to break it down into 13 hours. Okay, what are the basic chapters of our story? You kind of quickly realize what’s gonna fall out and what’s gonna have to get condensed and moved around in that part of the process.”

As for how each book gets broken down into specific episodes, he explains, “Once you’ve sort of decided these are the 13 hours then you go deeper into each individual show. And even within that individual show we will always start with the scene breakdown. What was in the book in this section of that book? You sort of start realizing that to make an hour of television out of this, what are we gonna condense, what are we gonna move around?”

Unfortunately, not everything from the books can make it into the TV series, but that doesn’t mean those moments are gone forever. Moore teases, “Some things that are iconic moments to the fans — whether it’s a line of dialogue or a scene or even just a visual — sometimes doesn’t fit there. But we’ll set it aside and go, we’re gonna figure out a way to work this in later, even if it’s next season or two years from now. So there’s certain things that feels like maybe we’ve forgotten but we never really forget and we’re always looking for ways to work them back into the narrative.”

SEE Emmys 2018 exclusive: Starz categories for ‘Outlander,’ ‘Counterpart,’ ‘Howards End’ and more

Moore, whose other TV credits include “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,” “Battlestar Galactica” and various “Star Trek” series, concludes by admitting, “It’s a very subjective process, in all honestly. Every writer and every showrunner would do it slightly differently. We approach the books with a lot respect and a lot of love.”

Besides Moore, other participants in the “Outlander” Emmy FYC panel included stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, executive producer Maril Davis, executive producer/writer/director Matthew B. Roberts, executive producer Toni Graphia and production designer Jon Gary Steele. Watch the entire “Outlander” panel discussion right here.

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