The Sea of Tranquility. Author: Katja Milly
A Gretel-ing of Character by Nakeesha J. Seneb
This is a Breakdown, not a Review so spoilers are inevitable.
a student of plotting. I can talk to you at length about the Hero's
Journey, Three Act Structure, the 9-point system, 15-point system. I can
talk to you for hours about the sequencing of actions. Where I find
myself lacking is when the hero or heroine's character drives the plot.
Luckily, there's a plot system for that! In his book Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction
Jeff Gerke outlines five phases in a character driven plot. They are,
in order, the knot, the inciting event, the escalation, the moment of
truth and the final state. In this breakdown I want to focus on the yin
and yang moments of this method: the knot and the moment of truth.
Gerke tells burgeoning authors that "the
knot is the thing that is wrong with your character." Both Nastya and
Josh are damaged by death. Nastya was "murdered;" Josh has
systematically lost everyone in his family to the Reaper. Nastya's
death is a spiritual (as well as physical) assault because its her
dreams, her life's purpose that have been decimated. She can never be
who she once was, and her resurrection is unpalatable to everyone in her
family. Since Josh is marked by death nearly everyone gives him a free
pass and a wide berth. The force field surrounding him is impenetrable
and he aims to keep it that way so loss will never touch him again.
know their knots but we don't know the details of their troubles. Its
been drilled into my head that we need to get all the important details
about the MCs upfront, before the first third of the work is done. We
should know the important things (their motivations) before the inciting
incident so we understand the characters reaction to the obstacles that
get put in their way.
The first half of this book is spent
slowly Gretel-ing out the details of their knots. Like the siblings of the grim fairytale, Millay leaves bread
crumbs that we first examine slowly and then are racing ahead to find
the next and then the next as though we're on a sugar rush from too much gingerbread. Its
a twisted, delicious foreplay as Millay parcels out the details of
Nastya's assault and decent into self-hatred. My heart ached and yearned
and broke as I discovered Josh's backstory of loss. Millay takes 50% of
the book to do this -maybe more. And though the details are Gretel-ed (and I credit Gretel because of course its the female who takes precautions with the directions)
slow it felt like a high-speed chase by a witch on a broom because my
heart pounded and I was literally at the edge of my seat gripping my
Moment of Truth
Josh's moment of truth is pretty
straightforward. Josh admits to himself that he loves Nastya and he
accepts the very real possibility of losing the damaged,
self-destructive person that she is. You'd think Nastya's moment was
when she finally comes face to face with her murderer, but I beg to
disagree. Her moment came when she decided she didn't want to be date
raped. She's been 'dead' for three years, but in that moment with an
unwanted hand against her genitals and her panties yanked to her knees
-that's when this character's knot unravels and she decides she wants to
Moments of truth are doors: choices. Nastya clearly sees
what's behind door #1 where she'd actually embrace her made up Russian
whore persona; or door #2 where she'd decide to fight for what's left of
her life. That's what this story was truly about. Nastya deciding to
live, deciding she was worth life. I love that I was mislead to think it
was about revenge. I love that along the way I was distracted by themes
of loss and worth, by the definitions of love and family. This is a
book about what it means to be alive.
ARC courtesy of Net Galley.