21 June 2013

The Key, A Review

James N. Frey's The Key is a wonderful resources that takes Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces, and shows one how to use it as a writing tool.  For anyone interested in using archetypes in their writing, this is a must-have.

Obviously, as a Fantasy writer, this book especially appeals to me, but Frey demonstrates starting with the introduction, why Mythical writing is in fact present in almost every story from Madame Bovary to Crime and Punishment, and why this book will help you (yes, you specifically) become a better writer.

As you'll recall from The Art of Dramatic Writing, good stories require excellent orchestration of characters - not just protagonists, but antagonists as well.  A real mythological/epic-proportioned hero(ine) requires a villain that is at least the hero(ine)'s equal, and in fact the villain ought to be better and more resourceful in some areas.  Frey delivers some tools to evaluate these two pillars of writing a mythological story and tips on how to make that story really pop into life.

The one caveat with this method of story-telling is getting too wrapped up in the checklists and losing focus on the story and characters themselves.  However, Frey equips his readers with how to really familiarize themselves with their own characters while going through the checklists - and he even mentions that not every mythological story has all of the elements listed.  In fact, if one were to use all the elements, one would come up with a rather busy story.  He advises to pick a few and work with them.  Only use what you need.

I'd rate this book as a good read - not quite as necessary to read as How to Write a damn good Novel or its counterpart, but it's a valuable resource, especially for analyzing one's own work.

If you're inclined to watch the Edgar Winter/Simon Pegg movie Hot Fuzz, I'd recommend reading this book, then watching the movie again.  You'll see that it is ripe with mythological elements.

Write on, dear readers.

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