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The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth
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The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  303 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Myths, says James N. Frey, are the basis of all storytelling, and their structures and motifs are as powerful for contemporary writers as they were for Homer.

In The Key, novelist and fiction-writing coach Frey applies his popular "Damn Good" approach to Joseph Campbell's insights into the universal structure of myths, providing a practical guide for fiction writers and scr
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 3rd 2002 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 1994)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  303 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Oct 03, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: idiotic
This book is not a proper how-to on writing engaging fiction. Watching this author compile an example story about a blonde protagonist with "ice blue eyes" while attempting to teach methods on writing "damn good fiction" was just painful. No teacher should assert that there are particular paths one must take with particular roles or characters. The greatest myths have utilized moral, philosophical, and humane grey areas. This book references NOTHING of the sort.

However, to those of you who have
Adam Ross
Apr 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: on-writing
Your basic introduction to Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey (or Monomyth) as the grounding structure of all stories. This one isn't nearly as good as Christopher Volger's The Writer's Journey, but helpful in some ways nonetheless. ...more
G.M. Burrow
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary, writing
After reading Frey, it makes total sense why The Empire Strikes Back really, really works. (And lots of other stories, too.)
Joshua Hood
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Want to be a better writer, read anything by James Frey.
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If, like me, there’s any confusion over the varied & sundry terminology associated with the hero’s journey, then this the book for you.

I’ve read Frey’s other Damn Good help books, but this one is far & away the best of them. Or maybe I’m just more ready for this one. Either way, this one is totally worth the time.
Joe Stamber
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paper-read
No doubt many will find this useful, but despite some good information and advice, I didn't enjoy the style and found it a chore to read. ...more
Jul 19, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: elibrary
Feb 15, 2017 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Also published as "How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques for Dramatic Story Telling" ...more
Austin Neaves
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing-books
This book is about the monomyth, which is essentially a pattern of storytelling found in stories around the world. As far as I know, the term comes from (or at least is strongly associated with) Joseph Campbell who wrote a popular book in 1949 called The Hero with a Thousand Faces. So what are some examples of the monomyth? Think Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter - Those big epics where a hero faces some great face of evil.

Falling somewhere between a paint by the numbers “how to”
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, lv, on-writing
Even despite being lack of time for scribbling some lines from time to time, there are days when I pick up books about writing. Without having serious reason for it. Although, there is no need to have a reason to pick up a book.

Returning to this one. Comparing to [Book: Writing down the bones], which inspired me a lot, this one is a practical material for getting some tips about writing. Mostly the author here is concentrating on details like what is the ideal beginning, what characters attract
Peter West
Apr 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-craft
This is a good book. It informs you that all the rules you've been told in other writing books are rubbish. It does go on to explain why this is the case and makes its points well. It covers premise, creating dynamic complex characters (very good), hooks and suspense, and several other useful topics which you should learn once you've learnt the basic rules.

This book is for people who have read all the other books and are ready for the next step in their fiction writing search for enlightenment.
Eben Mishkin
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: creative-writing
The Key is a fair writing book in general but it excels in the discussion of protagonist and antagonist creation, identifying essential qualities of Heroes and Villains and what distinguishes one from the other. That's the real reason I would recommend it but there's a second advantage to this book over the sea of other creative writing books, Frey plots out a sample book as part of his explanations, so it's a rare opportunity to see an expert at work and follow along. ...more
Amanda Patterson
Dec 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
A precise well-crafted explanation of the hero's journey. James N Frey is one of my favourite authors of how-to-write books. He is not to be confused with the confused Frey of a Million Little Pieces.
If you haven't read them yet, buy How to write a damn good novel and How to write a damn good novel II.
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-books
A handy little book that gave me several good ideas for my current project. Quick and easy to read, and I was able to benefit from it without reading the author's previous books, though he presumes some level of familiarity with his process. For maximum benefit, readers should probably start with his other two "how to write damn good fiction" books. ...more
This book builds on Frey's previous work, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, by going into the specifics of using elements of classical mythology - both character types and plot structure - in putting together all kinds of stories. It draws on the work of Joseph Campbell and uses examples ranging from Star Wars to Pulp Fiction. Fascinating for anyone, but especially for aspiring storytellers. ...more
Paula Quinene
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-books
5 stars because the first half of this book is TERRIFIC! Great tips on developing the hero and villain. I like that the author wrote the opposed to quoting/giving too many examples from novels. For the last half, Mr. Frey uses a make believe book to show what he writes...still better than too many excerpts from novels.
Stephen Simpson
Jul 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A more obnoxious recapitulation and simplification of Joseph Campbell's basic themes and theories, the book is painful reading. It's not worth the short amount of time it will take to read. If you've never tried to write any fiction ever before, and haven't read much of it, maybe (and I emphasize maybe) there is some use to this book ... but even then I'm doutbtful. ...more
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Contains a well-thought out procedure for using the Joseph Campbell mono-myth structure to create a fully fleshed out story. The step outline and character-building sections were particularly helpful.
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not only do I have a better sense of how to put a story together and why certain elements work and some don't, but I also understand how the myth is put together, and it makes reading even more enjoyable. ...more
Mike Trapp
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book in two days. I thought it was an excellent and concise rendering of the subject. I feel it contains all one might need to know to go ahead and structure a novel for publication. I will likely use this as a reference when I write my novel.
Jeannie Faulkner Barber
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
James Frey uses his wit and intellect to draw the reader in. He concentrates on the tradtional "myth" to tell a story, but takes a "no-nonsense" approach in order to applies his ideas. ...more
Eric Witchey
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Aspiring writers
Shelves: writing
Another great book by James N. Frey. Added to, or used without, Joeseph Campbell's work, this book delivers excellent mythic tools to the aspiring writer. ...more
Andria Buchanan
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writers-books
Not his greatest writing book but still one of those books that should be on your shelf as a writer. It might not be James Freys best but it's still better than 95% of the writing books out there ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very unusual and useful book with good advices.
Keith Cochran
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Combines Frey's outstanding "how to write damn good fiction" with Campbell's power of myth. This one book alone could make your novel a #1 hit. A must read for any novelist. ...more
Jeffrey Hammerhead
I gained great insight to craft of fiction and refer to this book often.
Jean Grant
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The basic idea is good, but the book is repetitive, annoyingly so.
Carlie Hamilton
had some good stuff.
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Good stuff
Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-nonfiction
Loved it!! Great ways to incorporate the heros travels to make your book more powerful.
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James N. Frey (born March 15, 1943 in Syracuse, New York) is an American writer and creative writing teacher.

Frey has written both fiction and non-fiction and is known for his book called How to Write a Damn Good Novel. He has written novels, plays, and several guides on writing.

In addition to being an author, he is a lecturer at schools and conferences. Frey was selected Honored Teacher of the Y

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