On a subconscious level, anyone who is interested in literature recognizes the structure and key elements of the epic story where the archetypical hero leaves the security of his home, goes into the unknown 'woods', confronts evil and is somehow transformed by the whole adventure. Some built-in human chemistry allows this kind of story to excite us, no matter how many times we have heard it. The elements are all familiar, but unless you've read Campbell or taken a course on the mythical hero, you have not put all the elements together in a format that is easy to understand and utilize. Frey does just that.
Frey looks at the power of myth and creates a template that will help any level writer create a journey of transition. He employs various examples to back up his premise and analysis and relies heavily on outlines discussed in his two previous "Damn Good" how-tos. (I don't have either of the other works and I was able to make perfect sense of Frey's suggestions.) Frey's analysis provides fledgling writers such as myself a way in which to formulate a concrete foundation before actually attempting to delve into the literary process that entails the use of distinctive language. I am hoping that in employing his tips I will avoid my usual sandtraps---adding too many scenes simply because I enjoy placing my fictional creations in situations that have little to do with the message of my book.
Bottom line: I believe Frey's ideas wonderfully readable and easily employable. He suggests fleshing out each character by defining him/her physiologially, sociologically and pyschologically and then writing a journal in the character's voice to better facilitate 'stepping into that character's shoes.' Along with this he defines certain qualities that are de rigueur for a mythic hero and for the hero's nemesis, "the Evil One.' Other secondary characters are explored along the way, as Frey explains the different stages the mythic hero lives through in order to accomplish his mission and transform himself in the process.
The Flaw: While every one of Mr Frey's suggestions make sense,I believe that without some real intuitive writing---and Frey does warn of this--- the outcome,if one merely follows his formula would be just that---formula. Frey uses examples that run the gamut of the literary spectrum--i.e. Homer's "Odyssey" to Grisham's "The Firm"--he illustrates how the mythic hero template fits over each of his examples--- but I don't want to write a novel that simply bestsells as in the Grisham case, I want my work to actually mean something. His example, "The Blue Light", detracts from the otherwise great advise that the book offers. 'The Blue Light', is typical of the sensationalized writing that unfortunately seems to sell. Okay,its just an example and just a first draft, but the characters are trite, in particular the macho woman armed with itching powder, fearless and unwilling to do just about anything to get her story--blah,blah,blah---any mass media paperback that you pick up at the drugstore contains the same type of character---so why do I want to write a 'movie-of-the-week' wannabe that pretty much everyone else and his brother are writing?
Nevetheless, I enjoyed reading 'The Key'; I found my mind spinning with ideas on how to fix something I am working on and at the same time tighten all the loose ends that would otherwise destroy the essential ideas. The format is fun and easy to read --Frey does not teach you how to write--he helps outlines a structure that if applied is sure to help your story become a personal success.