Building Character

Names are important. Names give clues about us, where we live, who we are. In some cases they can even tell what we do! There is a certain ring about George W. Bush, you just know he's American! You can almost feel the Texan, and taste the oil

When selecting names try and make them suit the person and place, you might not think it but the name tells a lot about a character – think of Scrooge, of Judas – call someone by those names and people will just know what you mean. Location. Location. Location.

If you are writing a story set in the 1950's then check what names were then used. A useful tip rent an old film and watch carefully the names in the credits at the end. Listen to what people are called in the film.

I like American gangster movies and get some of my names from popular movies of the day. I'll rent a Humphrey Bogart film and watch the credits. It's surprising the names you can come up with!

Pick names that ring true to the place you're writing about eg you would hardly have a Padrig in Spain – it's an Irish name. Tarquin Fortesque-Smythe could be from an American working class background, but you would not think so from the name you'd probably say he belongs to the London G & T set.

Is your character 6, 16, 26, 36, or 76? Remember that people of different ages have different outlooks on life and different values. At 6 you're more interested in a new toy, at sixteen you're thinking of a living toy! At 36 you're worried about the bills and at 76 – well I have not got there yet! How would a 6 year old react on a day trip to Disneyworld, would a 76 year old go on it?

It is sometimes true that an author can write better about the opposite sex than they can about their own sex. You might want to give it a try.

Physical attributes and characteristics – a good exercise is to sit down and describe in detail what your character looks like: the color of their hair, their eyes, what sort of build they are, what type of clothes they wear, what kind of footwear. Have they any obvious marks, scars etc. We have a habit of judging people by how they look.

Get to know your character as well as you know yourself. You may never use it but why not interview him / her. Ask them questions: questions about their life, what they like to eat, favorite films, favorite drinks, where they were on holidays last year, where they are going next year. Does he vote? Who does he vote for?

© Kevin Hart MA BA (hons) ABC Writers Network 2005

Ten Tips For Budding Authors

1. For me the most important tip is to write, write every day, 365 days a year. Remember practice makes perfect.

2. Very few authors are published on their first attempt; it's a hard slog and you'll often want to concern the whole writing business in. It's then you've got to remember patience and perseverance.

3. If you are serious about writing as a career then treat it as such. If you wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, plumber, chef then you'd expect to have to learn the trade. Why should writing be any different? It will pay you to visit workshops and listen to what successful authors have to say. Learn from the masters.

4. I'm a member of a writers group and for me it is essential it helps feed me. Also visit sites like http: where you will learn about current creative writing contests. Use these contests to help hone your skills. If you are involved in promoting creative writing locally let them know they will advertise the event for you free of charge.

5. In my early days of writing one of my main faults was my failure to accept criticism. This was one of the problems my writers group helped me overcome.

6. Be cautious of loved ones who tell you that your writing is 'remarkable,' quite often they do not want to offend. I've found it best to avoid showing my work to close family until I've had tested elsewhere.

7. Do not become a writer because you think it is an easy option. It is not. It is hard work. To become successful you have to work 365 days a year. There are very few other jobs that demand that sort of commitment. Maybe after you've hit the big time you can drop that down to six months in the year – maybe.

8 Carry a note book. If you get a sudden idea write it down. Ideas are like dreams they are very soon forgotten, but ideas are also like oak trees they can grow mighty big.

9. Believe in yourself, if you have what it takes to be successful then you will succeed. If you have not then you'll soon know.

10. Finally Maeve Binchy gives this advice 'write as you talk.' Also write about what you know. I know that's old hat but its true neverheless.

Good luck

Kevin Hart

Copyright © 2005

Movie Review: Think Like a Man (2012) (PG-13)

But Act Like a Fool

So far as I can tell, the intended purpose of Steve Harvey's book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man was to give women relationship advice from a male perspective, which in turn would help them find the right man. While I have no opinion on his words of wisdom, I do have a thing or two to say about Think Like a Man , a film that injects Harvey's book into the plot of a romantic comedy. Silly and uninspired, it does not analyze his concepts in plausible, satisfying ways; instead, it applies them to manufactured vignettes in which the men are immature brats and the women are conniving and manipulative. There is no truth to any of the characters in this movie. They serve primarily as comedy relief, goofballs we're made to laugh at instead of with.

Taking place in Los Angeles, the film is essentially a series of interconnected subplots, all examining relationships between specific categories of men and women. Steve Harvey makes continuous appearances on television screens in homes and bars with the specific purpose of promoting his book; the women, intrigued, all decide to buy a copy and apply whatever advice they glean to the men in their lives. At first, the men are thrown for a loop. Then one of them catches wind of what their women are doing, leading them to buy the book and attempt to beat them at their own game. And so we must wade through an implausible and childish battle of wits before reaching a conclusion so neatly gift-wrapped that it looks to have transplanted from a third-rate sitcom.

Here's a rundown of the couples featured in this film. There's a real-estate agent named Kristen (Gabrielle Union) and her boyfriend, Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara), who still has not popped the question after nine years of being with her. Not only is she eager to motivate him apply for a job he's qualified for, she also wants him to stash his collection of sci-fi memorabilia so that she can redecorate to her heart's content. This would include getting rid of his couch, which has a colorful history to say the least. There's Mya (Meagan Good), who's fed up with one-night stands and decides to try out Harvey's ninety-day plan on her new boyfriend, Zeke (Romany Malco). This will not be easy for him; a smooth talker who knows all the good pickup lines, he's an unapologetic lothario with nothing on his mind apart from sex.

There's a caterer named Dominic (Michael Ealy), who's known for his lofty dreams. His current dream is to be a chef, and indeed, he has a talent for cooking. Into his life enters Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a powerful executive who wants a man with a six-figure income and his own sense of power. Desperate to impress her, Dominic tells her that he already is a chef and is deciding between two restaurant offers. And then there's Candace (Regina Hall), a single mom and Lauren's best friend. She starts dating a man named Michael (Terrence J), ​​who's domineered by his mother (Jenifer Lewis). Needless to say, no woman is good enough for her son, least of all a single mother. Incidentally, Candace's son, while perhaps a little too inquisitive, gets along perfectly with Michael.

Serving as both narrator and the annoying fifth guy character is Cedric (Kevin Hart), who spends most of the film acting like a fool and mooching off of Zeke. He's in the process of finalizing his divorce from his mostly unseen wife, and claims to be all the better for it. All five guys are friends and spend most of their time either in a bar or on a basketball court, where (you guessed it) they waste much of their energy complaining about the women in their lives. Tagging along is a superfluous man played by comedian Gary Owen, who serves no real purpose other than to be the butt of PG-13-appropriate racial slurs. There's even time for completely unnecessary comeo appearances by NBA players Metta World Peace, Shannon Brown, and Matt Barnes. Former WNBA player Lisa Leslie joins them as they successfully emasculate the main stars in a basketball game.

You know me. I'm usually the first to let a romantic comedy slide, simply because I accept them as nothing more than fantasy. But in this case, something went wrong. Think Like a Man regards genuine relationship advice as fodder for a series of inane jokes. The characters are so shallow, it's as if reporters Keith Marryman and David A. Newman know absolutely nothing about men or women. For all I know, maybe they really do not. Whenever Harvey appears on one of the many conveniently placed television sets, he always gives a piece of advice; each one had the potential to be applied to a complex and thought-provoking vignette, one in which the characters have a bit more depth to them. How sad that his book served as the basis for a film that shows no interest in real relationships.

Becoming A Successful Author: The Price!

So you want to be a successful author? You want to be up there with
Brown, Archer, King, but what price are you prepared to pay? You may be lucky and your first book could be an overnight success but the chances are you'll be hacking it for years before success knocks.

If you decided to become a lawyer, an accountant, a bricklayer, or even to start an 'ordinary' business then you would be prepared to make inquiries, to invest in the future. Why expect it to be different ??

The amount of effort you put into your apprenticeship will dictate how successful you will be as a fully fledged tradesman, a successful author!

Are you prepared to spend a year putting a novel together to have it returned by not one, not two, not three but four publishers? Are you prepared to take the novel sit down and do a major rewrite! If you are then you might, just might, be more successful second time around.

Harder still are your prepared to accept that the book just does not hack it and bin it!

There are very few real overnight successes: role up your sleeves and do some hard graft, learn the trade. Then you'll succeed.

Competitions are a good starting point. You are continuously challenged to meet deadlines. You should aim to enter at least one competition a month and you should aim to enter all the major competitions for new writers. For details on current competitions see my website [] Remember that as far as major competitions are concerned you can 'win' without collecting the first prize, though that would be nice ! Get a good mention and it will do your career the world of good. Publishers are often asked to judge competitions, think name recognition.

Competitions also help you understand what it is you are doing wrong, and what it is you are doing right. Contact the winner, congratulate them on their success, ask them for a copy of the winning entry and see how it differs from yours.

When entering a competition you are effectively asking someone's advice, you are asking them is my entry the best in the bunch. And they will say either yes or no! The price here is rejection.

If possible get your own personal critic. Your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, sibling. Anyone as long as they are prepared to give you a good, fair, honest opinion and not just say for an easy life, 'that's a fantastic story.' If they're not prepared to give it to you, warts and all, then let them wait until they ever see your name in print.

A good place to find honest criticism is at your local writing group. Join one, join two – but join! Some people underestimate these groups; think that they are just a bundle of middle age women playing at writing. In many cases that is correct but there is always one or two serious authors there and it is those you want to meet. Together you can knock ideas of one another. Believe me you will learn and grow.

You would not dream of becoming a lawyer or a doctor without buying the books necessary to study. Granted you'll not buy them all, you'll borrow some, perhaps most, from the university library but there are key books you'll need through your career and these you will buy and use again and again.

Why on earth are you not prepared to invest in your chosen career by buying your own trade books? I've given a list of the most popular ones over on my website. They're not all essential, like all reference books there is some cross over. But please: beg, borrow or steal (no skip that last one!) At least three of them. I've proposed the main ones. It's all part of the price.

You've decided on the genre you're going to specialize in. You have, have not you !! Well then make it a point to read at least one, if not two, books in that genre every week.

We all like to go to our local library and borrow books, and I'm all for supporting my local library. Be honest though, they are totally under-funded and while my librarians are wonderful they can not come up with the goods.

I'm not suggesting buying a new book every week but I do suggest buying one every four to six weeks. You must keep up with what the market is producing. My site carries information on what is current – [].

For those of us who are forty plus tax there is the added danger of reading what we like: be careful, ask yourself the question would your favorite author hack it today?

Consider collecting the works of a particular (modern) author who you appreciate and admire and do not be afraid to use the yellow marker, after all they are text books, not collector's items.

What ever you do, do not try to be the same .. Why be a second rate Stephen King, or Jeffery Archer when you can be an original!

© Kevin Hart MA BA (hons) ABC Writers Network 2005