Mar 272015
 
Sometimes great ideas go horribly wrong. Is there a book with a genius premise that you'd like to rewrite?

By Paul D. Marks

DaVinciCodeWell, besides everything I’ve ever written that, after looking at it a few months or years later....

It seems that great minds think alike and that said great minds all think The Da Vinci Code falls flat. Coming at the end of the week, I hope I’m not being too repetitive. I think The Da Vinci Code is a great, high concept, idea for a book. But it was a terribly written book. Of course, that didn’t stop it from becoming a mega zillion seller making mega zillions for Dan Brown.  So maybe it doesn’t need to be rewritten. Nonetheless, I’d take a shot at it. Definitely clean it up and liven up the dull prose. Bring in a street sweeper to pick up the you-know-what. And then it would probably be a well written book with a great concept that nobody would buy.

There are a lot of books (and movies) where, when I look at them or read them I think, great concept, terrible execution. But I often seem to be in the minority because a lot of these sell tons of copies. It’s like my mom used to say, something to the effect of, “I don’t get bogged down in the quality of the writing, good or bad, if it’s a good story it will carry me along.” And maybe that’s the key. Just write a good story, tell it reasonably well. Have a plot that drives forward and characters that drive the plot and there you go.

tlg
However, for me, I like things that are well written as well as well plotted. That’s not to say I won’t read a book that’s not necessarily well written. And even enjoy it. But I might enjoy it more if were better presented.

I happen to be partial to Raymond Chandler. I like his plots. I like his characters. And I love his writing and his descriptions. I really feel that I’m there, in that location with those people. I can see it, feel it, smell it. And I think a lot of that is missing from today’s writing. A lot of prose writing today is inspired, for lack of a better word, by film writing. And film writing is very fast paced and very spare. And that’s good for movies. Because a screenplay is not a finished product and all those other elements, visual, atmosphere, setting, casting, location, etc., get filled in by the locations, the sets, the camera work, the actors, etc.  But a novel is the finished product. And in a novel it’s up to the writer to convey a picture, mood, feeling, etc. I like to feel where we are. I like to be in the room or the location with the characters. And so many writers today basically describe a scene as “Joe entered the room. He picked up the gat from the desk.” Okay, that’s a little simplistic. But you get the idea. There’s no, or little, sense of the room. The atmosphere, etc. And I miss that. 

484Oh, and to bring this full circle and respond again to the question at hand: I’d like to rewrite Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon to make it more accessible to everyday schmucks like me. (Okay, I’m not saying I would ever attempt to rewrite Pynchon, but you know what I mean.) I’m not saying to dumb it down, just to make it a little more user-friendly and approachable.  I’ve tried three different times over the years to read this book. It’s one of those that you think you should read, book bucket list-wise. But I just can’t get past about page 80 or 100. I’m not saying it’s badly written. But for me, at least, it’s impenetrable. Maybe I’ll give it another shot one of these days and the fourth time will be the charm.
Mar 252015
 
“Take the long view of the writing life. There are peaks and valleys. I’ve always felt you must be a first-rate version of yourself; not a second-rate version of another author. I also believe it’s foolish to chase the market, because if you do, you’ll always be looking at its backside. I’ve always written what I love to write.”

- David Morrell
Mar 242015
 

Joe Newman-Getzler

 

(Note: A rational, thoughtful take on the Charlie Hebdo shootings, from the perspective of a 15 year old artist who sometimes likes to be a bit edgy. It brings you up short, doesn't it...? JG)

On January 7, 2015, two masked men attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine famous for its cartoons, killing 11 people and injuring 11 more.  This news shocked the world, as many were surprised that a magazine intended to make people laugh could lead to so much bloodshed. Certainly, the news surprised me. Seeing as I am a cartoonist myself, it definitely made me both worried and fascinated by how simple drawings on paper could lead to something like this.

For those who don’t know, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are generally designed to provoke. Many of their cartoons depict taboo subjects, such as the sex slaves taken by Boco Haram militants; a threeway between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and several covers depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad (“100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter!” he says on one of them).

Of course, there have been many cartoonists in the past whose cartoons have been designed to provoke strong emotions. As far back as 1831, Honore Daumier drew a portrait of the French King Louis-Philippe entitled “Gargantua,” which showed the king as a Goliath-like beast swallowing sacks of money fed to him by his subjects. The cartoon was prevented from being printed, and both Daumier and his editor Charles Philipon were sentenced to jail time and had to pay a fine. But by then, word had already gotten around about the drawing, and its notoriety led to Daumier and Philipon finding work again[1]

Another notable cartoonist to rebel against the system was Ralph Bakshi. Bakshi was an animator for the animation studio Terrytoons in the 1960s before moving on to make independent feature films. His first, Fritz the Cat, based on the underground comic by R. Crumb, became the first animated feature to earn an X rating. Bakshi’s films tended to be about New York City and the goings-on of its seedier denizens. One of his most notable films was Coonskin, a modern-day take on Song of the South that depicted three black main characters leaving the South and coming to Harlem, only to be confronted by oppression and discrimination. The film was wildly controversial upon its release, with the Congress of Racial Equality protesting its release and the film’s original distributor pulling out, despite the fact that the film was meant to satirize ethnic stereotypes, not reinforce them.

So, why do I bring up Daumier and Bakshi? Because their cartoons may have provoked many people, but they still had an overall point. Daumier was making a point about how the king was getting wealthy off of his citizens’ hard-earned money, and Bakshi was showing the life of the lower-class and the injustice of racism. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons to the untrained eye, seem to do little but provoke for the sake of provoking, and maybe a laugh now and then. Is there any underlying message in this cartoons? Or are they just there to provoke?

Luz, a cartoonist who survived the attacks, stated that “Since the ‘60s, [it] has always sought to break taboos and shatter symbols and every possible type of fanaticism.”[i] In that sense, there’s nothing wrong with what the Hebdo cartoonists do. Certainly, fanaticism of any type could be taken down a peg, and cartoons have forever been a way to take the high and mighty and bring them down to the level of the common man (although it is ironic that a magazine intended to attack fanatics was then attacked by fanatics). It puts a face behind the cartoons, and, to some, it stops the cartoons from being completely mean-spirited attacks on religious and social beliefs.

Frankly, I think everyone has a right to speak their mind about certain subjects. That’s what freedom of speech is all about, right? So, in that sense, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists have every right to continue making their cartoons. But the question is, should they? You see, a cartoon depicting Mohammed isn’t just offensive to the Islamic radicals who burst into the offices. They’re offensive to anyone in the Muslim faith, as their law strictly dictates that none can create depictions of their prophet (not to mention anyone who has respect for other peoples’ customs). By not just drawing the Prophet, but also drawing him in very degrading positions, they don’t seem to be doing much more than pointing and laughing, like schoolyard bullies. They have a right to do it under free speech, but it still feels pretty insensitive toward an entire religion.

Does this mean that the shooters were justified? Absolutely not. Whether or not the cartoons were offensive, violence is never the answer, and killing people just for their art is an example of stifling freedom of speech. Though the cartoons can be considered offensive, they still had the right to make them. But, like I said before, it does get you to thinking when simple strokes of pencil or pen on paper can lead to reactions like these.



[1] Cartoon Brew



[i] VICE News

 

Mar 232015
 

Jeff Cohen

I was talking to my cousin, who is an actual professional artist (she exhibits paintings and also teaches art at the college level) last week and she asked about my writing. I gave her the usual rundown of what I was up to and when things would be published and what I was hoping would happen, and then she asked me a question that really stopped me in my tracks.

"Do you get pleasure out of writing?"

Well, that was a stumper. Pleasure? I'd never actually thought about it before. Writing is something I do; it's something I've always done since I understood language. It's what I do for a living. It's what I do here once a week. I pay my mortgage with writing; I use it to buy food and other necessities and maybe the occasional indulgence, but never a large one. Writing is what I do and in some ways it's what I am.

But pleasure?

Writing is not easy work, no matter what steam pipe fitters tell you. It's not always physically taxing, I'll grant you, but it can make your brain hurt pretty seriously. The author and screenwriter Gene Fowler once said, "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." It's sort of like that, except not that messy. For me, it's nothing Aleve can't handle. But then, perhaps I'm not as good a writer as Mr. Fowler was.

I am the walking embodiment of yet another aphorism regarding the creative process: I hate writing; I love having written. It's sort of like exercise in my case--I'll do anything I can to put off the activity for as long as possible, suffer through it, and then feel good about myself because I managed to survive, maybe even well.

Now, don't get me wrong: I don't want people to think I'm suffering horribly while creating stories for the reader's enjoyment. But not suffering horribly is a far cry from getting pleasure out of the deal.

Let me put it this way: I get pleasure out of eating Raisinets. I'm not crazy about the result of eating Raisinets. But I do love looking at the shelf of books I've written, and I absolutely exalt in getting feedback from readers who have read and liked my work. Writers have egos; we're just so used to getting them stepped on that we often keep them hidden in a secret drawer until everyone is out of the house.

So an honest answer would be yes, I do get pleasure from writing. Just not while I'm doing it.

 

P.S. Congratulations to the winners of the QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD audiobook contest, Melissa Andrews, Larry W. Chavis, Kayla Jackson, Gayle Trent and Katie Zwilling! 

Mar 162015
 

Jeff Cohen

In the course of each year, all of us have holidays we celebrate and holidays we ignore completely. There are shades of difference in between, many of which will be on display early in April when my family observes Passover with the 45-minute PowerPoint seder (now in HD!). 

For the first 37 years of my life, St. Patrick's Day was a holiday of which I took almost no notice. That's not terribly surprising, as a total of 0% of my family is Irish and we were distracted from it by ignoring most of the holidays that were indeed part of our heritage.

But now I hate St. Patrick's Day, and each year my stomach clenches just a bit as it approaches. Before anyone assumes this is an anti-Irish rant, I assure you it is nothing of the sort. This is personal.

My Dad in uniformfather died on St. Patrick's Day.

Growing up, my dad was not the ominous figure of authority some other people's fathers seemed to be ("just wait until your father gets home!). He was as easygoing and amiable a man as I have met, and his delight in his sons was unlimited. He thought we were just about the most interesting people he'd ever met.

"My kids make more sense than the adults I know," he'd tell his friends. And he meant it--he liked to be with us, to play with us (my mother was not the playing-with-the-kids type although she exhibited her affection in numerous other ways). He had a unique view of life with with which I occasionally disagreed as I hit the dreaded teenage years, but also a strong sense of morals, a way of ingratiating people that bordered on the amazing, and a delight in life that infused me pretty much from the moment I was totally conscious.

He was the parent whose presence meant we were relaxing, and that was largely because he wasn't around for most of the day, most of the week. Dad ran a paint store, first in Newark NJ and then in our home town of Irvington, and he was on the job from 6 in the morning until 6 in the evening every day but Sunday. That meant he had to get to sleep early on weeknights, so we saw him for only a few hours a day. And when he was around, it was vacation--Sundays we'd go on car trips. Very rarely, he'd leave the store in the hands of his own father, who had founded it, and we'd go on long weekends. If Dad was there, the mindset was that we were having fun.

His demeanor added to that impression. Dad was the kindest man I've ever known, and his smile was unforced and frequent. He liked to come to the swim club after work when we were there during the summer, and he'd jump into the pool and play games with us after a 12-hour day of carrying paint cans around. In the winter we'd help him shovel snow (an activity that has not retained its allure) and he'd make a game of it.

I have, in many ways, modeled my style of parenting on my father's. This is not to say I didn't inherit a temper from my mother, nor that I didn't show it off with some frequency when the kids were little, but Dad's delight in his children (which, to be fair, was a trait of my mom as well) has carried over. I made up stories with them and played games with them and I had long talks with them as they grew up. I still do, and I can say with no hesitation that my children are among my best friends. Yes, they made more sense than most adults, and they continue to do so. 

Alas, their grandfather didn't get to see too much of that.

Not long after Jessica and I were married, my parents went on vacation to Los Angeles at a time when there was stress in my father's life. His mother was ill and would die later that year. His work was giving him some problems; he had sold the store and was working for someone else now. So when they got to their hotel, the first order of business was to soak in the hot tub at the hotel pool.

But Dad had not been taking his blood pressure meds, the hot tub wreaked havoc with him, and he had a massive heart attack. It was touch and go while my brother and I rode a plane to L.A., but he pulled through.

He was never the robust, strong guy I knew again. 

Dad did live to see his grandchildren, both of them, but he was in and out of the hospital for the next few years. He tired easily and had to take breaks. He didn't participate as much at family gatherings, but he still took delight in seeing everyone and was well enough to play with his grandson and granddaughter for a while.

But when my son was five and my daughter was two, he again went into the hospital, fading. He was a shadow of his former self physically but still all there mentally. I taped some conversations with him about his life. His voice is faint but his words are still all Dad.

He managed to get himself discharged from the hospital, albeit with a dire prognosis. His heart and his kidneys were disagreeing over which one would fail first. Coming home that day, he said all he wanted was to have someone come to the house and give him a shave and a haircut. Then he'd feel like himself.

It wasn't to be. The very night he came home, with the appointment for a shave and haircut the next day, Dad woke in the wee hours, complained of feeling weak, and was taken, unconscious, to the hospital. Mom called, and my brother and I got into my car and headed for the hospital.

DadDad died shortly after 12 a.m. on March 17. And this year on St. Pat's Day, it will be 20 years since then.

So I begrudge you nothing in your St. Patrick's Day celebration. Drink what you will. Stuff a cabbage. Watch John Wayne in that Irish movie TCM likes to show every year. Please, enjoy yourself. But don't expect me to be in a good mood.

It's only 20 years. I'm not over it yet. 

 

P.S.: Last post I'll have before it's time, so just let me remind you that you can win an audiobook download from Audible of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the first Asperger's mystery from E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen. Just post a comment below here or at E.J.'s blog with the words "Audiobook Head" in it, and you're entered! Five winners will be drawn this coming Friday, April 20th, the first day of spring (and not a moment too soon!)! So get your entry in now!

Mar 092015
 

Jeff Cohen

Our parents were, by and large, very nice people who did what they could to help us through this grand pageant that is life. But I've reached an age now where I've discovered the things that they never bothered--or simply chose not--to tell us, and that leads to the inevitable conclusion that our parents were either cowards or liars.

Things Our Parents Didn't Tell Us

  1. You'll be tired all the time. It doesn't matter how much you sleep. And that leads to:
  2. You won't be able to sleep like you used to. You'll wake up early for no reason even if you don't have to go to work.
  3. You'll have to go to work. Probably forever. The economy is stacked against you.
  4. No, you actually can't eat whatever you want all the time. I'm living--so far--proof.
  5. Your eyes will eventually begin to get their revenge for all that ogling you did when you were young. You'll need 17 pairs of glasses to get through an average day, even if you wear contact lenses.
  6. Enjoy roller coasters and horror movies when you're young. After 40, they will be the most unpleasant experiences you can imagine.
  7. Hair will grow where you don't want it and not grow where you do. 
  8. You'll look in the mirror and wonder who that is.
  9. Your hands will age at approximately 1.5 times the rate that the rest of you ages. This is because you can always see your hands.
  10. The entertainment industry will stop making anything--music, movies, TV, political pamphlets--aimed at you. You will be invisible.
  11. Your mind will not change, which is a curse. You'll think exactly the same way you did at 35, forgetting that your body looks like its expiration date has passed. 
  12. You will forget what color your hair really was.
  13. Looking at pictures of food will give you gas.
  14. You have to stop getting large pets because the vet always wants you to pick up (fill in name of beloved pet) and put him/her on the examining table.
  15. Exercise becomes more necessary the more you don't want to do it.
  16. Something will hurt. All the time. Whether you do something to strain it or not.
  17. You should have started saving for retirement at the age of 2.
  18. You will actually find yourself getting annoyed because things aren't like they used to be.
  19. You'll get ear worms of songs you didn't like in 1974.
  20. You'll read the obituaries and note that more of those people than ever were younger than you.

I will credit my mother for telling me this:

  1. The only thing worse than getting older is not getting older.

One thing your parents probably didn't tell you that you should know:

You can still win an audiobook download of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD by E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen. Just comment right here with the words "Audiobook Head" or do the same here. Five entrants will receive download codes for the unabridged audiobook! Good luck!

Mar 022015
 

Jeff Cohen

It was difficult this past week to hear of the death of Leonard Nimoy. Like so many others, I was a pretty serious fan of Star Trek from its first airings (yeah, I'm old), and Spock1Spock always appealed more than the other characters to me. 

He had that conflict between his natural tendency to see everything in terms of cold, objective logic and the need to understand his human side, which would react to things more emotionally than the character might want to admit. He was a beautifully conceived character, but he wouldn't have worked half as well if he'd been played by another actor (as we've seen in recent years).

The need to keep raging emotions in check while understanding their importance was what kept the character interesting. And Nimoy, who must have understood him on a basic level, once told director Nicholas Meyer (Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country, among others) that he never played Spock as a character with no emotions.

Instead, he played the alien as a man trying to keep his emotions in check. That makes all the difference.

Yes, some of the plots were downright silly and the special effects on a TV budget and schedule in the 1960s could be laughable. But Spock was never anything but dignified and in the parlance of the time, cool. He could outperform humans on almost every level, but was content to live among them and observe. 

Leonard Nimoy brought that to the role. Did he bristle at being thought of as Spock and nothing else? On occasion, he did; it's true. But he did not disparage the role or the people who had embraced it, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. 

Hey. I was nine years old and it was Star Trek. Cut me some slack.

Many years later when I was going through my unsuccessful screenwriter phase, I wrote a screenplay that had some connections to Star Trek, although it took place in contemporary America and didn't use any of the original characters because I wasn't stupid. I'd probably shudder to look at that piece of work today, but at the time I thought it was pretty good and I was hoping to get it noticed somewhere in Hollywood.

So I sent a letter to Leonard Nimoy asking if he'd like to consider directing the script.

To my astonishment, I received a letter (this was back when there were letters) from Leonard-nimoy-to-palestinians-and-israelis-live-long-and-prosper-in-two-states-2Mr. Nimoy's company saying he'd very much like to read the script. And you can believe that a copy was in the mail that very day.

I don't remember how long it took to receive a response, but I'm sure at the time I thought it was an eternity and I did my best not to pester anyone at Nimoy's company about it (I'm sure Josh can picture me waiting by the phone, only younger). But eventually another letter did arrive.

It's probably not a huge surprise that Nimoy passed on the script, since when you scan my IMDb page, you'll see I don't have one. But he did send a personal note.

He wrote, "I read your script with great interest, and your fondness for the material is evident. Although I am not going to proceed with it, I'd advise you to keep writing." I quoted that from memory.

It was a time when I needed any little bit of encouragement, and getting Mr. Spock to tell me I should keep writing did the trick. It was something he didn't have to do--most other Hollywood types would have sent a form letter or gotten an assistant to write the note--but he clearly saw that the script meant a lot to me, and wanted to connect personally. 

I never forgot that, obviously. 

Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy. You were a good actor who had one iconic role, which is more than most get. You were a talented director, a good writer and I don't know much about photography, but I'm willing to bet you had some talent there too. You were kind to me at a time I needed it, and even though I tried to explain that the one time we met for about a half a minute, I don't think I sufficiently communicated that thought. Thank you. You will be missed.

 

P.S. There's a new contest going on! Win a free download of the audio version of  HeadThe Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen! See details here or here.

Feb 272015
 
Do you pull down your shades and shut out the world when you write? Or are you motivated by a city view? A view of nature? What is the ideal landscape for your creativity?

by Paul D. Marks

I don’t think I have an “ideal” landscape, but I do like to see something appealing and engaging outside the window, whether a busy cityscape from a high-rise or a view of the hills or a country scene.

That said, I’ve written in places where there wasn’t much of a view.  Just the stucco wall of the apartment next door or even worse the inside wall of my apartment and no view of anything. But I didn’t like that much. Don’t like having nothing to look at, and when that was the case I would put pictures on the walls that would “inspire” me. In our last house, we had a pretty nice view...but it was on the back side of the house and my office was on the front side, looking out at the street. So the walls there were decorated largely with Edward Hopper prints – good for writing mysteries and noir. But some of the time I’d write on the laptop in the kitchen or family room where I could look out at the view. Which was nice...except for the time the hills across the way were blazing and smoke was furling up. And then hoping the fire wouldn’t jump over to us.

In our current house, I can see the canyon and hills in the distance from my office. It’s quiet and peaceful most of the time. Sometimes I just look out the window, especially at night when I can see lights dancing in the distance, across the canyon. And on the walls here are mostly rock and movie posters, lobby cards, album covers. But what happens with them much of the time is that they just blend into the background and I don’t really see them. Other times they stand out and I can enjoy them and get inspiration from them. But mostly I just look out the windows.


My office might be a cluttered mess, but I can block that out. Having something serene outside to look at calms me and gives me the peace of mind I need to get into that Zen writing state (he said with only a hint of sarcasm, at least about the Zen).

I do like our view here, but Robin’s view is to die for. Can’t compete with that. Very nice!

And, while I do like something to look at out the window, I also like to “shut the world out” when I write, not in a visual sense. But in a sense of quiet. I need quiet, for reasons I won’t bore you with. I’ve lived in places where there was construction going on next door or across the alley. Sometimes eighteen hours a day. Once the vibrations from the construction were so bad that when I tried to play a record the needle would skip across it, making a sound as irritating as fingers on a blackboard.

When I haven’t had quiet, I would play music to mask the background sounds. Mostly the music turned to white noise.

And unlike Susan, who thrives on external stimulation, I can’t write well or at all in public places. I’m just too distracted by everything going on around me. I want to drink and chat and have fun. So I like retreating to my clean, well-lighted place, to borrow a phrase.




Feb 232015
 

Jeff Cohen

There's a lot to be learned for any kind of entertainer by visiting the theme parks in Orlando, Florida. And that's exactly what I'm going to tell the IRS when they ask how a dinner at the Sci-Fi Drive-In at Disney's 2015021795135923Hollywood Studios is a business expense.

It's true: A day spent last week at Universal Studios Orlando and then two days at Disney parks (Hollywood and the Magic Kingdom, which is a slightly intimidating name for a theme park), were more than instructional in the art of keeping a mass audience entertained, enthusiastic and wanting more. The two large corporations behind these resorts have done a great deal of research into what works and what doesn't, and it shows.

If you're a writer, a performer, a director, an editor... you get the idea... take heed. The experts are leading by example. Pay attention, and you can find a way to link the ideas to what it is you do.

First: Always create anticipation. There's a reason there are all sorts of distractions on theme park ride lines, and it's not just that the park operator wants you to forget you're on line for over an hour to get on a three-minute ride. No, the idea here is to plant in the mind of the audience the idea that this is going to be  awesome, so the wait is worth it. Entertainment along the way is part of the package--it makes you feel like the host cares about you, and builds up the experience to come.

Also: Make the audience member feel special. This still pertains to the line only. Both Universal and Disney have systems in place to make the guest feel smart and privileged by passing most of the simple peons on the line to more popular attractions. The differences in the systems are significant, but they have the same goal.

Universal Orlando allows some guests to bypass most of a line at especially busy rides (particularly in the Harry Potter sections, where traffic is highest), but you have to pay more for tickets that do so. It is sometimes possible to get nearer the front of a long line if you're willing to ride by yourself (without the rest of your party), but you then often bypass the pre-show described above, and in some of the rides, that the best part.

Disney's system, as usual, is better thought out. A Fast Pass option is available to all ticket holders. Special scanners at the entrance read the card. You can (if you have the Disney World app on your phone) select three rides the day before your trip and designate them for Fast Pass. Available times will be shown, and you choose. No more than three. If you don't have the app, you can do the same thing at the park at Guest Relations or Fast Past stations, usually near the really popular attractions.

The takeaway: I can feel like a big deal and save time and I don't have to pay extra. It's about pampering (at least in their minds) the audience. 

A quick last note on lines: The wait times are posted outside each ride at both parks. They are almost always overestimated, giving the guest a treat when the wait doesn't actually take quite that long. Another pleasant experience that cost nothing.

And: You have to deliver an experience. The audience is primed and ready for something to happen after all that waiting (or, not waiting). Just the build-up won't satisfy. Make sure your product is superior, because all the smoke and mirrors in the world won't mask the fact that you haven't been trying hard enough.

For the author, this means not letting plot get in the way of character. Not writing dialogue that simply delivers story points and no personality. Constantly entertain.

Say what you want about the theme parks--they're garish, some of them are getting a little ragged around the edges, the commercialism is as blatant as it can possibly get. All that is true. But do they entertain? They sure do. And if I earned in one year what one of those parks takes in for french fry sales in one day...

We can all take a lesson.