My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager

The Thrill of Suspense

suspense

We’re all about the thrill of the chase for today’s quick WRITE post.

Lee Child, author of the best-selling Jack Reacher thriller series (his novel-turned-screenplay “One Shot” starred Tom Cruise this past year) reveals such an ingenious approach to creating suspense that we couldn’t wait to share it with you!

(Full credit for today’s post ideas goes to both Lee Child and to Sarah Blake Johnson at one of our favorite children’s writer blogs, Through the Tollbooth.)

lee childLee Child spent over twenty years as a television producer prior to becoming a novelist. His experience during such a transformative time in the industry (the dawn of the remote control and commercials) profoundly shaped his understanding of storytelling.

In his recent Opinionator post, “A Simple Way to Create Suspense,” Child likens the age-old “How-do-you-create-tension” question to asking someone, “How do you bake a cake?”

Everyone has a basic understanding of how to bake a cake, Child reasons, and the better the ingredients (characters), the more diligently we combine them and tend to the entire process (plunged into peril “the descent into which is the mixing and stirring, and the duration and horrors of which are the timing and temperature”), naturally the greater the cake will look and taste. (read: bestseller!)

Child reframes the question of suspense into the most direct, fundamental, and hence, most simplistic inquiry one must consider in storytelling: “How do you make your family hungry?”

Child’s answer? “You make them wait four hours for dinner.”

YES.

thrill

Do not delay on planting this question, which must emerge at the beginning of the story. But do delay the answer. Make the reader agonize and salivate along the way, as you slowly parcel out small drips of answers. (Revisit Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart”.) Trigger the same pique of curiosity that’s felt when a listener knows that the punch line to a long, twisted joke is just around the corner, the gratification felt after hearing the long-awaited reveal. And, all the better if the answer is not what’s expected.

tell tale heart

In television speak? Go to Commercial.

You will enjoy the way Lee Child unveils his post, seeking to show you that the “Wait for It” principle works both in the micro and macro sense for building tension.

Hitchcock Master of Suspense

“Page to page, paragraph to paragraph, line to line – even within single sentences – imply a question first, and then answer it second. The reader learns to chase, and the momentum becomes unstoppable.”

A Full Reveal of Lee Child’s article on the New York Times Opinionator page 

sarah blake johnson Sarah Blake Johnson‘s Through the Tollbooth series on Tension:

 

 

 

 

 

Subscribe to our blog's RSS Feed or eNewsletter
and receive W.O.R.D. of the Week's rotating, themed posts (Write. Observe.
Revise. Discover) biweekly!

Our Comment section is always open.
Tell us about your WRITING, OBSERVATIONS, REVISIONS, and
DISCOVERIES.
Share questions, links, a-ha moments, struggles, goals, progress, and reflections.

Spread the W.O.R.D.!

WORD-Ink

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment