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What is a Vignette in Writing — Definition & Examples Explained

W hat is a vignette? The term has the potential to be confusing because it means slightly different depending on which story-telling medium is the topic of discussion. Even within filmmaking, the term can also be used to describe two completely different things. We will sort through this confusion and break down each meaning of ‘vignette.’ We will also take a look at some vignette writing examples in literature and film. Learning this specific writing technique might be exactly what your next project needs.

What is a Vignette

Let’s define vignette.

The vignette is one of many literary devices that relies on context . We will be focusing primarily on the definition of vignette as it relates to storytelling. But first, let’s quickly take a look at the other meaning of vignette. 

In photography, filmmaking, and illustration, vignette refers to the darkening or, less commonly, the lightening of an image’s edges. Vignetting an image can provide it with additional contrast, value, and heighten the viewer’s focus on the center of the image.

If you encounter any other unfamiliar terms, our ultimate guide to filmmaking terminology is a handy resource for looking them up. Now let’s dig into the other meanings and variations of this concept.

Vignette Literary Definition

What is a vignette.

In literature, a vignette is a short piece of writing that does not have a beginning, middle, and end but rather focuses on a specific moment in time and the details within it.

In film, a vignette is a scene in a movie that can stand on its own. For example, the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally is often viewed and referenced on its own, separated from the rest of the film.

Vignettes do not tell complete stories on their own. They exist within broader stories, and multiple vignettes can add up to a cohesive whole. A vignette film is a complete cinematic work comprised of multiple episodes that can either weave together or remain separate throughout the course of the film.

Vignette Characteristics: 

  • Non-complete stories

It is important to distinguish a vignette film from an anthology film. An anthology film is made up of individual stories that are complete on their own. Each segment in an anthology film has a protagonist , a conflict , and a beginning, middle, and end.

Whereas in a vignette film, the individual segments are not complete on their own, but rather small pieces of an ultimate whole. 

Films like Creepshow or Twilight Zone: The Movie are anthology films, not vignette films since their individual stories are self-contained and each follows a full plot arc.

What is a Vignette in Writing

How vignettes are used in storytelling.

A vignette in literature differs from a vignette in film. In traditional literature, a vignette is kept very short, typically under 1,000 words, and describes an isolated moment outside the passage of time. In a literary vignette, textures, emotions, and senses are described, but the plot does not move forward.

However, in a cinematic vignette, time is always passing, the plot may or may not advance, and the internal sensations of the character are not externalized, except in extremely rare instances of poetic visualization.

We will be focusing on how this device works in cinema moving forward. However, if you would like more information on how writers use them in literature, you can refer to the following video.

What is a vignette in literature?

A work of fiction can be built entirely out of vignettes, becoming a vignette film . Alternatively, one or more vignettes can be placed within an otherwise traditionally told narrative , such as in the aforementioned When Harry Met Sally scene or in many of Quentin Tarantino’s best films .

The KKK raid sequence in Django Unchained is a pivotal moment in the story. But the comedic “bag” scene that interrupts it is a perfect example of a humorous vignette. For more on this film, check out our analysis of the Django Unchained screenplay .

Comedic vignette example from Django Unchained

Both of these example scenes are diversions from the narrative. But they are so funny that we, as audience members, do not care that the plot has been momentarily paused.

Writing a Vignette

What to write a vignette about.

Most, but not all, vignette films share a few distinctive characteristics. First, they must have multiple plot threads. Whereas a traditional plot  may follow a simple A-to-B trajectory, a vignette film is comprised of multiple narratives that each progress forward.

These separate plot threads may overlap, and the characters from one story may find themselves in another.

But this kind of crossover is optional, not mandatory.

These films are typically stocked with many characters of great or minor significance. While having a huge cast is not a requirement for a vignette film, having multiple protagonists is. Each vignette must have a distinct protagonist to follow, at least in part.

More often than not, these films are less plot-heavy than traditionally structured films. Slow, talky, and slice-of-life are all descriptors that are usually appropriate when describing a vignette film. Although some vignette films do opt for a more ‘active’ narrative style.

A segmented nature will be found in all vignette films. Jumping from story to story creates natural divisions in the narrative. Thus turning the plot into a series of connected segments rather than the singular through-line you might find in a traditionally structured film .

Each segment within a vignette film tends to be on the shorter side, but some films go against the grain in this regard.

One segment can be played through in its entirety before moving on to the next vignette. Or the film can jump from story to story, making a little progress on each plot thread with each segment before reaching an overall finale.

VIGNETTE WRITING EXAMPLES

Examples of vignette films.

Now, let’s take a look at some examples of successful vignette films. This format offers a chance at collaboration for filmmakers to team up and deliver an overall vision while also injecting their own signature flair.

One vignette film that brought together the powerful directing team of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez , Allison Anders, and Alexandre Rockwell is 1995’s  Four Rooms .

Vignette Story  •  Four Rooms Trailer

One more example of a vignette story serving a collaboration between directors is Paris, je t’aime . This star-studded affair is comprised of 18 vignettes, each directed by a different filmmaker with such notable names in the mix as Alfonso Cuaron , Wes Craven , and the Coen Brothers .

What is a Vignette in Writing — Paris je taime

Paris, je t’aime  •  A collection of cinematic episodes

Now, let’s take a look at some vignette film examples from directors with singular visions over multiple storylines.

Short Cuts from director Robert Altman is one of the finest examples of a vignette film. The script is adapted from the stories of Raymond Carver and explores a massive cast of 22 main characters all living in Los Angeles in the same moment in time. Each storyline is uniquely dramatic, and the subtle narrative overlaps serve to make the world feel vibrant and real.

Short Cuts  •  Trailer

Auteur filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson tackled the vignette film format in his third feature-film: Magnolia . The film is epic in scope while remaining deeply humanistic at its core, treating each and every character in the large cast with serious emotional depth.

The script is tightly woven, and the overlap between the characters of different stories is immensely satisfying when their connections finally come to light.

What is a Vignette in Writing — Magnolia

Magnolia  •  Visualizing the different segments

Another vignette film that is similar to Magnolia in many ways is the Oscar-winning drama Crash . Though Crash may be more high-profile, it is far less successful in crafting a cohesive vignette narrative with emotional resonance and staying power.

Wayne Wang’s Smoke is a great example of a laid-back, low-key vignette film. The movie centers around a cigar shop and the Brooklyn neighborhood surrounding it. As customers enter the shop, we learn about their personal stories and follow their dramatic potential.

What is a Vignette in Writing — Smoke

A relaxed, natural atmosphere in Smoke

Jim Jarmusch is a filmmaker who has had great fun playing around with narrative structure over the years. His film Coffee and Cigarettes is built around 11 vignettes with only one thing in common: they are all set in coffee shops with different characters drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.

Coffee and Cigarettes  •  Trailer

The various segments within Coffee and Cigarettes were filmed over the course of 17 years. In fact, the first segment was filmed in 1986, and the final feature film not being released until 2003. 

Before releasing the full film, Jim Jarmusch released pieces of the film as a trilogy of short films called Coffee and Cigarettes I , II , and III between 1986 and 1993. And one additional perk of working in this format: isolated pieces can take on a new meaning when combined to form a whole.

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What is Subtext?

We now have a comprehensive definition of vignette and plenty of examples to round out our understanding. Now it’s a good time to further our understanding of another literary device that pays dividends when used properly in a screenplay. Up next, let’s discuss subtext — what it is, and how to incorporate it into a story.

Up Next: Subtext Explained →

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Definition of Vignette

Vignette is a small impressionistic scene, an illustration, a descriptive passage, a short essay , a fiction or nonfiction work focusing on one particular moment; or giving an impression about an idea, character , setting , mood , aspect, or object . Vignette is neither a plot nor a full narrative description, but a carefully crafted verbal sketch that might be part of some larger work, or a complete description in itself.

Literally, vignette is a French word that means “little vine.” The printers, during the nineteenth-century, would decorate their title pages with drawings of looping vines. Hence, the derivation of this term is that source of drawings. Contemporary ideas from the scenes shown in television and film scripts also have influenced vignettes.

Examples of Vignette in Literature

Example #1: in our time (by ernest hemingway).

“Maera lay still, his head on his arms, his face in the sand. He felt warm and sticky from the bleeding. Each time he felt the horn coming. Sometimes the bull only bumped him with his head. Once the horn went all the way through him and he felt it go into the sand … Maera felt everything getting larger and larger and then smaller and smaller. Then it got larger and larger and larger and then smaller and smaller. Then everything commenced to run faster and faster as when they speed up a cinematograph film. Then he was dead.”

In this impressionistic sketch, the author gives an illustration of the character Maera, who is a bullfighter that dies from injures inflicted by a bull.

Example #2: An American Childhood (By Annie Dillard)

“Some boys taught me to play football. This was fine sport. You thought up a new strategy for every play and whispered it to the others. You went out for a pass, fooling everyone. Best, you got to throw yourself mightily at someone’s running legs … In winter , in the snow , there was neither baseball nor football, so the boys and I threw snowballs at passing cars. I got in trouble throwing snowballs, and have seldom been happier since.”

In this excerpt, Dillard has used her personal experiences while growing up in Pittsburgh, and describes the nature of American life. In this particular scene, she tells us how she learned to play football with the boys, and offering this incident of her teenage years.

Example #3: Railroads (By E. B. White)

“The strong streak of insanity in railroads, which accounts for a child’s instinctive feeling for them and for a man’s unashamed devotion to them, is congenital; there seems to be no reason to fear that any disturbing improvement in the railroads’ condition will set in … He gravely wrote ‘Providence’ in the proper space, and we experienced anew the reassurance that rail travel is unchanged and unchanging, and that it suits our temperament perfectly – a dash of lunacy, a sense of detachment, not much speed, and no altitude whatsoever.”

In this descriptive passage, White laments the bad condition of the passenger train industry in the state of Main, his home state, and worries for the future. He softens his complaints by going into past memories when he would ride as an adult.

Example #4: House on Mango Street (By Sandra Cisneros)

“Then Uncle Nacho is pulling and pulling my arm and it doesn’t matter how new the dress Mama bought is because my feet are ugly until my uncle who is a liar says, “You are the prettiest girl here, will you dance … My uncle and me bow and he walks me back in my thick shoes to my mother who is proud to be my mother. All night the boy who is a man watches me dance. He watched me dance.”

This whole story provides us a collection of vignettes. There are several passages with detailed descriptions about particular ideas or characters, such as this extract illustrating a dancing scene.

Function of Vignette

We often find vignettes in creative writing, as it provides description to achieve an artistic effect. However, we also see its usage in prose and poetry. Writers use this device to explore a character, and describe the setting of a scene. Vignettes give deeper understanding of texts, as writers densely pack them with imagery and symbolism . Besides, it increases writers’ language proficiency, as they use their language to its fullest by employing imagery to set a certain color and mood. Hence, the nature of vignettes is evocative and puts an impact on the senses of readers.

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How to Write a Vignette

Last Updated: December 9, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was reviewed by Gerald Posner . Gerald Posner is an Author & Journalist based in Miami, Florida. With over 35 years of experience, he specializes in investigative journalism, nonfiction books, and editorials. He holds a law degree from UC College of the Law, San Francisco, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley. He’s the author of thirteen books, including several New York Times bestsellers, the winner of the Florida Book Award for General Nonfiction, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He was also shortlisted for the Best Business Book of 2020 by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 547,931 times.

A vignette is a short piece of literature used to add depth or understanding to a story. The word “vignette” originates from the French word “vigne”, which means “little vine”. A vignette can be a “little vine” of a story, like a snapshot with words. A good vignette is short, to the point, and packed with emotions.

Preparing to Write the Vignette

Step 1 Understand the purpose of a vignette.

  • In terms of length, a vignette is typically 800-1000 words. But it can be as short as a few lines or under 500 words.
  • A vignette will usually have 1-2 short scenes, moments, or impressions about a character, an idea, a theme, a setting, or an object.
  • You can use the first second, or third point of view in a vignette. But most vignettes are told in just one point of view, instead of alternating points of view. Remember you only have a short amount of space on the page for the vignette. So don’t waste valuable time confusing your reader with many points of view.
  • The vignette form can also be used by physicians to create a report on the status of a patient or a procedure. In this article, we will be focusing on a literary vignette, not a clinical vignette. [1] X Research source

Step 2 Don’t feel restricted to one structure or style in a vignette.

  • A vignette also does not require a main conflict or a resolution of a conflict. This freedom gives some vignettes an unfinished or unresolved tone. But unlike other traditional storytelling forms like the novel or the short story, a vignette does not have to tie up all the loose ends.
  • In a vignette, you are not limited by a certain genre or style. So you can combine elements of horror and romance, or you can use poetry and prose in the same vignette.
  • Feel free to use simple and minimal language, or lush, detailed prose.

Step 3 Remember the one rule of the vignette:

  • A vignette can also come in the form of a blog entry or even a Twitter post.
  • Usually, shorter vignettes are more difficult to write, as you need to create an atmosphere in very few words and evoke a reaction from your reader.

Step 4 Read examples of vignettes.

  • The publication Vine Leaves Journal publishes vignettes, both short and long. One of the submissions from their first issue is a two-line vignette by the poet Patricia Ranzoni, called “Flashback”: “ the softness from dialing the phone/is like lifting the lid to my music box. ”
  • Charles Dickens uses longer vignettes or “sketches” in his novel “Sketches by Boz” to explore London scenes and people. [2] X Research source
  • The writer Sandra Cisneros has a collection of vignettes called “The House on Mango Street”, narrated by a young Latina girl living in Chicago.

Step 5 Analyze the examples.

  • For example, the two-line vignette by the poet Patricia Ranzoni is a successful piece because it is both simple and complex. Simple in that it describes the feeling you might get as you dial the number of someone you are excited to talk to. But complex in that the vignette ties the excitement of dialing a number to the excitement of lifting a music box. So the vignette combines two images to create one emotion. It also uses “softness” to describe dialing the phone, which also connects to the softness of the lining of a music box, or the soft music that plays from a music box. With just two lines, the vignette effectively creates a certain mood for the reader.
  • In Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street”, there is a vignette called “Boys & Girls”. It is a longer vignette, four paragraphs long, or around 1,000 words. But it sums up the young narrator’s emotion towards the boys and girls in her neighborhood, as well as her relationship with her sister, Nenny.
Someday I will have a best friend all my own. One I can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them. Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.
  • The image of a “balloon tied to an anchor” adds color and texture to the vignette. The narrator’s feeling of being weighed down by her sister is perfectly summed up by the last image. So the reader is left with the feeling of being held down or tethered to someone, just like the narrator.

Brainstorming Ideas for the Vignette

Step 1 Create an association diagram.

  • Take out a sheet of paper. Write your main topic or subject in the middle of the paper. For example, “Spring”.
  • Moving out from the center, write down other words that pop into your mind that relate to “Spring”.
  • For example, for “Spring”, you might write “flowers”, “rain”, “Spring break”, “new life”. Don’t worry about organizing the words as you write. Simply let the words flow around the main topic.
  • Once you feel you have written enough words around the main topic, start to cluster the words. Draw a circle around words that relate to each other and draw a line between the circled words to connect them. Continue doing this with the other words. Some of the terms may end up uncircled, but these lone words can still be useful.
  • Focus on how the words relate to the main topic. If you have clustered together several words that relate to “new life”, for example, maybe this may be a good approach for the vignette. Or if there are a lot of clustered words that focus on “flowers", this may be another way to approach “Spring.”
  • Answer questions like: “I was surprised by…” or “I discovered…” For example, you may look over the clustered words and note “I was surprised by how often I mention my mother in relation to Spring.” Or, “I discovered I may want to write about how Spring means new life.”

Step 2 Do a free-write.

  • Take out a piece of paper, or open a new document on your computer. Write the main topic at the top of the paper. Then, set a time limit of 10 minutes and start the free-write. [4] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
  • A good rule of thumb for the free-write is to not lift your pen from the paper, or your fingers from the keyboard. This means not re-reading the sentences you just wrote or going back over a line for spelling, grammar, or punctuation. If you feel you have run out of things to write down, write about your frustrations about not having anything else to say about the main topic.
  • Stop writing once the timer is up. Read over the text. Though there may be some confusing or convoluted thoughts, there will also be sentences you may like or an insight that may be useful.
  • Highlight or underline sentences or phrases you think may work in the vignette.

Step 3 Ask the six big questions.

  • Respond to each question with a phrase or sentence. For example, if your topic is “Spring”, you may answer Who? with “my mother and I in the garden”. You may answer When? with “A hot summer day in July when I was six years old.” You may answer Where? with “Miami, Florida.” You may answer Why? with “Because it was one of the happiest moments of my life.” And you may answer How? with “I was alone with my mother in the garden, without my sisters.”
  • Look over your responses. Do you have more than one or two phrases for a certain question? Is there one question you had no answer for? If your answers reveal you know more about “where” and “why”, maybe this is where the strongest ideas for the vignette are.

Writing the Vignette

Step 1 Decide on the style of the vignette.

  • For example, a vignette about “Spring” could describe a scene in the garden with your mother, among the flowers and trees. Or it could be in the form of a letter to your mother about that day in Spring, among the flowers and trees.

Step 2 Add sensory details.

  • You can also add figurative language to strengthen the vignette, such as similes, metaphors, alliteration, and personification. But use these sparingly and only when you feel like a simile or metaphor will highlight the rest of the vignette. [6] X Research source
  • For example, the use of the red balloon attached to an anchor in Cisneros’ “Boys & Girls” is an effective use of figurative language. But it works well because the rest of the vignette uses simple language, so the image at the end of the vignette lingers with the reader.

Step 3 Condense the vignette.

  • Look over the first two lines of the vignette. Does the vignette begin at the right moment? Is there a sense of urgency in the first two lines?
  • Make sure your characters collide with each other very early in the vignette. See if you can edit the vignette so you set a scene in the least words possible.

Vignette Help

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  • ↑ https://www.acponline.org/education_recertification/education/program_directors/abstracts/prepare/clinvin_abs.htm
  • ↑ http://www.gutenberg.org/files/882/882-h/882-h.htm
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/brainstorming/
  • ↑ https://www.writerswrite.co.za/how-to-write-a-vignette/

About This Article

Gerald Posner

A vignette is a short piece of writing usually no more than 800 to 1000 words long. It focuses on a specific theme, such as spring or a garden, and can take different forms, including a letter or short story. Your vignette can concentrate on anything you like, whether it's an object, person, or a mood, like happiness or mourning. Vignettes are usually very descriptive, so you should try to use all of your senses when talking about something when you're writing one. Avoid including too much context or the back story about a character, since your vignette should create an atmosphere in the present moment it's focused on. Your vignette should also feel urgent when it's read through, so leave out unnecessary details or information that doesn't contribute to its main theme. For tips on how to plan out a structure for your vignette, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Definition and Examples of Vignettes in Prose

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition , a  vignette is a verbal sketch—a brief essay  or story or any carefully crafted short work of prose . Sometimes called a slice of life .

A vignette may be either fiction or  nonfiction , either a piece that's complete in itself or one part of a larger work.

In their book  Studying Children in Context (1998), M. Elizabeth Graue and Daniel J. Walsh characterize vignettes as "crystallizations that are developed for retelling." Vignettes, they say, "put ideas in concrete context , allowing us to see how abstract notions play out in lived experience."  

The term vignette ( adapted from a word in Middle French meaning "vine") referred originally to a decorative design used in books and manuscripts. The term gained its literary sense in the late 19th century.

See Examples and Observations below. Also, see:

  • Character (Genre)  and  Character Sketch
  • Composing a Character Sketch
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Description
  • How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph

Examples of Vignettes

  • "By the Railway Side" by Alice Meynell
  • Eudora Welty's Sketch of Miss Duling
  • Evan S. Connell's Narrative Sketch of Mrs. Bridge
  • Harry Crews' Sketch of His Stepfather
  • Hemingway's Use of Repetition
  • "My Home of Yesteryear": A Student's Descriptive Essay

Examples and Observations

  • Composing Vignettes - "There are no hard-and-fast guidelines for writing a vignette , though some may prescribe that the content should contain sufficient descriptive detail , analytic commentary, critical or evaluative perspectives, and so forth. But literary writing is a creative enterprise, and the vignette offers the researcher an opportunity to venture away from traditional scholarly discourse and into evocative prose that remains firmly rooted in the data but is not a slave to it." (Matthew B. Miles, A. Michael Huberman, and Johnny Saldana,  Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook , 3rd ed. Sage, 2014) - "If one is writing a vignette  about a dearly beloved Volkswagen, one will probably play down the general characteristics which it shares with all VW's and focus instead on its peculiarities—the way it coughs on cold mornings, the time it climbed an icy hill when all the other cars had stalled, etc." (Noretta Koertge, "Rational Reconstructions." Essays in Memory of Imre Lakatos , ed. by Robert S. Cohen et al. Springer, 1976)
  • E.B. White's Vignettes "[In his early 'casuals' for The New Yorker magazine] E.B. White focused on an unobserved tableau or vignette : a janitor polishing a fireplug with liquid from a Gordon's Gin bottle, an unemployed man idling on the street, an old drunk on the subway, noises of New York City, a fantasy drawn from elements observed from an apartment window. As he wrote to his brother Stanley, these were 'the small things of the day,' 'the trivial matters of the heart,' 'the inconsequential but near things of this living,' the 'little capsule[s] of truth' continually important as the subtext of White's writing. "The 'faint squeak of mortality' he listened for sounded particularly in the casuals in which White used himself as a central character. The persona varies from piece to piece, but usually the first-person narrator is someone struggling with embarrassment or confusion over trivial events." (Robert L. Root, Jr., E.B. White: The Emergence of an Essayist . University of Iowa Press, 1999)
  • An  E.B. White  Vignette on Railroads "The strong streak of insanity in railroads, which accounts for a child's instinctive feeling for them and for a man's unashamed devotion to them, is congenital; there seems to be no reason to fear that any disturbing improvement in the railroads' condition will set in. Lying at peace but awake in a Pullman berth all one hot night recently, we followed with dreamy satisfaction the familiar symphony of the cars—the diner departing ( furioso ) at midnight, the long, fever-laden silences between runs, the timeless gossip of rail and wheel during the runs, the crescendos and diminuendos, the piffling poop-pooping of the diesel's horn. For the most part, railroading is unchanged from our childhood. The water in which one washes one's face at morn is still without any real wetness, the little ladder leading to the upper is still the symbol of the tremendous adventure of the night, the green clothes hammock still sways with the curves, and there is still no foolproof place to store one's trousers. "Our journey really began several days earlier, at the ticket window of a small station in the country, when the agent showed signs of cracking under the paperwork. 'It's hard to believe,' he said, 'that after all these years I still got to write the word "Providence" in here every time I make out one of these things. Now, there's no possible conceivable way you could make this journey without going through Providence, yet the Company wants the word written in here just the same. O.K., here she goes!' He gravely wrote 'Providence' in the proper space, and we experienced anew the reassurance that rail travel is unchanged and unchanging, and that it suits our temperament perfectly—a dash of lunacy, a sense of detachment, not much speed, and no altitude whatsoever." (E.B. White, "Railroads." The Second Tree From the Corner . Harper & Row, 1954)
  • Two Vignettes by Annie Dillard: The Return of Winter and Playing Football - "It snowed and it cleared and I kicked and pounded the snow. I roamed the darkening snowy neighborhood, oblivious. I bit and crumbled on my tongue the sweet, metallic worms of ice that had formed in rows on my mittens. I took a mitten off to fetch some wool strands from my mouth. Deeper the blue shadows grew on the sidewalk snow, and longer; the blue shadows joined and spread upward from the streets like rising water. I walked wordless and unseeing, dumb and sunk in my skull, until—what was that? "The streetlights had come on—yellow, bing—and the new light woke me like noise. I surfaced once again and saw: it was winter now, winter again. The air had grown blue dark; the skies were shrinking; the streetlights had come on; and I was here outside in the dimming day's snow, alive." - "Some boys taught me to play football. This was fine sport. You thought up a new strategy for every play and whispered it to the others. You went out for a pass, fooling everyone. Best, you got to throw yourself mightily at someone’s running legs. Either you brought him down or you hit the ground flat out on your chin, with your arms empty before you. It was all or nothing. If you hesitated in fear, you would miss and get hurt: you would take a hard fall while the kid got away. But if you flung yourself wholeheartedly at the back of his knees—if you gathered and joined body and soul and pointed them diving fearlessly—then you likely wouldn’t get hurt, and you’d stop the ball. Your fate, and your team’s score, depended on your concentration and courage. Nothing girls did could compare with it." (Annie Dillard, An American Childhood . Harper & Row, 1987)
  • A Hemingway Vignette on a Matador's Death "Maera lay still, his head on his arms, his face in the sand. He felt warm and sticky from the bleeding. Each time he felt the horn coming. Sometimes the bull only bumped him with his head. Once the horn went all the way through him and he felt it go into the sand. Some one had the bull by the tail. They were swearing at him and flopping the cape in his face. Then the bull was gone. Some men picked Maera up and started to run with him toward the barriers through the gate out the passageway around under the grandstand to the infirmary. They laid Maera down on a cot and one of the men went out for the doctor. The others stood around. The doctor came running from the corral where he had been sewing up picador horses. He had to stop and wash his hands. There was a great shouting going on in the grandstand overhead. Maera felt everything getting larger and larger and then smaller and smaller. Then it got larger and larger and larger and then smaller and smaller. Then everything commenced to run faster and faster as when they speed up a cinematograph film. Then he was dead." (Ernest Hemingway, Chapter 14 of In Our Time . Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925)​

Pronunciation: vin-YET

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What is a Vignette? || Oregon State Guide to Literary Terms

"what is a vignette": a literary guide for english students and teachers.

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"What is a Vignette?" Transcript (English Subtitles Available in Video)

By Kristin Griffin , Oregon State Creative Writing Senior Lecturer

If you’ve ever been to a natural history museum, you’ll know that a big part of the experience are the dioramas. From one gallery to the next you might happen upon a herd of zebras milling around a watering hole in the African bush, or a pack of wolves frozen mid-hunt in the snowy Siberian woods. These dioramas—these highly detailed, thoughtfully composed moments in time—are vignettes.

wolf_diarama.jpg

Diarama as Vignette

  Another place you’re likely to find a vignette or two? Wes Anderson movies. There’s a great example in ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,’ where we’re shown a cross section of the research vessel Belafonte where much of the movie takes place. The camera pans across different levels of the boat and we see various characters going about their business in real-time: the chef icing a cake in the kitchen, the female lead taking notes in the library, the male lead fishing from the bridge. The sequence doesn’t move the plot forward—it’s not active in that way—but it’s beautiful to watch and enhances the sensory experience of the film.

life_aquatic_vignette.jpg

Life Aquatic Vignette Example

  These two examples—the natural history museum diorama, the Belafonte sequence—show us a lot about what a vignette is and its purpose in storytelling. In literary terms, a vignette is a short, descriptive passage that captures a moment in time. It can enhance a mood , develop a character, or describe a setting , but one thing a vignette doesn’t do is move along a plot. It’s no accident that the term vignette comes from a French word meaning “little vine,” referencing the vine-like illustrations that decorated the margins of old books.   Vignettes can differ from, say, a flashback (which we explored in another literary terms video recorded by someone you might recognize) because flashbacks are solely about taking a reader into the past, whereas vignettes can occur anytime.   Vignettes also differ from anecdotes in that anecdotes, while short too, are complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end whereas the most you’ll ever get from a vignette is a glimpse.

vignette_definition.jpg

Vignette Definition

  You’ll notice that vignettes are everywhere once you know what to look for. One of my favorite examples is Sandra Cisneros’ book The House on Mango Street . It’s a novel-length work composed of a series of non-linear vignettes that consider common themes , familiar characters, and recognizable settings. Here’s a vignette I love from early on in the book. Page six. It’s called ‘Hairs’:   “Everybody in our family has different hair. My papa’s hair is like a broom, all up in the air. And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys barrettes or bands. Carlos’ hair is thick and straight. He doesn’t need to comb it. Nenny’s hair is slippery – slides out of your hand. And Kiki, who is youngest, has hair like fur.   But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring. The snoring, the rain, and Mama’s hair that smells like bread.”

cisneros_vignette.jpg

House on Mango Street Vignette Example

  This vignette does so much work to characterize the family as a unit and as individuals. Things come to Carlos. Nenny is exasperating. Little Kiki is soft and young. The speaker’s hair has a mind of its own. A little lazy, perhaps, a little disobedient. The narrator doesn’t seem sure. That makes sense, because the overarching movement of the book is around her coming to understand herself. And then there’s that beautiful, lush, almost stream-of-consciousness passage about her mother where the short sentences in the first paragraph break open into something looser. Her mother’s hair is “like little rosettes,” the speaker says. “Like little candy circles.” Sweetness and delight. The center of the family with a paragraph all to herself.   Remember, a little earlier in this video, when I said that vignettes can enhance a mood, develop a character, or describe a setting? It’s clear in the vignette I just discussed that it develops characters, but does it reveal aspects of mood or setting too? What do you think? Let me know in the comments section of the video.

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Literary Devices

Literary devices, terms, and elements, definition of vignette.

In literature, a vignette is a short scene that focuses on one moment that is especially powerful or significant. Vignette examples can be found in plays, poems, and novels. Though vignettes are brief, they often carry proportionately more emotion since the author has chosen that brief moment to highlight for some important reason.

The word vignette comes from the French word vigne for vineyard; the diminutive form “ vignette ” means “a little vine.” The original definition of vignette referred to the sketch at the beginning of a book which summed up the narrative to come; the sketch was usually surrounded by small vines of ivy. Later, the term that only was applied for literal pictures of vines came to mean any small scene in the written word as well.

Common Examples of Vignette

There are some filmmakers who use the technique of vignette to build an entire film, such as in the following examples:

  • “Short Cuts” Robert Altman
  • “Magnolia” by Paul Thomas Anderson
  • “Go” by Doug Liman
  • “Babel” by Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • “Paris, je t’aime” by 22 directors (a group of 18 different vignettes set in different arrondissements, each of which is directed by a different director)

Many blog posts are modern examples of vignettes, as they reveal a short, important scene in the writer’s life. Other forms of social media also encourage very short scenes, such as videos on Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine. Even media creators such as venerable news organizations feel the pressure to edit their videos down as much as possible to get to the very crux of the matter. Viral videos are often vignettes that are funny or dramatic and thus produce an emotional reaction in the viewer in very little time.

Significance of Vignette in Literature

Vignette examples have become more common in literature over time. Whereas in the past there was a more strict adherence to plot structure, with every scene written in a linear way chronologically, modern and post-modern literature has experimented with different ways of putting a story together. Vignettes are especially popular in television and film, especially to show flashback examples or concurrent scenes. In this multimedia era, literature continues to influence and be influenced by moving images and techniques in film. Examples of vignettes are especially common in post-modern theater.

Examples of Vignette in Literature

Master Brunny Lynam ran across the road and put Father Conmee’s letter to father provincial into the mouth of the bright red letterbox, Father Conmee smiled and nodded and smiled and walked along Mountjoy square east. Mr Denis J. Maginni, professor of dancing, &c., in silk hat, slate frockcoat with silk facings, white kerchief tie, tight lavender trousers, canary gloves and pointed patent boots, walking with grave deportment most respectfully took the curbstone as he passed lady Maxwell at the corner of Dignam’s court. Was that not Mrs M’Guinness? Mrs M’Guinness, stately, silverhaired, bowed to Father Conmee from the farther footpath along which she smiled. And Father Conmee smiled and saluted. How did she do?

( Ulysses by James Joyce)

In Episode 10 of James Joyce’s Ulysses , “The Wandering Rocks,” there are many interweaving episodes of citizens of Dublin walking its streets and meeting each other. Each small bit functions as an example of a vignette.

Where do you live? she asked. There, I said pointing up to the third floor. You live there? There. I had to look to where she pointed—the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall out. You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded. I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.

( The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros)

Sandra Cisneros is famous for her novel The House on Mango Street , which is written entirely of vignette examples. Every chapter presents a new vignette that adds on to the information and characterization that the reader has already seen. Therefore, there is no plot in the traditional sense, but instead a new way of building momentum revolving around small, relatively unrelated scenes.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre. But when the bath was filled we found a fur, A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache. The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour. I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot. Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

(“Blackberry Picking” by Seamus Heaney)

This is an example of a vignette in a poem. It was common for poets to choose one small scene to illustrate a broader and more abstract idea. In this case, Seamus Heaney writes a stanza that is grounded in visceral details, and yet hints at a greater meaning about the ephemerality of all things.

In the first week of April, before Lavender died, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross received a good-luck charm from Martha. It was a simple pebble, an ounce at most. Smooth to the touch, it was a milky white color with flecks of orange and violet, oval-shaped, like a miniature egg. In the accompanying letter, Martha wrote that she had found the pebble on the Jersey shoreline, precisely where the land touched water at high tide, where things came together but also separated. It was this separate-but-together quality, she wrote, that had inspired her to pick up the pebble and to carry it in her breast pocket for several days, where it seemed weightless, and then to send it through the mail, by air, as a token of her truest feelings for him. Lieutenant Cross found this romantic. But he wondered what her truest feelings were, exactly, and what she meant by separate-but-together.

( The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien)

Tim O’Brien’s collection of short stories shares a name with the first story of the book, “The Things They Carried.” This story contains many concrete examples of things that men in Vietnam carried with them during the Vietnam War. The list of things that O’Brien presents is surrounded with short vignettes showing the importance of some of the more sentimental objects they carried.

“Apparently wizards poke their noses in everywhere!” said Petunia, now as pale as she had been flushed. “Freak!” she spat at her sister, and she flounced off to where her parents stood. . . The scene dissolved again. Snape was hurrying along the corridor of the Hogwarts Express as it clattered through the countryside. He had already changed into his school robes, had perhaps taken the first opportunity to take off his dreadful Muggle clothes. At last he stopped, outside a compartment in which a group of rowdy boys were talking. Hunched in a corner seat beside the window was Lily, her face pressed against the windowpane. Snape slid open the compartment door and sat down opposite Lily. She glanced at him and then looked back out of the window. She had been crying.

( Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling)

One of the magical devices in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is called a “pensieve,” in which someone can look into another person’s memory. At the end of the final book, Harry is able to collect a series of memories from his arch- nemesis , Professor Snape. These vignette examples last only a few moments, but construct a different narrative of Snape’s life than Harry had previously known.

Test Your Knowledge of Vignette

1. Which of the following statements is the best vignette definition? A. A subplot in a novel. B. A brief but significant scene. C. A poetic form with nineteen lines with two refrains and two repeating rhymes in a standardized way.

2. Why was the word vignette adopted as a literary device? A. There was a famous old fable in which a vine killed a character, and that scene was so memorable that “vignette” came to mean any short, emotional scene. B. Modern filmmakers often show short scenes, and this technique was picked up by authors. C. In older books there were often small illustrations at the beginning of the book of the upcoming narrative surrounded by small vines of ivy; vignette came to refer to short scenes as well.

3. Which of the following situations would qualify as an example of vignette? A. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter looks into a pensieve and sees a short scene of something that happened in the past. B. Tim O’Brien’s narrator meditates on the horrors of war in an abstract way. C. Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, which presents a full narrative, with rising action and falling action, about the exploits of the Old English hero Beowulf.

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When & How to Write a Vignette

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  • When & How to Write a Vignette

How to Write a Vignette

A vignette is used to add depth and understanding to something in a story. Its language should be descriptive and detailed about whatever it is focusing on, whether it is a person, place, thing, or idea. It can be a very useful device for providing insight about a person in a story. For example, a vignette can express:

  • a character’s memory about something, or
  • a flashback to a moment or time in his life, which in turn helps to shed light on his overall life
  • it could also describe the character physically or emotionally to help develop the reader’s idea of his personality and behavior.
  • the same details can be expressed about a story’s setting to help readers feel more familiar with the character’s surroundings.

Basically, a vignette can be used to describe anything at anytime, so long as it is relevant to an overall story. For example, a vignette about the flavor of a secret vanilla frosting recipe would be a great piece of a story about a baker, but, on its own, it would be irrelevant, because we wouldn’t know that it was a secret.

When to Use a Vignette

Vignettes are used when an author wants to share details about certain aspects of a story. So, vignettes are most valuable in creative writing (both fiction and nonfiction), because they are devices that are descriptive and artistic in nature. As mentioned, a vignette does not exist independently; it is a small part of a bigger picture. It only makes sense when it’s in the context of the overall story. It can be a scene in a play, a stanza in a poem, a paragraph, or even a whole chapter of a book or short story within a book—vignettes can take any short form within a larger work. Furthermore, a book can also hold a series of vignettes (in the form of short stories or narratives ) that all have a common focus or element, and together make up a portrait or larger story, as in Sandra Cisneros’s book The House on Mango Street (see “Examples of Vignette in Literature”).

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What Is a Vignette? Definition, Usage, and Literary Examples

Vignette definition.

A  vignette  (vin-nyet) is a short, descriptive literary passage that conveys an impression about a character,  setting , object, or  mood . Vignettes contain neither  plot  nor full  narrative  description; instead, they are carefully composed verbal sketches that generally occur within a larger work. Vignettes can be found in any literary work, including  poems  and  plays , films, television shows, and journalism.

The word  vignette  comes from French via the Old French diminutive of  vigne , “vineyard.” The English term first appeared in 1751 and referred to a type of “decorative design,” originally an illustration of vine tendrils twined around the boarders of a book page. By 1852,  vignette  referred to a type of small photographic portrait with blurred edges. Only in 1880 did it finally take on its current meaning, “literary sketch.”

The Narrative Purpose of a Vignette

Writers use vignettes to step away from a larger story and zoom in on a brief, vivid description. The conciseness of the vignette allows the author to convey a strong impression or observation about an idea, a setting, a character, a moment, and/or an object. Vignettes can also amplify symbolism or add additional weight to themes explored within a larger piece, which helps keeps readers engaged.

Vignettes do not tend to advance a literary narrative as much as emphasize the author’s artistry. As they are brief descriptive passages, vignettes tend to create meaning through  imagery . They do not generally include any action that advances a plot.

Vignettes are also frequently used to heighten  characterization . Authors may use vignettes to deepen readers’ understanding of an individual character by focusing on them in a brief verbal sketch. The descriptive nature of vignettes also means they convey a strong sense of setting.

Vignettes, Flash Fiction, and Short Stories

Vignettes are sometimes confused with flash fiction and short stories, but these literary forms are not interchangeable. Short stories and flash fiction are both self-contained literary narratives that follow a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Vignettes do not have a story arc, nor must they adhere to any pattern of narrative structure. Instead, vignettes are descriptive short scenes within a bigger story that provide greater  context  for other narrative elements. Additionally, short stories and flash fiction frequently include the passage of time, while a vignette tends to describe a single moment in time.

Vignettes in Pop Culture

Vignettes are commonly used in television shows, such as the Netflix shows  Orange is the New Black  and  Easy  or Showtime’s  High Maintenance.

Orange is the New Black  uses vignettes to enhance characterization. These vignettes, often flashbacks, illustrate scenes from the prisoners’ lives and flesh out their personalities and situations. Although the vignettes generally focus on recurring characters, occasionally they allow audiences to experience a sense of closure when saying goodbye to a departing favorite. For instance, when the character of Poussey Washington was killed in Season Four, the episode ended with a flashback showing a night when Poussey was still alive, free, and exploring New York City. That vignette, and the episode itself, ends with Poussey smiling, thus allowing viewers shocked by her brutal murder to process their emotions less painfully.

Vignettes are also an element of many feature films, particularly independent films that can experiment more with narrative structure. Movies such as  Go, Night on Earth, Amores Perros, Cloud Atlas, Magnolia,  or  Short Cuts  eschew a traditional story arc in favor of linking together a series of vignettes, often with reappearing characters.

Examples of Vignettes in Literature

1. Sandra Cisneros,  The House on Mango Street

This famous novel is composed of 44 vignettes narrated by the protagonist, Esperanza. Each vignette tells her life story through isolated moments or brief descriptions of a character, experience, or situation. For instance, in “Born Bad,” Esperanza describes her aunt Lupe:

Her name was Guadalupe and she was pretty like my mother. Dark. Good to look at. In her Joan Crawford dress and swimmer’s legs. Aunt Lupe of the photographs.

This vignette adds to readers’ understanding of both Guadalupe and Esperanza. They can see Guadalupe clearly through the  imagery . Additionally, the use of sentence fragments and the reference to actress Joan Crawford give greater insight into Esperanza as a person.

2. James Joyce,  Ulysses

In the section “The Wandering Rocks” from Joyce’s classic experimental novel, various minor characters wander the streets and encounter each other:

Master Brunny Lynam ran across the road and put Father Conmee’s letter to father provincial into the mouth of the bright red letterbox. Father Conmee smiled and nodded and smiled and walked along Mountjoy square east.
Mr Denis J Maginni, professor of dancing, &c., in silk hat, slate frockcoat with silk facings, white kerchief tie, tight lavender trousers, canary gloves and pointed patent boots, walking with grave deportment most respectfully took the curbstone as he passed lady Maxwell at the corner of Dignam’s court.

Each of these moments is a vignette, describing a different inhabitant of Dublin as they go about their daily lives.

3. Li-Young Lee, “Early in the Morning”

In this  poem , Lee describes a brief scene from his parents’ marriage:

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame…
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher’s ink.

This vignette uses vivid visual, auditory, and tactile imagery to describe the brief moment of Lee’s mother brushing her hair while his father watches.

Further Resources on Vignettes

GoodReads has a  wonderful list  of books written in vignette.

Writers’ Relief  has a brief guide for how to write a vignette.

Gotham Writers  has a concise and useful exploration of the differences between a vignette and a short story.

Related Terms

vignette definition creative writing

Definition of Vignette Vignette is a small impressionistic scene, an example, a descriptive passage, a short essay, a fiction or nonfiction work that specialize in one particular moment; or giving an impression about an idea, person, putting, mood, aspect, or object. Vignette is neither a plot nor a complete narrative description, but a carefully crafted verbal sketch that could be a part of a few larger work, or a entire description in itself. Literally, vignette is a French word that means “little vine.” The printers, all through the nineteenth-century, would enhance their identify pages with drawings of looping vines. Hence, the derivation of this term is that supply of drawings. Contemporary ideas from the scenes shown in tv and movie scripts also have stimulated vignettes. Examples of Vignette in Literature Example #1: In Our Time (By Ernest Hemingway) “Maera lay still, his head on his arms, his face inside the sand. He felt heat and sticky from the bleeding. Each time he felt the horn coming. Sometimes the bull simplest bumped him along with his head. Once the horn went all the manner thru him and he felt it move into the sand … Maera felt the whole lot getting large and large and then smaller and smaller. Then it were given larger and larger and large after which smaller and smaller. Then the whole thing started to run quicker and faster as when they speed up a cinematograph film. Then he become dead.” In this impressionistic sketch, the author gives an illustration of the character Maera, who's a bullfighter that dies from injures inflicted by way of a bull. Example #2: An American Childhood (By Annie Dillard) “Some boys taught me to play football. This changed into nice sport. You thought up a new approach for each play and whispered it to the others. You went out for a pass, fooling everyone. Best, you acquire to throw yourself mightily at someone’s strolling legs … In winter, inside the snow, there was neither baseball nor soccer, so the lads and I threw snowballs at passing cars. I were given in hassle throwing snowballs, and have seldom been happier since.” In this excerpt, Dillard has used her private studies while growing up in Pittsburgh, and describes the character of American life. In this specific scene, she tells us how she found out to play soccer with the lads, and imparting this incident of her teenage years. Example #3: Railroads (By E. B. White) “The sturdy streak of insanity in railroads, which money owed for a child’s instinctive feeling for them and for a man’s unashamed devotion to them, is congenital; there appears to be no motive to fear that any demanding improvement in the railroads’ condition will set in … He gravely wrote ‘Providence’ inside the proper space, and we experienced anew the assurance that rail travel is unchanged and unchanging, and that it suits our temperament perfectly – a sprint of lunacy, a sense of detachment, not a great deal speed, and no altitude whatsoever.” In this descriptive passage, White laments the bad condition of the passenger train industry within the nation of Main, his home country, and worries for the future. He softens his complaints by way of going into past recollections whilst he would ride as an adult. Example #4: House on Mango Street (By Sandra Cisneros) “Then Uncle Nacho is pulling and pulling my arm and it doesn’t remember how new the dress Mama bought is because my ft are ugly until my uncle who's a liar says, “You are the prettiest woman here, will you dance … My uncle and me bow and he walks me returned in my thick footwear to my mother who's proud to be my mother. All night the boy who is a man watches me dance. He watched me dance.” This whole story provides us a group of vignettes. There are several passages with designated descriptions about specific ideas or characters, which include this extract illustrating a dancing scene. Function of Vignette We frequently locate vignettes in creative writing, because it presents description to acquire a creative effect. However, we also see its utilization in prose and poetry. Writers use this device to discover a character, and describe the setting of a scene. Vignettes deliver deeper information of texts, as writers densely % them with imagery and symbolism. Besides, it will increase writers’ language proficiency, as they use their language to its fullest through using imagery to set a certain colour and mood. Hence, the nature of vignettes is evocative and places an effect on the senses of readers.

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What is a Vignette in Writing? Examples, Definitions, and How to Create Them

What is a Vignette in Writing

A v ign ette is a  short descriptive narrative , usually humorous in tone , that paints a vivid picture of a scene , character , or situation . Common ly used in creative writing and journalism , v ign ettes can also be used to provide background information or set up a context for a story . Some examples are “ The old general store filled with dusty jars and rusty tools ,” or “ The couple danced in the moon light , laughing and singing “. Some examples from famous books are the opening of A Christmas Carol , or the start of The Great Gatsby .

The Essence of Vignettes

Vignettes can be compared to a scrumptious bite of chocolate cake. They may be small, but they pack a flavorful punch. Each little piece offers a snapshot of a larger world, engaging readers and capturing their imaginations. While these tasty morsels may not be as filling as a full-length novel, they can provide a satisfying literary experience.

The Purpose and Use of Vignettes

Vignettes are versatile tools that can serve a variety of purposes in writing. They can:

  • Set the stage : By providing a glimpse into the setting, a vignette can draw readers into the story and make them feel as though they’re right there, experiencing the world with the characters.
  • Character exploration : A vignette can offer insight into a character’s personality or backstory, allowing readers to connect with them on a deeper level.
  • Create atmosphere : By focusing on the sensory details of a scene, a vignette can evoke a specific mood or atmosphere, immersing readers in the story’s world.
  • Break up long narratives : In longer works, vignettes can serve as breaks between chapters or sections, giving readers a moment to pause and absorb the story so far.

Vignette Writing Tips

Crafting a vignette that captivates readers is no piece of cake, but with a few simple tips, writers can create vivid, engaging snapshots that leave readers craving more.

  • Keep it short : Vignettes are meant to be brief, so avoid the temptation to ramble on. Aim for a few paragraphs or even just a single paragraph, depending on the desired effect.
  • Focus on details : To make a scene come alive, hone in on specific sensory details. Describe sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures to create a rich, immersive experience.
  • Show, don’t tell : Instead of simply stating information, use descriptive language and action to illustrate a scene or character.
  • Embrace ambiguity : Vignettes often leave readers with unanswered questions, sparking their curiosity and encouraging them to imagine the rest of the story.

Examples of Vignettes in Literature

A christmas carol.

In Charles Dickens’ classic tale, the opening vignette sets the stage for the story that follows:

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”

This vignette introduces readers to the gloomy atmosphere and the cold-hearted character of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel opens with a vignette that offers a glimpse into the narrator’s mindset:

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'”

By sharing this personal reflection, the vignette sets the tone for the themes of wealth, class, and privilege that permeate the novel.

Crafting Your Own Vignettes

Ready to take a stab at creating a delectable vignette? Here’s a step-by-step recipe to get started:

  • Choose a subject: Decide on a character, setting, or situation to explore.
  • Focus on the senses: Identify specific details that bring the subject to life.
  • Write the scene: Begin crafting the vignette, incorporating the sensory details and focusing on showing, not telling. 4. Edit and refine: Review the vignette and make any necessary revisions to sharpen the imagery, tighten the language, and ensure it meets the desired length.

With practice and patience, the art of crafting delightful vignettes will become second nature. These bite-sized snapshots can add depth and intrigue to any story, making them invaluable tools for writers of all genres. So go ahead, indulge in some literary chocolate cake, and watch as readers savor every last morsel.

If you’re thirsty for more writing knowledge, head over here to  learn all 74 literary devices .

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Definition of Vignette

Vignette is a small impressionistic scene, an illustration, a descriptive passage, a short essay , a fiction or nonfiction work focusing on one particular moment; or giving an impression about an idea, character , setting , mood , aspect, or object. Vignette is neither a plot nor a full narrative description, but a carefully crafted verbal sketch that might be part of some larger work, or a complete description in itself.

Literally, vignette is a French word that means “little vine.” The printers, during the nineteenth-century, would decorate their title pages with drawings of looping vines. Hence, the derivation of this term is that source of drawings. Contemporary ideas from the scenes shown in television and film scripts also have influenced vignettes.

Examples of Vignette in Literature

Example #1: in our time (by ernest hemingway).

“Maera lay still, his head on his arms, his face in the sand. He felt warm and sticky from the bleeding. Each time he felt the horn coming. Sometimes the bull only bumped him with his head. Once the horn went all the way through him and he felt it go into the sand … Maera felt everything getting larger and larger and then smaller and smaller. Then it got larger and larger and larger and then smaller and smaller. Then everything commenced to run faster and faster as when they speed up a cinematograph film. Then he was dead.”

In this impressionistic sketch, the author gives an illustration of the character Maera, who is a bullfighter that dies from injures inflicted by a bull.

Example #2: An American Childhood (By Annie Dillard)

“Some boys taught me to play football. This was fine sport. You thought up a new strategy for every play and whispered it to the others. You went out for a pass, fooling everyone. Best, you got to throw yourself mightily at someone’s running legs … In winter, in the snow, there was neither baseball nor football, so the boys and I threw snowballs at passing cars. I got in trouble throwing snowballs, and have seldom been happier since.”

In this excerpt, Dillard has used her personal experiences while growing up in Pittsburgh, and describes the nature of American life. In this particular scene, she tells us how she learned to play football with the boys, and offering this incident of her teenage years.

Example #3: Railroads (By E. B. White)

“The strong streak of insanity in railroads, which accounts for a child’s instinctive feeling for them and for a man’s unashamed devotion to them, is congenital; there seems to be no reason to fear that any disturbing improvement in the railroads’ condition will set in … He gravely wrote ‘Providence’ in the proper space, and we experienced anew the reassurance that rail travel is unchanged and unchanging, and that it suits our temperament perfectly – a dash of lunacy, a sense of detachment, not much speed, and no altitude whatsoever.”

In this descriptive passage, White laments the bad condition of the passenger train industry in the state of Main, his home state, and worries for the future. He softens his complaints by going into past memories when he would ride as an adult.

Example #4: House on Mango Street (By Sandra Cisneros)

“Then Uncle Nacho is pulling and pulling my arm and it doesn’t matter how new the dress Mama bought is because my feet are ugly until my uncle who is a liar says, “You are the prettiest girl here, will you dance … My uncle and me bow and he walks me back in my thick shoes to my mother who is proud to be my mother. All night the boy who is a man watches me dance. He watched me dance.”

This whole story provides us a collection of vignettes. There are several passages with detailed descriptions about particular ideas or characters, such as this extract illustrating a dancing scene.

Function of Vignette

We often find vignettes in creative writing, as it provides description to achieve an artistic effect. However, we also see its usage in prose and poetry. Writers use this device to explore a character , and describe the setting of a scene. Vignettes give deeper understanding of texts, as writers densely pack them with imagery and symbolism . Besides, it increases writers’ language proficiency, as they use their language to its fullest by employing imagery to set a certain color and mood . Hence, the nature of vignettes is evocative and puts an impact on the senses of readers.

Understanding Vignettes: A Comprehensive Guide

What is a vignette, why vignettes matter, how to identify a vignette, how to write a vignette.

  • Types of vignettes
  • How to use vignettes effectively
  • Vignettes in literature
  • Vignettes in photography
  • Vignettes in film
  • Examples of vignettes

If you have ever been engrossed by a short, descriptive piece of writing in a novel, captivated by a distinctive photo effect, or intrigued by a brief scene in a movie, then you've likely encountered a vignette. Perhaps you've wondered about the nature and purpose of these intriguing snippets. In this guide, we’ll shine a light on the subject and explore the fascinating world of vignettes.

The definition of a vignette can vary depending on the context. However, at its core, a vignette is a brief, vivid depiction or description. It's a snapshot—be it in words, pictures, or film—that draws you in and leaves a lasting impression. Let's break this down into more detail:

  • In literature: A vignette is a short, evocative description, account, or episode. It doesn’t necessarily follow a structured plot but focuses more on creating a specific mood or atmosphere. Authors use vignettes to give readers a quick, deep understanding of characters, settings, or situations.
  • In photography: A vignette is a small illustration or portrait photograph that fades into its background without a definite border. This effect is usually used to draw focus towards the center of the image.
  • In film: Vignettes are brief, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or character, often without much context. Filmmakers use them to provide insight into character, add depth to the narrative, or create an emotional response in the viewer.

So, whether you're reading a book, scrolling through a photo gallery, or watching a movie, you've likely come across vignettes. They might be small in size, but their impact is significant—vignettes have the power to pull you into a story, evoke emotions, and stimulate your imagination like nothing else.

In a world where we are constantly bombarded by information, the power of a well-crafted vignette cannot be overstated. Vignettes matter because—they pack a punch. They give you the chance to delve into a scene, character, or moment in time, even if it's just for a brief instance. They're like the appetizers of storytelling, giving you a taste without revealing the entire meal. Intrigued? Let's look at why vignettes are so impactful:

  • They captivate: A well-crafted vignette grabs your attention from the start. It's a break from the main narrative, a moment to spotlight something significant. It's a pause that piques your curiosity and keeps you hooked.
  • They create depth: By focusing on a specific moment, character, or scene, vignettes add layers of depth to a story. They provide insights, stir emotions, and enhance the overall narrative without needing to spell everything out.
  • They are versatile: Vignettes aren't just limited to literature. They're used in photography to draw focus, in films to highlight moments, and even in music to create mood. This versatility makes them a powerful tool across various forms of media.

So, it's no surprise that understanding the definition of vignette and its application can significantly enhance your appreciation of various forms of art and communication. As you can see, these small pieces of content pack a big punch, proving that sometimes, less really is more.

Now that we've explored why vignettes matter, the next logical question is: how do you spot one? The definition of vignette can vary slightly depending on the context, but there are a few tell-tale signs that you're looking at or reading a vignette:

  • They're short: Vignettes are like snapshots. They offer a quick, concentrated glimpse into a moment, a character, or a place. They're not full-blown stories, but rather brief, evocative slices of life.
  • They focus on a single moment: Vignettes hone in on one specific moment in time. Think of it like a close-up shot in a movie—it's all about capturing the detail and emotion of that one scene.
  • They evoke emotion: A good vignette should stir something within you. It's not just about the what, but the how. The language, the imagery, the dialogue—all of these elements work together to evoke a specific emotion or mood.

Remember, the beauty of vignettes lies in their simplicity and brevity. When you understand the definition of vignette, spotting them becomes second nature. And trust me, once you start looking for them, you'll start seeing vignettes everywhere— in your favorite films, books, and even in everyday situations!

So, you're eager to pen down your first vignette. That's fantastic! But, let's take a step back and consider the process first. Crafting a vignette that stays true to its definition isn't just about writing a quick story. It's about capturing a moment that resonates with readers and leaves a lasting impression. Here are some steps to guide you:

  • Choose a moment: Remember, a vignette is all about focusing on a specific moment. This could be something as simple as your morning coffee routine or as profound as a life-changing realization.
  • Paint a picture: Use vivid, descriptive language to bring your moment to life. You're not just telling a story, you're painting a picture with words. Think about how the moment feels, smells, sounds, and tastes.
  • Evoke emotion: Ultimately, a vignette should evoke emotion. This could be happiness, sadness, nostalgia, or any other emotion. The key is to make your readers feel something.
  • Review and refine: Writing a vignette isn't a one-and-done deal. Review your work, refine your language, and ensure that every word contributes to the overall mood and emotion you're trying to convey.

And voila! You've penned down a vignette. Remember, it's not about creating a full-fledged story with a beginning, middle, and end. It's about capturing a slice of life that feels real and evokes emotion. So, have fun with the process and let your creativity shine!

Types of Vignettes

Now that you've grasped the definition of vignette and how to write one, it's time to dive into the different types of vignettes. Just like there are many flavors of your favorite ice cream, vignettes come in various forms, each with its unique characteristics and appeal. Here are a few types you can explore:

  • Literary Vignettes: These are short descriptive sketches or stories, often part of a larger literary work. They focus on a particular moment, character, or setting, providing a glimpse into a character's life or a specific situation.
  • Photographic Vignettes: In photography, a vignette refers to the reduction of an image's brightness or saturation at its edges compared to the center. It's like a soft, shadowy border that frames the main subject of your photo.
  • Film Vignettes: These are short, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give a particular insight into a character, idea, or setting. Often, they lack a traditional plot, but are rich in themes and emotions.
  • Theatrical Vignettes: In theater, vignettes are short, standalone scenes that communicate a significant moment. They can be part of a larger performance or stand individually as a complete mini-drama.

Each type of vignette has its unique charm and purpose. Whether you're a writer, a photographer, or a filmmaker, there's a vignette style that's just right for you. So, which type will you try out first?

How to Use Vignettes Effectively

Understanding the definition of vignette is one thing, but knowing how to use it effectively in your work is another. Vignettes are powerful tools, and when used right, they can add depth and richness to your creations, be it in writing, photography, film, or theater. Here are some ways to use vignettes effectively:

  • Focus on a Single Moment: The power of a vignette lies in its ability to zoom in on a single moment, emotion, or character. Avoid trying to tell a whole story. Instead, paint a vivid picture of a particular scene or feeling.
  • Use Descriptive Language: Vignettes are all about creating a strong impression. Use metaphors, similes, and other descriptive language to make your vignette come alive and resonate with your audience.
  • Create an Emotional Impact: Vignettes can be highly emotional, giving readers or viewers a potent sense of a character's feelings or the mood of a situation. Use this to your advantage to create a lasting impact.
  • Experiment with Structure: Unlike traditional narratives, vignettes don't need to follow a set structure. Feel free to experiment with different ways of presenting your vignette - it could be a series of thoughts, a letter, a dialogue, or even a poetic description.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creating vignettes. They're like blobs of clay - you can mold them into any shape you want. So, why not give it a shot and see what beautiful creations you can come up with?

Vignettes in Literature

Ever read a book and stumbled upon a section that didn't necessarily move the plot forward but offered a deep, enriching insight into a character or setting? Well, that's a vignette for you. In literature, vignettes serve as powerful tools that help the reader understand the world the author is building. They might not be crucial to the plot, but they undoubtedly add depth and color to the story.

Let's take the example of "House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros. This book is a perfect example of a series of vignettes. Each chapter gives us a peek into different aspects of the protagonist's life, painting a vivid picture of her world.

Famous novelist Virginia Woolf also used vignettes in her work. In her book "To the Lighthouse", she uses vignettes to explore the inner thoughts and feelings of her characters, giving readers a deep understanding of their complexities.

So, you see, vignettes in literature are like puzzle pieces. Each one might seem insignificant on its own, but when you put them together, they create a beautiful, intricate picture. That's the beauty of understanding the definition of vignette.

Vignettes in Photography

If you've ever used a photo editing app, you've probably stumbled upon a feature called 'vignette'. But what exactly does it do? Well, in photography, a vignette refers to the effect where the brightness or saturation at the periphery of an image is reduced, drawing the viewer's attention to the center of the image. This is the definition of vignette in the context of photography.

Even before the digital age, photographers used this technique to add a certain artistic quality to their images. The vignette effect can be used subtly to guide the viewer's eye towards the main subject, or it can be used more dramatically to create a sense of intimacy or nostalgia.

For instance, a wedding photographer might use a vignette effect to highlight the newlyweds in a crowd. Or a wildlife photographer might use it to draw attention to a bird in flight against a busy background. As you can see, the application of vignettes in photography can be both functional and artistic.

So the next time you're flicking through filters on your phone, remember the definition of vignette. You'll see that it's not just about darkening the corners of your photos—it's about directing the viewer's gaze and adding depth to your images.

Vignettes in Film

Ever watched a movie and noticed those short, impactful scenes that seem to stand alone, yet add depth to the story? Those are vignettes. The definition of vignette in film is a brief, powerful scene within a movie that can stand on its own while adding to the overall narrative or theme.

Vignettes in film are commonly used to provide background information, deepen character development, or highlight important events. They usually focus on a single moment or character and are often separate from the main plot.

Take the movie "Pulp Fiction" by Quentin Tarantino, for example. This film is famous for its use of vignettes. Each scene stands alone, yet when pieced together, they form a complex and engaging narrative. These vignettes don't follow a linear timeline but rather jump around, making the viewing experience more dynamic and interesting.

So, when you watch a film next time, keep an eye out for these vignettes. They might just give you a deeper understanding of the characters and the story. And now that you know the definition of vignette in film context, you'll appreciate these clever storytelling techniques even more.

Examples of Vignettes

Now that we have the definition of vignette down, let's look at some examples to bring our understanding full circle. These examples come from different fields like literature, film, and photography.

In literature, "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros is a great example. This book is made up of a series of vignettes that tell the story of a young girl growing up in Chicago. Each vignette focuses on a specific event or moment, painting a vivid picture of the protagonist's life.

Remember the movie "Love Actually"? This film is a classic example of vignettes in cinema. It tells several different love stories, each one a vignette, that weave together to create a heartwarming holiday film.

And in photography, you've probably seen vignettes in many portraits, where the edges of the photo gradually darken to draw your attention to the subject in the center. That's a vignette! Instagram even has a feature that allows you to add a vignette effect to your photos.

So, vignettes are everywhere! And now that you know the definition of vignette and have seen some examples, you'll start noticing them more and more. Whether you're reading a book, watching a movie, or scrolling through Instagram, vignettes are a creative tool used to tell compelling stories.

If you enjoyed learning about vignettes and want to explore more about storytelling in the world of illustration, check out ' Storytelling In Illustration ' by Mirelle Ortega. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques on how to effectively convey a story through your illustrations, enhancing your skills as an artist.

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How I Use Vignettes to Jumpstart Students’ Narrative Writing

Often young writers aren’t ready to jump into a full story.

vignette definition creative writing

In the first months of school, we are getting to know students and determining their reading and writing skills. To assist in these endeavors, we often assign personal narratives at the start of the year.

I have found, however, that having students dive right into a full narrative is tricky. On one end of the spectrum, there are avid writers who produce twenty page novellas. On the other end, reluctant writers can be daunted by all that goes into fleshing out an entire story.

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This is why I like to start with vignettes instead. The dictionary definition of a vignette is “a brief, evocative description, account, or episode.” It is not the same as flash fiction in that it does not need to contain a clear plot. The goal of a vignette is to take a reader fully into a single moment. This can be done in prose or poetry form. It’s about creating the mood and is an awesome exercise in descriptive writing. There are many examples of vignettes in literary works. I also have students write a short explanation of what they learned from the moment to encourage more self-reflection.

vignette definition creative writing

An example of a vignette from my classroom.

In my classes we start the year by writing a series of 2–3 vignettes and putting them together in a small book. Year after year, students say that this writing assignment was one of their favorites. I hope it becomes a favorite in your classroom as well. Below are the steps I take to help students write inspiring vignettes.

STEP 1: Activate Memories

Students must first decide on moments worthy of writing about. One way to help them recall important memories is using a visualization activity . I also like to use short mentor texts and film clips to focus on different types of memories. For example, we read the excerpt from To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout gets in trouble for shaming Walter Cunningham, and then students list times they got in trouble as a kid. Or we watch the scene from The Sandlot when Squints puts the moves on Wendy Peffercorn, and then we list our childhood crushes. I try to focus on positive, fun memories, being mindful that some students have experienced traumatic events they may not be prepared to share.

STEP 2: Write With Them

Once we have a list of possible moments to write about, I have students choose one and focus in on the sensory details of the moment. They have to take us there. What were they seeing, hearing, smelling, etc in that moment? I choose a moment too and write with them. I do this to demystify the process of writing (even adults don’t write perfectly on the first try) and help them better get to know me.  

vignette definition creative writing

Another example of a revised vignette.

STEP 3: Revise for Brevity & Description

Vignettes are meant to be short , so as we move into the revision phase, these words from Thomas Jefferson become our mantra: “The most valuable of all talents is never using two words when one will do.” Students work together to cut any words or sentences that don’t clearly describe the scene or help create the mood. I use my own writing and let students revise it to gain their trust. If I’m trusting them to hear my thoughts and help improve my writing, I hope they will trust me to do the same.

Have you used vignette writing in your classroom? We’d love to hear about your experiences in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, what is narrative writing and how do I teach it ?

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Meaning of vignette in English

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  • Afrofuturism
  • allegorical
  • autobiographical
  • boy-meets-girl
  • director's cut
  • passion project
  • police procedural
  • psychological
  • tragicomedy

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English Studies

This website is dedicated to English Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary Theory, English Language and its teaching and learning.

Vignette: A Literary Device

A vignette, as a literary device, is a succinct and evocative narrative or scene that captures a specific moment, character, or mood without the need for extensive exposition or development.

Vignette: Etymology, Literal and Conceptual Meanings

Table of Contents

Etymology of “Vignette”

The term “vignette” originates from the French word “vigne,” meaning “vine,” and is closely linked to the Latin word “vinea,” referring to a trellis or vineyard. The earliest usage of “vignette” in English dates back to the 18th century, initially describing a decorative design often found in books, resembling the flourishing vines or scrollwork that adorned the borders of illuminated manuscripts. Over time, the term evolved beyond its visual connotations and expanded into various disciplines, including literature, psychology, and sociology.

Literal and Conceptual Meanings of “Vignette”:

Literal meanings:.

  • Visual Arts: In the realm of visual arts, a vignette is a decorative design or illustration that fades into the background without a definite border, often presenting a scene or subject in a soft or blurred manner.
  • Photography: A vignette in photography refers to the gradual darkening or fading of an image towards its edges, creating a spotlight effect that draws attention to the central subject.

Conceptual Meanings:

  • Literature: In literature, a vignette is a brief, impressionistic scene or episode that focuses on a particular moment, character, or mood, conveying a snapshot of a larger narrative.
  • Psychology: In psychology, a vignette is a short, fictional scenario used in research to elicit responses and understand individuals’ thought processes, attitudes, or decision-making.
  • Sociology: In sociology, vignettes are employed as concise, hypothetical situations to study social attitudes, norms, and behaviors, providing researchers with a controlled context for analysis.

Vignette: Definition as a Literary Device

A vignette, as a literary device , is a succinct and evocative narrative or scene that captures a specific moment, character, or mood without the need for extensive exposition or development.

Typically short and focused, vignettes often lack a conventional plot structure, instead offering glimpses into the nuances of a larger narrative or theme . This device is characterized by its brevity, providing authors with a tool to convey impactful imagery or emotions within a concise framework.

Vignette: Type

Vignette : examples in everyday life.

  • Photography: In photography, a vignette occurs when the edges of an image darken or blur, drawing attention to the central subject and creating a visually appealing effect.
  • Social Media Posts: Concise and expressive posts or snapshots on platforms like Instagram or Twitter can serve as vignettes, offering glimpses into a person’s life, thoughts, or experiences.
  • Conversations: Everyday conversations often contain vignettes, where individuals share brief anecdotes, observations, or snippets of their day, providing insight into their personalities or current situations.
  • Personal Journal Entries: In journaling, people may write vignettes to capture specific moments, emotions, or reflections without the need for a full narrative, allowing for a more focused expression.
  • Advertisement Scenes: Advertisements often utilize vignettes to convey a brief yet impactful message, presenting snapshots that evoke emotions or highlight key features of a product or service.
  • Travel Experiences: Travel blogs or diaries may include vignettes that encapsulate memorable moments or cultural encounters, offering readers a vivid sense of the writer’s experiences.
  • Memory Flashbacks : When recalling memories, individuals often focus on specific vignettes, remembering key details or moments that stand out in their minds.
  • Artwork and Sketches: Artists may create vignettes in visual art, such as sketches or small paintings, to capture a specific scene, mood, or idea without the need for a comprehensive composition.
  • Poetry: Poems often contain vignettes, presenting brief and vivid images or emotions in a condensed form, allowing for a profound impact in a limited space.
  • Short Stories or Microfiction : Brief narratives that emphasize a singular moment or theme, rather than an extensive plot, can be considered as vignettes in the realm of creative writing.

Vignette in Literature: Suggested Readings

  • Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. Vintage, 1984.
  • Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. HarperOne, 1988.
  • Diaz, Junot. This Is How You Lose Her. Riverhead Books, 2012.
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 1925.
  • Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. Scribner, 1925.
  • Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. Mariner Books, 1999.
  • O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
  • Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye . Little, Brown and Company, 1951.
  • Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1989.
  • Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982.

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IMAGES

  1. How to Write a Vignette (with Examples)

    vignette definition creative writing

  2. What is a Vignette and How to Write One

    vignette definition creative writing

  3. Vignette Examples Writing

    vignette definition creative writing

  4. How to Write a Vignette (with Examples)

    vignette definition creative writing

  5. How to Write a Vignette (with Examples)

    vignette definition creative writing

  6. How to Write a Vignette (with Examples)

    vignette definition creative writing

COMMENTS

  1. What is a Vignette in Writing

    In photography, filmmaking, and illustration, vignette refers to the darkening or, less commonly, the lightening of an image's edges. Vignetting an image can provide it with additional contrast, value, and heighten the viewer's focus on the center of the image.

  2. What Is a Vignette In Literature? Defining the Literary ...

    Vignettes—poetic slices-of-life—are a literary device that bring us deeper into a story. Vignettes step away from the action momentarily to zoom in for a closer examination of a particular character, concept, or place. Writers use vignettes to shed light on something that wouldn't be visible in the story's main plot.

  3. Vignette

    Vignette is a small impressionistic scene, an illustration, a descriptive passage, a short essay, a fiction or nonfiction work focusing on one particular moment; or giving an impression about an idea, character, setting, mood, aspect, or object.

  4. Vignette: Definitions and Examples

    In literature, a vignette (pronounced vin-yet) is a short scene that captures a single moment or a defining detail about a character, idea, or other element of the story. Vignettes are mostly descriptive; in fact, they often include little or no plot detail. They are not stand-alone literary works, nor are they complete plots or narratives.

  5. How to Write a Vignette (with Examples)

    1 Understand the purpose of a vignette. A vignette should express a certain moment, mood, aspect, setting, character, or object. Most of all, it should be short, but descriptive. In terms of length, a vignette is typically 800-1000 words. But it can be as short as a few lines or under 500 words.

  6. Definition and Examples of Vignettes in Prose

    In composition, a vignette is a verbal sketch—a brief essay or story or any carefully crafted short work of prose. Sometimes called a slice of life . A vignette may be either fiction or nonfiction, either a piece that's complete in itself or one part of a larger work.

  7. What is a Vignette? || Oregon State Guide to Literary Terms

    In literary terms, a vignette is a short, descriptive passage that captures a moment in time. It can enhance a mood, develop a character, or describe a setting, but one thing a vignette doesn't do is move along a plot.

  8. Vignette Examples and Definition

    The word vignette comes from the French word vigne for vineyard; the diminutive form "vignette" means "a little vine."The original definition of vignette referred to the sketch at the beginning of a book which summed up the narrative to come; the sketch was usually surrounded by small vines of ivy. Later, the term that only was applied for literal pictures of vines came to mean any ...

  9. When & How to Write a Vignette

    So, vignettes are most valuable in creative writing (both fiction and nonfiction), because they are devices that are descriptive and artistic in nature. As mentioned, a vignette does not exist independently; it is a small part of a bigger picture. It only makes sense when it's in the context of the overall story.

  10. How To Write a Vignette

    A vignette offers a close up view on a moment. Focus on the details and describe what you see. Be specific, but intentional in what you choose to write about and how you describe it. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Look for those small, common moments, objects, or details that might go unnoticed.

  11. Vignette (literature)

    A vignette ( / vɪnˈjɛt / ⓘ, also / viːnˈ -/) is a French loanword expressing a short and descriptive piece of writing that captures a brief period in time. [1] [2] Vignettes are more focused on vivid imagery and meaning rather than plot. [3]

  12. Vignette in Literature: Definition & Examples

    A vignette (vin-nyet) is a short, descriptive literary passage that conveys an impression about a character, setting, object, or mood. Vignettes contain neither plot nor full narrative description; instead, they are carefully composed verbal sketches that generally occur within a larger work.

  13. Vignette: A Short Story That's Not a Short Story

    Literary Vignettes Vignette vs. Short Story Vignette vs. Flash Fiction What Is a Vignette? The vignette definition comes from a French phrase meaning "little vine." Originally, vignettes had nothing to do with writing at all; they were decorative designs of vine leaves and branches found on the corners or front pages of books.

  14. Vignette

    Vignette is a small impressionistic scene, an example, a descriptive passage, a short essay, a fiction or nonfiction work that specialize in one particular moment; or giving an impression about an idea, person, putting, mood, aspect, or object.

  15. What is a Vignette in Writing? Examples, Definitions, and How to ...

    A vignette is a short descriptive narrative, usually humorous in tone, that paints a vivid picture of a scene, character, or situation. Commonly used in creative writing and journalism, vignettes can also be used to provide background information or set up a context for a story.

  16. Vignette Examples in Literature and Beyond

    A vignette example is a descriptive piece of writing with a rich level of detail. Discover the power of a well-crafted vignette and what it is in writing.

  17. Vignette

    Vignette. A vignette is a short scene within a larger narrative. They are found in novels, short stories, poems, and films. The word vignette comes from the French "vigne," meaning "little vine.". This relates to the historical illustration of textual documents, some of which included small vines drawn along the pages' edges.

  18. Vignette definition and example literary device

    Definition of Vignette. Vignette is a small impressionistic scene, an illustration, a descriptive passage, a short essay, a fiction or nonfiction work focusing on one particular moment; or giving an impression about an idea, character, setting, mood, aspect, or object.Vignette is neither a plot nor a full narrative description, but a carefully crafted verbal sketch that might be part of some ...

  19. 6 Vignette Examples To Add Depth to Your Writing (+ Definition)

    A vignette is a literary device that creates a vivid but plotless description around a scene or character . How long exactly? Well, 800-1000 words are considered the limit, though there's no official guideline for length. That's because vignettes are a puzzle piece, not the whole puzzle.

  20. Understanding Vignettes: A Comprehensive Guide

    In literature: A vignette is a short, evocative description, account, or episode. It doesn't necessarily follow a structured plot but focuses more on creating a specific mood or atmosphere. Authors use vignettes to give readers a quick, deep understanding of characters, settings, or situations.

  21. How I Use Vignettes to Jumpstart Students' Narrative Writing

    STEP 1: Activate Memories. Students must first decide on moments worthy of writing about. One way to help them recall important memories is using a visualization activity. I also like to use short mentor texts and film clips to focus on different types of memories.

  22. VIGNETTE

    noun [ C ] us / vɪˈnjet / uk / vɪˈnjet / Add to word list a short piece of writing, music, acting, etc. that clearly expresses the typical characteristics of something or someone: She wrote several vignettes of small-town life. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases Types of movie, play, book etc. adaptation Afrofuturism Aga saga allegorical

  23. Vignette: A Literary Device

    Vignette: Definition as a Literary Device. A vignette, as a literary device, is a succinct and evocative narrative or scene that captures a specific moment, character, or mood without the need for extensive exposition or development. Typically short and focused, vignettes often lack a conventional plot structure, instead offering glimpses into ...