Amazing Kids! Magazine

Vignette – A Snapshot in Words

By Salma Danuningrat, Writing Tips Editor


“I close my eyes and feel the ice beneath my finger tips. The cold, like being back on the ski slopes, drowning my bare hands in the powder, made my fingers sting. Like feeling the soft kiss of snowflakes land on my hand and melt as quickly as they danced. Like building snow forts until hands were red and parents were shouting for us to come inside. But it wasn’t just the cold of the winter or the frozen beauty of the mountains: It was the warmth that was brought from it by drinking hot cocoa with friends next to the fire and talking and laughing with the heater on full blast. Suddenly, I jerked my hand out of the freezer and hugged it to my chest and the once warm memory of a cold December day was gone.”

Vignettes – short, colorful and packed with emotion. But what exactly is a vignette? A vignette is a short impressionistic scene or description that focuses on one moment, mood, idea, character, setting, or object. A vignette is a type of short fiction, but unlike a short story, a vignette doesn’t contain all the basic elements of a story (character, setting, plot, and mood). A vignette can be a part of a longer piece of fiction, or it can stand on its own. The goal of a vignette is to make the reader feel something in a short number of words. Here’s your recipe to writing a vignette that will leave your reader wanting more:

Keep it Short – Your vignette should have a maximum of only 800 words, the shorter the better. Keep it small and detailed. Avoid any unnecessary details that don’t contribute to your scene. If you’re writing about a character, don’t include any backstory about them that won’t add to the emotion of the vignette. Prioritize getting your point across. Not achieving a high word count.

Focus on Details – Details are the base of your vignette, so use your five senses when describing things. Use your five senses: What color is the rooftop? What does the air smell like? How does the grass feel? What voices do you hear in the next room? Use metaphors and similes. Show, don’t tell. Vignettes are called a “snapshot in words”, so transport your reader into that photograph.

Express Emotion – The entire goal of your vignette is to make your reader feel something in a small number of words. For some people, it’s easier to write these scenes when they’re feeling a particular emotion. Here’s an example: If you’re feeling angry at something, don’t try and write a vignette about “Happiness in Springtime”. Your details will probably feel flat and your reader will have a tough time receiving the point and emotion. If you’re angry at something, use that anger to drive your writing. When writing a vignette, your emotions are the driving force and your words will follow.

Explore Genres and Styles – There isn’t a written rule to writing a vignette, so feel free to explore all genres and styles. A vignette is like a creative outburst, so keep your ideas flowing and onto the page when writing your first draft. Don’t think too much – just feel. Put your entire heart into it. Writing in general is a way to channel your emotions in a creative way.

Write an Atmosphere, not a Story – It’s important to keep in mind that a vignette is only a single moment and that you shouldn’t include all the elements of a story. It isn’t necessary to have a clear beginning, middle and end and you can start and end your vignette at about any place as long as it feels right to you.

A vignette is a great style of writing for writers who have trouble writing long pieces of fiction. For some of us, focusing on the same characters and settings for what seems to be an infinite number of paragraphs can be exhausting and boring. So for those of us who have trouble writing the entire show, here’s to writing a scene instead.