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”).