1. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    Vignettes - are they a form of short story, or a form of poetry?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Shandeh, Jun 16, 2013.

    I've recently taken to writing very short [200 words and less - got one floating around that's only 66 words!] 'stories' that don't seem to have much of a storyline at all, but hint at something greater. Every definition of 'vignette' I've read pretty much points to these being vignettes.

    I think I write them because I get tired of my crime novel [which I greatly enjoy writing, but there's only so much time one can spend writing and researching for something so heavy], so I go off and do something else for ten minutes, and that's usually writing because I'm already in the zone.

    Anyway, all of that has gotten me thinking. What is a vignette? Short story, or poetry? Or a bit of both? Or something totally its own?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm glad you brought this up, and I'll be interested in following this thread. It's a topic I've thought about a great deal myself.

    I think there has been a tendency over the past few years, to write vignettes and call them 'short stories.'

    If you look at short stories of the past, written by the masters, you'll discover that the average is 5000-10,000 words long, some a lot longer than that. It takes time to develop a plotline, characters ,etc. Some very talented folks are able to do this in less, of course, but I think the current emphasis on 'short is good, long is bad' is what has shifted the genre in the direction of vignettes. These, of course, can be very short, because there is nothing much to develop. They may be interesting, but they are NOT stories.

    I blame 'short story writing contests,' which often want the story submitted to be 2,500 words or less. This is not to improve the genre, but to give the judges an easier time and less prose to wade through before deciding on a winner. So, as you so correctly put it, what gets submitted is a very short piece that just hints at something greater.

    I know myself, when I sit down to read a short story in an anthology, and it turns out to be a character study, or somebody's musings about the vagaries of life, death, love, whatever, I feel very cheated. I keep saying: but that's not a story! Unfortunately, to many people nowadays, it is. If it's short, isn't poetry, and is fiction ...well, then it's a short story. Ermmmm ...not in my book...
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This sounds suspiciously like what I would call flash fiction.
     
  4. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    Thanks guys :)

    Wreybies, I did look on wikipedia, and flash fiction is supposed to have characters and a storyline and stuff. Done well it can be incredible in very few words. The ever immortal "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn" for example. Six words and there's a whole implied storyline with characters and the works.

    A vignette on the other hand is a short scene, part of a story not the story itself.

    They are similar, very similar, but not the same. Flash fiction takes a lot more skill to write well as it should be a story in and of itself, even if the majority of the story is only implied. Vignettes aren't difficult for someone with an established narrative voice. Making them understandable and interesting is a challenge, and fun, but I find it's nowhere near as difficult as writing decent flash fiction.

    Edit; is this flash fiction? I'm not really seeing 'flash fiction' here. I guess you could call "I", "you" and "he" characters, and you could say a storyline is implied, but IMPO this isn't flash fiction. [this is my 66 words, shortest thing I think I've ever written]

    I can’t tell you how much I regret what happened. There are no words.

    I did what I did because I love you, but you already know that, don’t you? You just don’t know why I love you. How could anybody love you?

    Your mind is playing tricks on you. Of course I love you. How could I not? You’re you.

    He can’t hurt you anymore.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A vignette is basically a short scene focusing on one particular moment, and it can be considered either a poem or a piece of flash fiction depending on how it's formatted. Technically, a vignette doesn't have the traditional elements of a short story, but I think most people would consider the example you've given to be flash fiction.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly. I know the difference between a vignette and FF. It just sounded to me like the examples you (Shandeh) were describing fall more into FF than vignette.
     
  7. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    Fair enough :)

    Thanks all, I've gotten the answers I was after. So FF can be quite ambiguous.

    I just realized the example I gave is so incredibly cliched in its premise it's embarrassing :redface: definitely not a good example of my writing... I can be original, I swear!
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i also would consider the piece you posted to be flash fiction, more than a vignette and certainly not poetry... so, unoriginal or not, if it's typical of what you're writing, then your writings aren't poems or vignettes...
     
  9. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    In Music for Chameleons, Truman Capote devotes some 70 pages to a series of distinct "portraits" akin to the vignette you describe above. If nothing else, reading these helped me to better understand the ambiguous boundaries between flash fiction, vignette/portrait and short story.
     

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