What is a vignette?
If I had to give you a definition of a vignette, I’d say it’s a short piece of writing that’s all about vibes over a story.
A vignette in literature is a fragment under 1,000 words, and its goal is to set a mood in a scene rather than move the story forward or tell a complete story. Another definition of vignette is a slice of life. It’s more of a snapshot of a moment.
In a vignette, the author uses evocative language to describe a setting or explore a character’s emotional state.
Authors often write vignettes as part of longer narratives, but they can be super fun to write as stand-alone pieces. And in this age of micro-fiction and Instagram writing, vignettes are the perfect way to share with an audience a moment in time.
Want to read a few vignette examples? I’ve been writing a few myself and sharing them on Instagram, and now I’d like to share a few here.
Short and Sweet: 5 Vignette Examples
A shadow seeks the light
She liked mornings too much for someone living in obscurity. Maybe the sun caressed her skin more tenderly than any lover ever did. Maybe the birds didn’t hide knives under their tongues. Maybe the ghosts didn’t haunt her in broad daylight.
It was not enough to enjoy it from the safety of her balcony, away from prying eyes and the stench of gossip in the smiles of her neighbours. There was more sky to see if she could only step out the door, risking leaving a faint memory in someone’s mind.
Her keys were heavy on her hand as she stepped out of the lift on the ground floor. Greedy eyes followed her as she went out the door, but all she cared about was the soft whispering of the wind and the sunlight on her cheeks that reminded her she was alive, that it was too soon to vanish.
Loneliness comes to me as a prince who whispers sweet nothings in my ear, and I lay down on the sand to surrender to the fantasy of his hand caressing my cheek. His eyes are a cool winter day that pierces my bones, and yet his smile lights up my heart like a summer morning. I no longer hide from him behind the desert haze. I let him see me. In my dreams, he understands. He takes me to the promised land, where the sun lingers over the gentle waves, defying death as we surrender to the pyres where dreams are sacrificed and reborn.
I knew you were chaos, but I had never seen how you reign it in. The chaos comes in waves of terror and hope, and I can’t help but watch in awe how you use the poison to mask your face, light your eyes, and make you taller.
There’s a tension in you pulling you at the seams. The way you hold the fork a little too forcefully. The way you laugh at your own jokes. The way you turn your blood into art. The way you revel in the applause from behind the stage curtains, in the shadows, when no one can steal your smile and pick it apart.
What do you want? Do you want to reach for the stars or hide under my sheets from the glare of peeping eyes? Do you want to hold my hand or do you want to fly? Behind your eyes as grey as the morning fog, I can never tell which way your heart is pointing.
All we can do for now is play. Let me sing to you. Let me turn your rage into songs. Let’s record the racoons crossing the deserted street outside our window. Let’s lay in bed and whisper secrets to each other in the early darkness of our east-facing windows, in the middle of this winter when nothing but our nightmares can reach us.
Stop asking me to explain myself. All I have is on the table, laid down for you to use.
Lock my heart inside of yours. Use my eyes to light your way. I’ll tear off my skin to make the tent that keeps you warm at night and keeps you safe from sharp stares and cold tongues.
Does it matter what I think? Half the time I speak in the language of dreams and paint half-truths like mirages in the desert. Your skin is as red as your crown. It’s not a poison — it’s an antidote.
Sometimes I venture into your depths and still can’t find you hiding behind those walls and far beyond your minefield. Show me your summer. Let me drown in your ocean. Let me drink from your lips to forget about the dreamers falling like flies around us. Let me hide from the wolves in your fortress.
Orange dust spices my meals on the table in your absence, and I’m in awe of the endless sunsets that linger over the sand. It’s a shame the light in your eyes burnt out before they could see the presents I laid outside your door. It’s a shame your hands can’t feel the warmth from the sun passing through my hands.
Are you still there, in the shell of that ancient castle? I’ve heard you sit on the floor to piece yourself back up, one chip at a time, and that sometimes you wander around the forest looking for the missing pieces. No ghost haunts me as badly as the echo of your voice telling me “It should’ve been you.”
“It’s our most realistic model! It’s even warm to the touch.” The clerk gestured for her to get a closer look.
Intrigued, she reached out to hold its hand. It had been so long since she touched another human she could barely tell the difference. The skin was soft and warm under her touch, but she could sense the metal underneath. But if she tried a little, she could ignore the thought of the wires that made that hand flex. She wanted to focus on its warmth, its firmness, the familiar comfort of another presence next to her, anchoring her to the world. The idea of a new presence in her home made her smile. Finally, a voice different from hers and all those that whispered in her head would fill the rooms of her small apartment.
“It is more realistic than others I’ve tried,” she conceded. “I’ll take it.”
“Excellent!” The clerk beamed.
She chose to take it home out of the box. They left the store walking hand in hand and, from a distance, they looked like a regular couple window-shopping down the high street. He needed a name and maybe a few tweaks to his voice and gestures, but his smile was sweet and he laughed easily. The day was dying, but her soul was more alive than ever before.