Two vignettes and how writing vignettes helps writers improve

A new day

The day is warm and beautiful and for the first time this year, I don’t hate my life. The cool autumn breeze brings out an unexpected softness within me. The eyes that meet my gaze in the mirror are no longer harsh or punishing. The ambition is still there, but the journey is different — I don’t have to drown chained to this sinking ship. I get to swim first, as far as I can, toward the shore of the promised land. If I must drown, let me drown swimming toward salvation.

creative writing
Milada Vigerova en Unsplash

The fog

A fog closed in on the town, wrapping the homes and the people in their beds in a gentle embrace. The air smelt like lilies as it carried drowned goodbyes down Main Street outside her window, and sneaked into her apartment through the half-opened window in her bedroom. The cool breeze woke her up, but she was too scared to close the window. What if the fog isn’t too thick to cover the souls in their procession to the sea?

Shivering, she hid under her duvet. She didn’t want to see, to join them, to die two deaths in one night. “It’s alright,” a quiet, low voice whispered in her ear. “Go back to sleep.”

How do you improve your skills in any subject? True, practice makes perfect, but what and how you practice matters, too.

In creative writing, sometimes we focus too much on the ‘technical’ side of it — for example, syntax, pacing and vocabulary. But writing isn’t just arranging words in a pleasing way to tell a story. It’s about communicating emotion. One way to add more emotion to writing is by daring to be vulnerable.

This is where writing gets tricky.

Vulnerability is hard. It’s putting your voice up for scrutiny, with the risk of being rejected, critised, or mocked.

But in most cases, it’s not just about external rejection. It’s also about refusing to face certain parts of yourself. And the older you get, the more blows life deals you, the more at risk you are of closing yourself off from others and from yourself.

To get back to a place of vulnerability in my writing, I’ve been working of vignettes.

What is a vignette in writing?

“In literature, a vignette is a short passage that uses imagery to describe a subject in greater detail.” In other words, the piece doesn’t need to move the plot forward, include action or characterisation. Instead, it focuses on description and atmosphere.

Vignettes are a fun way to practise expressing mood, emotion, and description in fiction writing without worrying about the story, plot or characters.

And as a bonus, your vignettes can also work as writing prompts you can develop into longer stories down the line.

What else do you do to practice adding more emotion to your writing? Let me know in the comments below!

what is a vignette in writing
“Lady in Open Window with Bird Cage,” late 1840s, Calvert Richard Jones

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