The term vignette can be defined as a short literary sketch. The word originates from the French word 'vigne', which means 'little vine', as in a short description of an object or scene. An ideal vignette is supposed to be short, to the point, and should bring out the emotions of the writer. It normally appears as a stand-alone piece of literature, or as a part of long stories or stage plays. The pictorial part of a postage stamp, a picture which fades off gradually into the surrounding paper, and small decorative designs or pictures placed at the beginning or end of the chapter of a book, are all also called vignettes.
The vignette's primary purpose is to express and vividly describe a place, emotion, setting, person, or object, in short. Typically, it is around 800 - 1,000 words, but in some cases it can be under 500 words or even shorter, especially if it is a vignette poem. It will describe 1 or 2 scenes about a person, object, place, etc. One can also write the piece from many different points of view, although most will use just one as words are limited.
Establishing Context: The writing of a vignette can cause great impact on the reader if the emotions of the scene are pushed forward through a method of suggestion, through which the piece will hint towards something much bigger. It is important that your writing makes the reader imagine the setting you are describing. For example, if you are writing about a man who is sitting alone in a room, you will have to imagine reasons as to why such a situation has occurred, and add small details to your vignette which will suggest these thoughts to the reader. This helps pique the curiosity of the reader.
Keep the Writing Concise: This is the main feature of a vignette. Although one might get tempted to write further due to the wider context, one should stick to providing the reader with suggestions of the story rather, than giving out the whole plot. No vignette should be longer than a thousand words. Once the writing is done, the author must search and remove all unnecessary details, especially if they add no value to the mood or context that needs to be conveyed. Ideally, if a particular trait or characteristic of the subject is mentioned once, it should not be mentioned again.
Freedom of Structure: Apart from the limit on number of words, there is complete freedom to form the vignette how you like. You can choose whether you will follow a fixed structure, with a beginning, middle, and end, or not. You can also choose whether you want to have a central subject, whether the vignette will be resolved at the end, or remain unresolved. There is no restriction on the style of writing or its genre. You can completely mix it up with simple language or very detailed writing with complex language. In short, you are limited only by your creativity.
Brainstorming for Ideas: Once you have settled on a subject, you can find more ideas for your writing piece by asking yourself the questions Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How? These questions about your subject should give you an idea about what you would like to write. Alternatively, if you are feeling especially creative, you could just freely write down whatever comes to your mind, followed by a good editing session.
Another popular way to search for ideas is by creating association diagrams. In this method, one writes down the subject of the vignette on a sheet of paper, and follows that by another word which is related to the subject, Continue this till you have a large group of associated words which you can use in your writing piece. For example, if your subject is summer, then your next words could be sun, heat, ice cream, food, harvest, and so on. Decide on the style and the sensory details you wish to add, so that the reader will experience the feelings that you wish to convey.
As you can see, vignettes are not very difficult to create. Remember that, while writing a vignette, you are creating an atmosphere, not a story. Reading vignette examples made by professional authors can be a great aid in helping you understand the nuances.