A Nod to Vignettes


Last blog featured the conclusion of a short story I began writing while I was on hold with tech support.  I realize now that I can’t really call it a short story, as it lacks a resolution.  There really isn’t even a clear conflict.  I suppose it would be more accurate to call it a vignette.

Essentially, the work leaves me with only a quick impression of a middle-aged man who senses his chances at finding happiness have come and gone.  The gimmick is that he feels like a paper man being shuffled along from desk to desk throughout a never ending bureaucracy.  In the end he destroys his own identity by feeding his cash, drivers license, social security card, and college diplomas into a paper shredder.  In one final act of self-destruction, he feeds himself into the shredder. The fact that the character does not bleed, or even experience pain, suggests that he is literally made of paper.

Overall, I think this was a pretty good writing exercise for me.  I never intentionally set out to write a vignette, but that’s what I ended up with.  The impact was more visceral than cerebral.  I was left with a morose feeling.  It was a kind of bleakness I experience on those miserable February mornings when freezing rain is falling, and the world appears in grayscale.

In my experience, the vignette really gets a bad rap.  I can remember college professors warning students about what happens when they stray from the classical narrative structure.  That’s right – you end up with a vignette.  And I’ve seen submission guidelines for literary publications that specifically forbid vignettes.  I’m left to wonder why people hate them so much.

Personally, I think they do have a legitimate place in creative writing.  I might be compelled to reexamine the vignette at some point in the near future.  After all, it’s just another literary form to help us better understand the human experience.  What’s wrong with that?


Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.






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