Vignettes

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Vignettes

Post by Z on Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:29 pm

[Warning to readers: this intro to the "vignettes" thread is, but for the last paragraph, a tirade. Skip to the last paragraph if you just want to get to the meat of the thing.]


The Wikipedia entry, "vignettes (literature), says that

"In theater script and poetry and writing, vignettes are short, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give a trenchant impression about a character, an idea, or a setting."

I've no idea where I got it into my head that vignettes are just little descriptions, word sketches, but this description was not what I expected. I went out on the web...and discovered that I cannot find a reliable source for the term.

One article had a rather nice definition, or one that meshed with my own:

"A vignette is a snapshot in words. It's different from flash fiction because you're not aiming to tell a story. The vignette focuses on one aspect, mood, character, setting or object. Use it as a descriptive exercise, for character exploration, wordplay or just to get something off your mind."

Cool, except then what follows is a seven step set of "instructions" on "how to write a vignette" that is absolutely preposterous and totally fabricated from some teacher's guide to writing, no doubt. The reader is instructed to "brainstorm..." in the beginning and to finish by paying "attention to how well it is written" at the end. Wtf? And? Pay attention to how well it is written? That's an instruction? How fucking useless is that?

But I digress, and get spittle everywhere.

Elsewhere I came across this description cited by one "Ms. Floyd" for her English 102 class:

"A sketch or essay or brief narrative characterized by great precision and delicate accuracy of composition. The term is borrowed from that used for unbordered [sic] but delicate decorative designs for a book, and it implies writing with comparable grace and economy. It may be a separate whole or a portion of a larger work. The term is also applied to very brief short-short stories, less than five hundred words in length."

And she tells us that it comes from what turns out to be a textbook, which is hardly surprising, seeing as neither this text, nor Ms. Floyd demonstrate the slightest evidence of a soul.

These are better examples of how people are brainwashed into thinking that writing is this complex, mysterious activity that can only be approached by "experts." The reality is that these things are really whatever we say they are...there is no big "rulebook" (unless you live in France ... they actually do have a rulebook for the French language ... big surprise there, eh?)



So, since this is obviously a term that is a bit up for grabs, we're just going to say that a vignette is a little word sketch about something, a description of a person, a scene, an emotion, an object --- whatever. It has no plot. It has no pre-determined length. It should be fun, perhaps a diversion. It is not graded.

And rest assured, there is a special circle of hell for the likes of Ms. Floyd.

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"Conformity Makes Me Gag." --- Wendy O Williams
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Re: Vignettes

Post by Z on Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:53 pm

Dream: Located at the edge of the abandoned airfield
the two story house was mostly timbers now,
the group gathered amongst
the blocks of stone in what surely was once the living room

The sky was dark storm clouds, but the land was lit with the sun of evening...

No one stood, eveyone flew on diaphanous shimmering wings,
comically tiny aerodynamic absurdities...
but hover they did ---
the adults did, while they chatted ---
the children flew and zipped and zoomed,
watched with the relaxed alertness of the their parents

one of whom didn't fly, but watched with growing alarm
as bottle green-blue hornets were stirring from their nest
high in the massive, rotten rafters...growing ever more abundant and agitated as innocent children careened through the air,
laughing and lost in fun.

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Re: Vignettes

Post by amberwillow on Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:43 am

Scene:

The air was crisp like mint
From under pink noses cloud dragons erupted from every mouth
Strangely charged, the usual scattered collection of travellers
milled or paused...
made more cautious by the frozen concrete underfoot.
Total strangers slipped and skated... surprised into conversation.

The train rumbled in.
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Re: Vignettes

Post by Z on Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:15 pm

amberwillow wrote:Scene:

The air was crisp like mint
From under pink noses cloud dragons erupted from every mouth
Strangely charged, the usual scattered collection of travellers
milled or paused...
made more cautious by the frozen concrete underfoot.
Total strangers slipped and skated... surprised into conversation.

The train rumbled in.

Brilliant. Cool

This has no problem being a poem as well as a vignette.
You have a real strong sense of the evocatively visual! I love "From under pink
noses cloud dragons erupted from every mouth/strangely charged."

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Re: Vignettes

Post by amberwillow on Sat Aug 09, 2008 3:41 am

I've always liked beards
My best friend's dad had one when I was a kid
We always wanted to swap parents
We lived next door to one-another
We were going to grow up and get married... so that we would never have to be apart
Children's hopes
My best friend had a terminal illness
He wasnt likely to grow up
In a way, I live for both of us
My inner child misses him
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Re: Vignettes

Post by Z on Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:26 am

Alone in the house the wall can be examined for minutes and minutes at a time, looking for the subtle shifts in light, the patterns there, and the pictures in those patterns. The eyes can glaze and with them the wall shifts to the world of blur along with the rest of the room. This Mortal Coil sings "A word like 'tomorrow' wears things out," and the lyric starts rolling around my mind like a steel ball bearing rolling around a punch bowl, swooshing and singing and circling but never quite coming to the lip and escaping.

One of the patterns on the wall just smiled.

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Re: Vignettes

Post by amberwillow on Fri Aug 15, 2008 6:55 am

A mad person, crazy man...
when someone mentions dynamite.
Acting like a kid with a favorite toy.
Cracking lots of sick jokes,
Laughing as we chase him down.
His blue eyes twinkle as he makes us groan.

He acts like a magpie,
collecting lots of useful things.
heaps and piles of Useful Things - ten feet high
If he lives another twenty years...
another twenty thousand years...
he'd never find a use for all the useful things he has.

Mad person, climbing trees...
acting like a ten year old
doing things that everyone knows adults shouldn't do.
Fun person, silly man...
Learning how to horse-ride
Overdoing it
Groaning with sore muscles for a week.

Friendly person, loving man...
Watching his mother fade.
How much of my father will surface in me?
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Re: Vignettes

Post by Z on Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:50 pm

In 1998 Dell computers created this beige box whirring beside me on the floor. In 2003 my coworker gave it to me so my daughter could have computer to use. The old Dell reeked of cigarette smoke and ran as if it were always out of breath. Entirely stripped of software but the Windows 2000 that was installed in the factory, there were ghosts of the former programs tucked away in the dim electronic corners of the hard drive ... games that, in their day, were top-of-the-line. Scrubbed of nicotine residue on the outside, it's hard drive scrubbed clean on the inside, the computer I now call "Dorothy" runs with a speedy Linux version. Her screen has a Maori-like graphic rendered in deep rusts and browns. Old is new.

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Re: Vignettes

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