It took me a while to figure out which genre of writing I was good at. I am still learning, I must admit. And I impose upon myself to keep learning both to improve my best genre as well as to master other genres of writing. I have a friend who is incredibly good at short fiction. Everytime I read his work, I am amazed at how much power he can hang on just a few words. Right, now he is working on short shorts that build on morbid urban themes.
So I figured it would be a good idea to share some thoughts about short fiction; flash fiction and vignettes.
Flash fiction has been around for years, but has become increasingly prevalent in the literary community. Dozens of literary publications, both print and online, have shifted their focus to include (or focus exclusively upon) flash fiction.
There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as 300, while others consider stories as long as 1000 words to be flash fiction.
Though the form is by definition extremely short, it is not a medium that tolerates fragemented storytelling. The challenge of flash fiction is to tell a complete story in which every word is absolutely essential, to peel away the frills and lace until you’re left with nothing but the hard, clean-scraped core of a story.
It is a complete story, with an opening, a plot and a conclusion. Do not make the mistake of assuming that flash fiction is less than elegant or beautiful. Sometimes beauty, or even inspiration, can be found in the simplest of things.
In explaining this, another writing friend said, “Novels and Novellas are full length musicals, with lots of songs and dance routines, all beautiful, expressive and emotive executed by different dancers who complement each other in telling the story. Flash fiction is one song, maybe 3 to 5 minutes long, danced by the most talented of interpretive dancers, every movement elegant, and every note beautiful.”
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.
A vignette is a whole or complete thought or
statement on a subject. It is a fully expressed
idea; even a fully developed short, short story
with a fully developed plot can be called
vignette.” — Gabrielle Lusser Rico
In theatrical script writing, sketch stories, and poetry, a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, an idea, or a setting. This type of scene is more common in recent postmodern theater, where less emphasis is placed on adhering to the conventions of theatrical structure and story development. Vignettes have been particularly influenced by contemporary notions of a scene as shown in film, video and television scripting.
Vignettes are also suitable for works of a personal reflection like a journal entry.
I find that I have mastered this type of writing better than writing flash fiction. I usually take the liberty to build up on my vignettes so that they are not quite as long as short stories (3000 to 5000 words) but are a little longer than the customary length of vignettes (500 to 1000 words).
Here’s an exercise for you. I am going to provide you with 5 words.
Choose one of the words and do the clustering exercise (write the word in the middle of a sheet of paper, then write other word ideas that spring from the main word – as in the image below).
Choose one arm of your cluster and form a short story not longer than 1000 words. Just to make things interesting, make sure that the other four words feature in the story. Make sure your story has all the hallmarks of fiction writing. If you need a reminder, see the post here.
Send in your story to firstname.lastname@example.org with VIGNETTE clearly marked in your email subject line by 11.59pm East African Time, Friday 31st October and you could be the winner of KES 500 worth of airtime.
So here’s this week’s reading.
The Editor’s Pick is Her Friend’s Father: Later that day, in the privacy of her bedroom, hours after she’d attended all her classes and gone home to mum, she’d unbuttoned her blouse and stared at her chest. She’d never really looked at them before. But now she looked.
Gabriella: She has not been home for seven good years and the thought of going to Kienjeku village to see her aging mama is terrifying.
When The Cat’s Away: Ten shillings per liter was a lot of money and all that separated him from it was a few hours of darkness. He snuggled deeper into his bed…
Science Men: As years advanced by I came to conclusions that; the ghetto may be a lost world but a great teacher.
The Unholy Trinity: Three evil spirits walk with me through this life. They co-exist, symbiotic without knowing it. When one disappears, the others follow.
You can read, vote and comment on all the stories, and if you wish to be part of this weekly show, please go through the submission guidelines and then send us your work to email@example.com
Most marvelous and enviable is that fecundity of fancy which can adorn whatever it touches, which can invest naked fact and dry reasoning with unlooked for beauty, make flowers bloom even on the brow of the precipice. – Margaret Fuller