Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Champion Vignette Writers

I’ve been blessed. Without sounding too much like a bragging parent (which I am) I have to say that all of our six children are vignette champions. They write them well, with creativity, good grammar, and a fine sense of emotion and scene.

I should probably define vignette. Some people refer to it as ‘snapshot writing’. This is a current term, but it is very descriptive of what vignette writing is all about

A vignette is a short piece of prose writing that evokes a mood or emotion. It is a snapshot in time of a scene, sometimes relying heavily on description, that manages to convey something to the reader much in the same way a poem does.

This was a category of writing in an annual corporate-sponsored contest held in Nashville, TN. There were 12-16 categories, usually 12, for students in grades 3-12 to enter. Grades were paired, 3 with 4 and 11 with 12, for example. Judges -- local writers, editors, professors -- judged entries that were first culled at the school level. The vignettes could be from 40 to 300 words long.

Ones our children submitted involved a ballerina dancing across a floor (that one was only 40 words long), the inner feelings of a performer making the big time, a batter stepping up to bat, and waking up in early morning. One written by another child was more story-like, describing the interior of a toy store as the character was tempted to lift a small toy. Each of these vignettes was written with care to bring the reader into the scene, exposing him to the emotions the writer wanted him to feel.

Why am I so pleased about our children doing well at this? Not just because it’s another success. Not just because I write myself. Not just because of the prize. More, it is because succeeding at vignette is a step on the road of writing strong pieces of greater length. It is the start of good short stories, compelling novels.

We write to communicate, but also to move. We want to place our readers in the scene we create. We want them to leave our writing feeling certain emotions. In essence, we want to have an effect on the reader.

A vignette is much like a scene. String some successful vignettes together with some plot and action, and you have the beginnings of a story, or even a novel. It’s a generalization, but anyone can come up with a plot. Anyone can get a character from here to there. To do so effectively, however, creating pictures in the reader’s head and touching the reader’s heart takes the same skills that successful vignette-writing takes. And so I am proud of the kids I know – our own and otherwise – who have mastered this important technique. I am proud of any writer who can touch the reader’s heart.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Writing is a Strange Business...

I have found myself in a curious situation; one of those it-can-only-happen-now type things the Internet has created. I invite you to hop over to my blog at SunOasis.com and check out "When Is a Book Not a Book?" I hope some of you will comment on this quirky situation, and maybe help me in my dilemma.