Today I’ve decided to do something new and different, which I hope you’ll enjoy. I’ve been wanting to share some of my own fiction with you for a while and have finally stumbled on a form that I’d like to use to do so.
The three little stories below are called vignettes, a fancy French word that translates roughly to slice-of-life in English. Instead of seeking to encapsulate a whole plot in a small number of words (like flash fiction or short stories), vignettes capture specific moments, scenes, feelings, or characters. House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, for example, is a novel composed of many vignettes. Vignettes can be used as forms within novels, screenplays, or other works of literature to create atmosphere and aid description, but can also be written as standalone pieces. Today, I’m going to share with you three vignettes which capture moments in time from my own experiences.
I. The pier
You were sitting at the wheel, hard-faced. I was looking out the window at the skyline lit by sunset, and I saw them as we drove by: a couple on the pier locked in a passionate embrace, swaying like trees in the wind. I wondered why we couldn’t do the same. A long time ago, after all, we’d sat on a pier beneath the flaming Boston skyline and made promises to each other.
Your spew of belligerence at passing drivers broke my naivete. And I knew, knew again, that it was the autumn of our love, not the spring. But I dreaded the winter, all the same.
II. Grass on dunes
It was all good until it was not. Until that deep weight settled back into her stomach and wouldn’t go away. He knew right away. He turned to her to ask what was wrong. She kept her eyes fixed on the waving grass atop the dunes of the beach they’d just left.
Sometimes, she wanted to tell him, you want to wish that the sparkling water is everything. That sunscreen is everything. That beach days are everything. Sometimes you want to say everything. But other times you don’t want to say anything at all, because you’re afraid everything will come out. And sometimes you don’t want to think on a good deed too long, because it’ll make you wonder if it’s just making up, making up for everything wrong.
III. Angry rain
We were driving on the interstate in New Mexico. Long, straight, concrete road stretching as far into the distance as you could see. The sky was a vivid purple-blue, until all of a sudden it was black and yellow, and rain smattered onto the windshield. Not the gentle pitter-patter of New England springtime rain, but angry rain, angry desert rain. We sat in the car, unmoving in the center of the interstate, while it came down. Lightning forked into the sand not far off. A little fire lit up — the lightning had struck dry brush — then vanished, extinguished by the deluge.
It stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The sky was blue again. And the earth, in instants, was dry again. Steam rose from the sand, steam towards the sky, steam from the tumbleweed and prickly pears, steam from the red-rock: the desert reclaiming its angry rain.
As always, thank you for reading! I’d appreciate it if you let me know what you think of this post — loved it, hated it… That way, I’ll know whether I should continue sharing these little stories. At any rate, my next post will be another entry in my characterization series, and it’ll cover how to deal with minor characters. Look out for it. Until then, happy reading and writing!