How to Write a Vignette

Write your story

What on earth is a vignette?

Essentially, a vignette is a short scene or moment. It’s kind of like a memoir or autobiography, but super short.

It draws from your own personal experience, and, as good writers do, you need to write about what you know. There’s noone who knows your story like you do.

The key, though, is to set up a punchy, interesting description of an interesting moment. Funny, tragic, or highly emotional stories work best for this.

Think of it like writing a chapter of a novel where you are the hero.

Here’s how to begin…

Think of a moment from your childhood which was really interesting.


  • getting your first pet
  • visiting someone in a nursing home, hospital, or overseas
  • dropping someone at the airport or picking someone up
  • your backyard tyre swing
  • Christmas day
  • first day of school
  • getting up to mischief with a friend

You can outline the time and place by adding these as headings at the top of your page.

remember to include:

  • first person perspective – use “I”, “me”, “my”, etc…
  • vivid description of the setting
  • description of the action taking place
  • thoughts and feelings about what you are doing or what is happening

Share with close friend or parent who also remembers this moment.

Here’s a really simple example:

Christmas Day – 1991

Arthurs Creek, Victoria

I slipped on my dressing gown and tiptoed down the hall, following my elder brother, in the pale dawn light. The clock must have just ticked 6am, but the heat of the day was already permeating the house.

Thick pine scents wafted from the living room as we crept slowly, delicately twisting the door knob to our sister’s room. She was still fast asleep and hadn’t yet felt the urge to see what had been left for us in the living room. Dan gave her a poke in the arm and she stirred. Sensing our excitement, a smile of recognition lit her face and she threw off her doona and jumped to the floor.

We three, barefooted and messy-haired, scampered to the edge of the hallway, peering around the corner to glimpse the enormous tree, lit with tinsel and ornaments, shining atop piles of perfectly wrapped presents.

We looked at each other in awe.

A stifled cry broke out excitement. The littlest one, Rosie, was waking from her sleep, keen for a warm milk breakfast and snuggles with her siblings. We tracked back down the hall and opened her door wide.

She was standing, sleepy eyed but smiling as we three piled through the door. She grabbed with pudgy hands, to our shoulders as we all tried to lift her over the sides of her crib. Safely down, she scampered off down the hallway, we three racing behind her, and straight into the living room.

For a girl of eighteen months old, she was terribly quick and agile.

Before we could stop her, she had darted into the living room, jumped over the cat, which was still slumbering, and crashed headlong into the piles of presents. We arrived all too late and looked on to see the mess of tumbled boxes and gift bags upended.

Rosie, sensing our presence, peered out from a mess of wrapping paper and tinsel, smiling her single tooth smile.

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