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Bewildering Stories

Is Flash Fiction Vignetteist?

by Eileen Elkinson


I wanted to share something with you. In the past two weeks I have read more than once that flash fiction is often referred to as “vignetteist” writing. A slice of life, capturing a moment in time.

Your opinion?

Eileen Elkinson

Thanks for asking, Eileen. You’ve brought up a question I’m sure will interest some of our contributors.

“A slice of life, capturing a moment in time” is a good definition of a vignette. But is flash fiction necessarily “vignetteist”? (What a strange-looking word!) Some people think so, and I realize that some writers dote on vignettes. That’s perfectly okay with us; to each his own. However, Bewildering Stories considers flash fiction a short short-story in the classic sense: it must have a beginning, middle, and end.

Okay, but how short — or long — is “short”? Any limit will be arbitrary. Some editors say 500 words; others specify some other length, longer or shorter. Bewildering Stories’ limit is probably the most generous there is: 1,000 words; but it’s still as arbitrary as any other.

Bewildering Stories’ definition of “vignette” can be found in the section “Irrelevance” in our Submissions guidelines, but I’ll quote it here:

“Vignettes,” namely writing that is purely descriptive or narrative — even in dialogue — and that has no point beyond itself. A vignette is to a photograph as a story is to a film, or as a single scene is to a stage play.

Sometimes vignettes slip past us, but as a rule Bewildering Stories does not accept vignettes — or microfiction or micropoetry — mainly for practical reasons: other websites regularly feature or even specialize in those genres; Bewildering Stories does not.

Besides, if we accepted genres like vignettes and, say, haiku, we’d be flooded with thousands of submissions. Even if we could consider so many, our time and space are limited. How could we choose? On the basis of grammar and punctuation? As we say, we like to dress up nicely and put on a good appearance for our authors and readers alike, but we also know that form for its own sake is very thin gruel.


Copyright © 2009 by Eileen Elkinson

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