Memoir Vignettes as a Literary Form
Many people who read memoirs expect a storybook narration in the text. While it is true that memoirs are often written in a linear timeline, critics have argued that this conventional timeline makes these memoirs seem repetitive.
As a writer, I find that pushing the limits of established literature makes the writing experience not only simple but also liberating. In my memoir, “Mirror Mirror: A Collection of Memoirs and Stories,” I have done this by using vignettes as a way to narrate my experiences.
What are Vignettes?
Vignettes are short sketches or scenes that writers from different kinds of literary worlds may use to provide depth. It is because they are shorter that they can give the reader so much insight. For example, the book “Cane” by Jean Toomer is a modern classic, and it uses fiction vignettes to highlight the experience of slaves and African American communities.
Vignettes can be used in any storytelling. Flashbacks in the popular TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Orange Is The New Black”are examples of how vignettes can be used to tell a larger story.
How Can Vignettes Be Used For Memoirs?
It's essential for the memoir genre to expand to various ways of narration, and I’ve chosen to do that in my work with vignettes. When we remember our lives, we often remember bits and pieces that have been formative in making us who we are. Those bits and pieces have formed the basis for how I have organized my short memoirs.
For one, take this excerpt from my collection of memoirs and stories:
“The sun sends down a hot mean shine as I climb the ladder of my lookout tower. My father has constructed the tower out of metal ladders, which converge on a solid wood base surrounded by a railing. Standing on top, I love looking over the hedges far into the distance. Today, I look at the sky and the trees. I hear a robin’s nest whisper. My mother, who is standing on the ground, calls up to me, “Hold on, for God’s sake. You’ll fall on your face. Stupid, ugly girl.” My legs turn to liquid. I grip the bars tightly to steady myself. The sky becomes an underwater painting through my tears.”
This small description focuses on the moment, showing what an abusive, sometimes loving mother-daughter relationship was in this case. It is through the use of vivid description that I can show my feelings about events to readers.
Are Vignettes Leaving An Impact?
We already know that critics are asking for innovation in this genre, but can forms like vignettes affect the reader? I believe so. In today's age of digital content, our attention spans have gotten shorter. What helps people connect to the written word is work that gives people a burst of emotional depth in shorter sections.