What is a scene and a vignette in fiction?

A major division of a story is a scene, in which a dramatic action occurs, usually involving the same characters at a single locale. Stories typically consist of several scenes, all of which correspond with the opening, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.

For example, if in one part of the book the protagonist is in a car chase across Los Angeles, the entire sequence of events centering on the chase marks one scene. When the chase is over and the protagonist’s plane lands in New York City so he can investigate the next link in the illegal drug chain, then a new scene starts.

Sometimes a blank line of type or a centered symbol (such as a set of three asterisks) separates scenes to help delineate them, but that need not be the case.

Usually the opening of a story consists of a single scene. The rising action often includes at least three scenes as efforts are made to resolve the story’s central problem. The climax occurs in one scene while the falling action and denouement typically are wrapped into a single scene, sometimes continuing from the climax in location and time.

One type of scene is a vignette. This is brief and descriptive, focusing on imagery to create an impression about a character, place, object or idea. For example, a novel set in Nebraska might include a vignette describing a wheat field from spring through winter with it as a metaphor for how lives pass in the prairie.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.