A vignette is a scene or a descriptive sketch. It might focus on a single moment or an image, or it may give a particularly distinct impression of a character or setting. A vignette is a snapshot or a glimpse. As a reader, you may get a distinct and rich impression, but you’re limited in terms of what you see or experience.
A vignette differs from a short story in that it doesn’t necessarily have all the elements of plot. A short story—no matter how short—will have a conflict and a beginning, middle, and end. A short story will also have a protagonist.
A vignette might be a short passage describing a character’s view of a harbor. It may create a distinct mood of isolation and loss. A short story, on the other hand, would put that character at the harbor waiting her boyfriend who has been at sea for three months. She’s already involved with another man, but the sailor doesn’t know, as she hasn’t been able to communicate with him while he was away. His ship arrives and she greets him and the story goes on to show what she does next. That conflict—and following through with it—is the difference between a vignette and a story