What is a drabble?
Drabble is a 100-word story, and like every form of story it has a beginning, middle and end. They should have one or more protagonists, a conflict and ultimately the resolution.
Drabble is a fun and wonderful exercise at conveying a lot of emotions and messages within the restricted count. It can be in any genre–romance, fantasy, horror, science fiction; there’s no dearth of possibilities.
How and when did drabble start?
Drabble originated in the United Kingdom science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the Birmingham University SF Society established the 100-word format, taking a term from Monty Python‘s 1971 Big Red Book. In the book, “Drabble” was described as a word game where the first participant to write a novel was the winner. In order to make the game possible in the actual world, they agreed that 100 words would suffice.
Tips to ace at drabble
In actual life, we speak more often than needed, often filling words just to break the silence. But in fiction, every word matters and more so in a restricted category like drabble where 100 means 100! So, the challenge is to write an engaging story within the word count.
This 5-point plan would help you write that stunning drabble you have been dreaming of writing for long.
The basic premise
What is the story you wish to convey? Have a basic idea, a rough structure. If you are writing for a prompt, make sure you align your thoughts with it.
- When you start with the piece, just pour your thoughts onto paper, or clacking the keyboard; just go with the flow–unrestricted. Do not worry about word count, sentence structure, or any errors at this stage.
- Have a working title of what you want to name your piece. It helps to have an idea as it basically helps in weaving your thoughts together. Don’t fret if the title is not perfect, we can always change it once the story is complete.
- Split the word count under the key parts of the story –about 20-25 words for the beginning/ setting; around 60 for the main part and the remaining for the conclusion.
The secret ingredients
Since it’s a short piece, the aim is to grab the reader’s attention even before they read it. So how to achieve that?
- By having a captivating and interesting title.
- It is important to have a hook in the opening paragraph so that the reader is sucked in right from the first word.
- Twists! Yes, you read it right. The beginning and middle can set the scene, but with a twist, you can leave the reader amazed!
- Or even an open ending. Let the reader arrive at their own conclusion and interpret the story whichever way it speaks to them.
- Unlike longer pieces, there isn’t enough space to set a scene and then develop the story. Hence it becomes imperative to jump into the heart of the story, and that’s the main challenge of writing shorter pieces.
Adding the magic touch
And now to the most important part! Once you have outlined your story, check the number of words. Take your editing shears or craft scissors, whichever you prefer, and go snap snap.
- A tight editing is the key to nailing a drabble.
- Be ruthless and cut off every unwanted word, don’t worry about hurting their feelings… just let them know they are still loved and you will come back to them sooner than ever! e.g. “he walked noiselessly” can become “he tiptoed”, and voilà, you saved 1 word.
- Use verbs to show rather than tell.
- Simple is beautiful–don’t use complicated words just for the sake of it. The idea is not to show off one’s vocabulary but to reach out to the reader and connect with them. Why use ‘valetudinarian’ when ‘weak’ or ‘frail’ is an easier replacement!
- Using literary devices like similes, metaphors etc helps bring out the beauty of the story. But ensure to avoid cliché. It’s best to always come up with your own similes and metaphors rather than use something you have read anywhere.
- Sentence length lays an important part. Avoid using long descriptive phases, shorter sentences help to grasp their attention.
Simple but mandatory points to follow always
These points are not only for a drabble. Keep them in mind whether you are writing micro-fiction, flash fiction, or even twabble.
- Always use a word counter.
- Ensure there are no grammatical errors, that’s a big no!
- Similarly, with spellings, always use spell check.
- For the sake of getting the word count right, never remove articles. Every ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’ is important to the story.
- Pay attention to tenses.
The last check before the celebration dance
Before you hit the submit button, take a pause and read. Not as the writer, but as a reader; and if possible, read it out loud. This step may seem insignificant and it may tempt you to skip, but in reality, it is an important step as it would help in spotting the teeny tiny flaws which you would have missed before.
If something’s lacking, go back to the editing table and repeat the steps 1 to 5.
And then give it a last read. Happy with the effort? Now, you can enjoy and let your hair down.
But don’t forget to submit the brilliant piece, after all its meant to be admired by the world!