In Praise of the Drabble

Praying mantis with sinister shadowThe drabble has two things working against it when it comes to being considered a Serious Tool for Serious Writers. For one thing, it’s usually a work of fanfiction; for another thing, it’s always a work approximately 100 words long. Although the drabble may seem too frivolous to incorporate into your writing toolkit, I’ve found this ultra-brief story form helpful in a few important ways.

Efficiency of language is one of the main lessons you learn from a drabble. For writers who’ve never seen a lengthy adverbial phrase they didn’t like, writing drabbles is a marvelous way to learn how to use more powerful, compact words instead of weak, meandering descriptors.

Drabbles also help us learn the fine art of getting from A to B where a plot development is concerned. We’ve all been there – knowing that we desperately need to push the story forward, but afraid to drop the hammer and make that event happen. However, in 100 words there is no time to waste in a vain attempt to ease an event slowly into the story. Writing drabbles forces us to make things happen in a very short span, and they’re an excellent opportunity to practice writing your characters’ reactions to change.

Lastly, the simple act of writing 100 words can teach us valuable lessons about managing the labor aspect of writing. Especially when we’re young, we can easily feel cowed by a word count goal. Knowing that it takes minutes to write 100 words is a good first step planning a work of 1,000 words; from there, it’s not so hard to move up to longer and longer works.

As far as literary forms go, the drabble ranks somewhere between the Tweet and the one-scene drama in terms of prestige. However, its humble reputation belies its incredible usefulness in teaching us to be more efficient with our language, more decisive with our plot development, and more conscious of the pace at which we work.