Morgan Locklear: Wordslinger…

Drabble Rabble

While I am not a big fan of drabble postings I would nevertheless like to defend the trend and explain it’s evolution and importance in the current online writing culture.

First of all, if you do not know the term, Drabble is a style of writing that consists of very small chapters (usually less than a thousand words).  I first saw the style used in a story posted online last year and while the gimmick (I do not use the word as an insult) created a lot of buzz, the story relied too heavily on it’s concept and any readers after the fact missed out on things like real time posts.

As writers, we want our work to have a consistent impact on readers and part of that is creating a world they can immerse themselves in.  That can hardly be accomplished by reading small clumps of fiction sometimes no bigger than a wind energy pamphlet.

Still, there is a reason it has taken hold and I must admit that it is a perfect example of social adaption.

You see, online writing used to be all about the stories but as we developed friendships and communicated on blogs, threads, Twitter and what have you, we realized that we were anxious to get back to the discussions we were missing while busy reading.  Long chapters first became skimmed then skipped so drabble evolved as a way to keep things short enough so as not to interfere with our new social engagements.

Now we can read a chapter that takes about as much time as listening to a song and I completely understand how and why drabble became so popular.  I just worry that the style will stop the momentum of some very talented writers.

Ah, but what if someone is not interested in writing the next great novel?  What if they are just having fun?  To those people I intend no offense.  It is a worthy way to spend time, and if people are enjoying it then more power to you.

Although there are some who will never see it’s appeal, others have been drawn into reading and writing online as a direct result.

I wonder if anyone else loves reading letters and emails in stories like I do? It’s a fun way to have a bit of drabble right in the middle of a bigger story.

I think small chapters are fine. But at what point does it take more time to get over to the site it’s posted on then it does to read the smattering of words offered up, thereby making the very thing designed to save time do nothing more than make us work harder for less.

Do people review drabble?  Are some reviews longer than the post itself?

If it were a matter of writing style like 1st person vs. 3rd person I could just have drabble duke it out with traditional chapters, but it isn’t even as established as 1st person or 3rd person.  It’s still a new fad that’s being tested right now to mixed reviews.

Are there people out there who think it’s straight up lazy writing?  Yup.  But that is a gross over simplification and I must say straight up lazy thinking.  I may not be a fan of drabble but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the craft and accept it for what it is.  (I don’t like country music either but that doesn’t mean ‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ isn’t a great song).

Okay, now that I fully defended it’s place in our world, please please please let me try to talk you out of continuing such a doomed method.  Drabble, like it’s name, insists that it not be taken seriously. I would love nothing more than to pick up my “Down with Drabble” pennant and join you but I have another Idea:

Someone should prove us drabble haters wrong by writing a story that uses the short sputtering style in such a way as to deem it integral.  To read a fiction that not only doesn’t suffer from the style, but flourishes because of it.

I have a few ideas that might (and I stress might) make it work:

  1. A story told in 1st person by someone who is slipping in and out of consciousness.
  2. A series of letters sent back and forth.  (Maybe from prison, maybe from war).
  3. A series of short radio transmissions.  (I think you see the pattern here).
  4. A story told with every move in a chess game. (Really reaching here).

The point is that the story has to work with the premise, not despite it.  The very tale itself needs to be designed to support the bizarre manor in which it’s told.

I would not be surprised if a story is already out there that attempts this and even succeeds at it.  Please send any suggestions my way via the comment section below and I will promise to check them all out and get back to the blog.

In closing, drabble is a limited but none-the-less interesting niche in the online writing community. Although it’s practical uses (i.e. publishing) are unlikely, the service such stories provide by allowing us to not let the social line go slack is second only to the fun and funny stories and characters that have already been introduced.

Like the limerick, drabble will always have it’s place and some may even be revered one day, but alas it will forever be the hai-ku’s ugly brother.

Please know that my comments are meant to entertain and not enrage. Again, I welcome recommendations for stories that may have already showcased the style brilliantly as well as any limericks you would like to share.

Your Pal,

Morgan

24 thoughts on “Morgan Locklear: Wordslinger…

  1. ChocoMG2112 says:

    Very interesting take on the phenomena. I find the couple I have read to be an entertaining distraction. I find though that I don’t review when I read. In most cases,it is because there is not much to comment on. Maybe if I do in the future, I should wait and comment at the end.

    I can’t write a drabble because my brain doesn’t work that way. Beck the two times I have tried to write one shots they turned into 21 page pieces.

    I admire when people can write in such way, to grab their audience and entertain. I have only read one such offering, the first one of these I read.

    Sorry, I’m ill and babbling.

    Like

  2. Stefter says:

    Am I the only person who thinks it’s sad the we skim through long chapters “so as not to interfere with our new social engagements”?
    Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some Drabble fics. (sorry, I just woke up and don’t have anything more interesting to say) 🙂

    Like

  3. Katiebird says:

    I’ve always thought of Drabble as just another writing style, like writing in first person or third person, but I am not a writer. I think some people are better at it, than others. I didn’t realize that some people were using it as a way to save time in writing or reading. I don’t skim anything that I read, because I enjoy reading too much. I think of Drabbles as a writing style that is more intense, because the author has to choose their words carefully to decribe what is happening.

    I think I know what story you are speaking of, where the writer posted very short chapters in “real” time. I wasn’t reading at 1am, just because there was an update then, but I did stop in the middle of a Target to sit down to read one time.*giggle* I really enjoyed the story at any rate. I am going to take a guess, and say it might have been The Plan by Quantumfizzx. After reading that story, pineapple has never been the same for me.

    That being said, I don’t actively seek out Drabbles. I read stories from authors that I like, and stories that friends recommend. If they happen to be Drabbles, than so be it. I will recommend one story to you that I really liked, because I liked the story line, and thought she did an amazing job with choosing her words. I was hooked by the first chapter. It being under 100 words, that is saying something. It’s called Together by CaraNo. She writes alot of Drabbles, not exclusively.

    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7540529/1/Together

    Thanks for the insight.

    Like

    • Tamie says:

      Katie, Are you on Goodreads? And thanks for all ur comments. I enjoy reading them 🙂

      Like

      • Katiebird says:

        I have been on Goodreads, and enjoy the book recs. there. Thanks for compliment btw. I’m glad I found this place. 🙂

        Like

    • deb24601 says:

      My feelings are similar to yours. I don’t necessarily go looking for drabble fics but I have enjoyed lots of them. It really depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to curl up and be immersed in a whole world and lose myself in long chaps. Sometimes, like you, it’s fun to get an update, stop in the grocery store and have a little escape.

      I wonder if the trend to shorter chaps is a result of some of the “epic” length stories. I rememeber getting updates and having to schedule time to read and sometimes the notice would end up scrolling by. I also, LOVE the group interaction of quick updates like The Plan or Transcendence.

      As a writer, I’ve done both and enjoy both. Some of the biggest reactions I’ve received have been from WitFit entries which are very short. I love the idea of entertaining and intriguing someone with a few words.

      Like

      • ChocoMG2112 says:

        I’m weird. I fully admit that up front.

        When a new wave happens and catches us, like The Plan did (which I loved), as a writer I almost feel like I need to jump on the train. But I have found that I am not someone who can tell a story in a few words. And hence why I have failed in management. I do much better at painting the picture, than limiting myself to an executive summary. So while I do not have the talent for telling such a tale, there are some I do enjoy.

        And again I realize I have said absolutely nothing. See why this is a talent I don’t have? LOL

        Like

      • rdmickey1989 says:

        Choco, I don’t call that weird. I call that inspiring. Let me explain.

        There are people who think they can do this, that fall way short. If you know what you do well and what your weaknesses are, you are more ahead of the game than a lot of people.

        My personality type has never made me jump on the train because everyone else is, but I understand there are those that may feel left out and want to be apart of it.

        Continue to flourish in what you do well and let the train go past. There will be another one. Always is.

        Like

      • ChocoMG2112 says:

        Thank you for that. I have already that I just can’t write one shots. Lol both I attempted for charity compilations and the. First time turned into chapter 1 of a new story, the other was an outtake, but even that grew!!

        So thank you again, I seem to do better with lots and lots of words. So I will try to stick to that. 🙂

        MG <<– iz a goober.

        Like

      • rdmickey1989 says:

        Choco, if you don’t mind, What is your penname?

        Like

      • ChocoMG2112 says:

        I am MG2112.

        Like

      • ChocoMG2112 says:

        Oops! I was too slow. Yup, that’s me. >.<

        Like

      • rdmickey1989 says:

        *giggles* WordPress is delayed. I have Singer and the Sorrow on my TBR list.

        Like

      • ChocoMG2112 says:

        Thank you. I hope you like it. It has quite a number of layers and an evil Requiem.

        Like

  4. rdmickey1989 says:

    Good Morning Everyone. My first stop of the day while sipping my coffee, before I start washing clothes and start reading.

    There are several drabbles/dribbles I have really enjoyed over the past year and the first one was a refreshing change. Something new, something different. But I am growing tired of them. It seems everyone wants to try. Obviously there are those much better at it than others and I guess I really shouldn’t say anything because I will never be a writer. But you asked for my opinion, so I feel compelled to try and articulate my thoughts first thing in the morning as a reader.

    The momentum of the story is much different, and many are loosing my attention. Like Katie, I don’t skim anything. If I am devoted to a story, I read. Heck by the end of a chp, if I am thrown for a loop, I may even reskim the chp to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

    I don’t feel committed to a story if all I get are a few sentences. The story is gone before I am captured and engulfed into their world. I can probably say that drabbles/dribbles will probably never be on my top lists of anything.

    I usually review everything I read. It maybe a sentence or two or heck even one word. With drabbles/dribbles, I can rarely find anything to say. There is not enough information to comment on.

    There also seems to be a big variance on the types. If the chp are longer, say like Sin, Transcendence, the Biology Project, I have no issues. But some are trying to a chp in like 3 sentences and those, will never capture me, no matter who the author is.

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    • Katiebird says:

      Great minds think like… I know I should review more often, but I don’t always feel compelled to. Drabbles are difficult to immerse yourself into, kind of like a dangling preposition at the end of a sentence. (see my sentence before this one) 😉

      Like

      • rdmickey1989 says:

        Well it is odd for me not to say something, I have never been bashful, so usually I find something to say. Voicing an opinion is usually not hard for me *snort*. Even if the story is complete and still online, I review each chp. The next button always makes me smile.

        If I don’t review it usually means one of several things.
        1. I need to read more before I flounce for many reasons
        2. You are not giving me enough details to say anything
        3. I am on vacation without internet and I am reading with my kindle
        4. Your story is not online anymore

        Like

  5. MOG says:

    These comments were great, thank you, and I will check out Together by CaraNo.

    Like

  6. This is a really interesting post, Morgan. Thanks for sharing.
    I tend to favor stories that are made of long chapters. That’s because I like immerging myself fully in them and when I reach the end of the chap, I always want to keep reading. Sometimes, I re-read them multiple times the same day they’ve been posted. I like stories that make me think and reflect upon what is written and upon what the authors want to convey through a particular chapter. I haven’t read many drabble stories, so I can’t say much about them. Like Deb said, sometimes it depends on my mood.
    Thanks for the insight.

    Like

  7. “Long chapters first became skimmed then skipped so drabble evolved as a way to keep things short enough so as not to interfere with our new social engagements.”

    I loved this observation because I can relate to this first hand with my own story, Scintilla, and give you a surprising example to prove your point.

    Morgan, Jenn’s Beta of Scintilla was grueling because many of those chapters were at least 10,000 word chapters and they were written/posted weekly because I made a promise to myself and set a personal goal to meet, and so poor Jenn was a busy Goddess. VERY busy. 😉 I started getting feedback from readers privately asking for shorter chapters, and I was stubborn because the story had to be completed by a specified date I was aiming for and held steadfast to.

    I can never thank Jenn enough for sticking with me as I pushed on like a crazy woman. 😉

    But recently I had a series of conversations with fandom peeps that compelled me to rethink how my desire to complete something by a deadline may have detracted from the messages in my story, and so I rethought the criticisms and decided to try it…break up the chapters and repost in a more readable format by many reader’s standards. And honestly? The story flows better this new way, in my opinion. Instead of throwing tons of information and scenes at the reader at once in a 9,000 word chapter, three chapters at 3,000 words sets a pace and easy stopping-off points if readers wish to come back. I understand, from a practical perspective, why this makes it easier on readers. But this is only hindsight being 20/20…I’m a wordy writer by nature and that’s why I love the challenge of one-shot challenges, etc. I’m forced to operate and creatively function within limits set forth by the challenge. Now one can bet that if there is a word limit, I’ll be on the top end of word counts, skirting the limit by single digits, but I find that a fun challenge – that’s my own personal perspective, though.

    The crazy thing I have a hard time wrapping my head around is how reviews come into play when shorter chapters are presented to the reader in place of larger ones, which will further illustrate your point in a tangible way. I had no expectations about breaking down and reposting Scintilla other than to possibly make more readers happy. My only hope was that readers would have more opportunities to receive the messages I tried so hard to convey in the story, the lessons and the facts that I think are important in life. I made those changes to Scintilla in December, and at the time, the story held 1,500ish wonderful reviews, which was far more than I ever hoped to receive. And what’s freaking me out a bit? As of a few days ago, the story reached 5,000 reviews and I’m not sure WHY. It’s probably partly because I recently participated in a contest and that drew new readers my way, but I’m not certain it’s just that either.

    I think the size of the chapters encourage reader/writer interaction and pleases the reader immensely. It makes it easier on them and they tell me so. I wasn’t expecting THIS to happen and yet it has.

    I think that in a long-winded response to your post (what the hell else is new? 😉 LOL), I’m validating your points about the growing preference for shorter chapters with an example many will be able to see. Maybe not one stop light short, or two stop light short, but shorter than what was previously preferred by readers, I think. And from a personal perspective, I agree that it’s becoming easier for me to follow a story that has shorter updates than the 12,000 worders that I previously preferred. My husband and children can still be fed, I can still get my house chores done, and I don’t feel like I need to block off hours in my day just because my favorite story is about to update. Now I’m not complaining! You know how much I looked forward to every Saturday morning when UoEM would go live. Waiting for those updates was like anticipating my favorite fix, and discussing those updates on the thread was one of the funnest parts of my day. I’m not complaining, just making an honest observation – that when I’m presented with a shorter chapter, I’m less likely to have to plan my day around an update that I know I’m unable to miss because I want it so much. If I can read something in 10 minutes instead of 50, I get more time to utilize elsewhere. With the day’s restraints, free time is a premium.

    To make what should be a short response very long, drabblish updates may be the thing that keeps this fandom going. I see it happening in the Potter Fandom too, and the few others I’ve followed for years and years.

    Personally, I don’t tend to read the really short chaptered stories. I love the Biology Project right now and I enjoyed KlrTwiLuver/TheBondGirls’ Twas the Night Before recently, but overall, few sentence drabble chapters seem too ADD for me, and that’s coming from someone who has OCD/ADD issues in real life. 😉 My problems with really short dabbles is that I have a hard time getting excited about anything if I’m only given a few sentences at a time. How do I anticipate what’s next if a thought doesn’t even have time to develop? That’s why I didn’t read The Plan until after it was complete, and why I tend to stay clear of other drabbles until they’re done.

    Morgan, I think your blog post was really great and timely when considering my own personal experiences recently. My breaking up Scintilla was totally unrelated to the drabble trend, and yet I think that, in the grand scheme of things, it ended up not only being what’s happening in the here and now, but what’s becoming PREFERRED.

    Is that a good thing? Not sure, but I do think it’s here to stay because it seems like readers want it that way. We get the daily news in short and concise spurts, and news tickers are everywhere, on every channel and we get and get and get so fast, and twitter limits us to 140 or whatever the # is, and so we are all becoming accustomed to be quicker, faster, whatever…I guess ADD is becoming the norm, and we’re all beginning to feed into that machine, no matter if we want to or not. The quick fix is now the fix that is. That actually makes me feel a little mournful of the days gone by, but it is what it is.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. Awesome post, Mog. *hugs*

    Becca

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    • rdmickey1989 says:

      Interesting and thought provoking response. I too can remember Sat postings of UOEM or the once a month EP postings when chps would sit around 60-70 pages it felt like.

      To me there is a fine line of being too long or too short. You don’t want your readers to have to spend an hour reading your update since we all have RL, but you cannot really entrance your readers with just a few short sentences either.

      I have never really paid attention to the word count on updates. But to look at what works for me, and what does not, I went and looked at a few.

      It seems I am happy with 3000-12000 word updates and disappointed in the ones that are coming in at 150-200 words. As you so eloquently pointed out, those are twitter feeds, not updates.

      Like

      • I agree with you about the preferred word length updates on that low end. I can appreciate 1,000 word updates but I have a hard time getting into the 200 worders, so if it’s a story I really like and I know that the updates will be smallish, I let the chapters build up. I’m not usually one for delayed gratification (LOL!) but when it comes to words, I can sustain…for a time. *grins* And I remember those EP updates. I would squeeeeeeeee when they came through, and like UoEM and MoTU, I would block off time and pretty much drop everything to read if I could. With many of those updates, it would take a really long time to read because I wanted to devour and digest every word.

        Your comments make me miss loving a story that much that I feel compelled to drop everything. I have a couple that I follow now that I really love and get excited about when I see them in my inbox, but I think we were all really fortunate to have those reading experiences back in the day, where many fantastic stories were posting at once and many readers were on the same train. That’s not to say that there are no greats stories NOW, it’s just that something was different about that time, where the stories and following of those stories became EPIC. There were a few of these examples in the early/mid 2000’s in the Potter Fandom that I remember in the same way, and I miss that feeling – that understanding with a huge mass of fans who would gather on the threads and discuss, etc. But how can we discuss anything when updates are the size of twitter feeds or really long text? Over time, we can, but with the super short chapters, the readers are compelled to interact differently I guess. It’s interesting to consider, isn’t it? It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe we’re evolving in a social context, but that’s what I also kind of fear…I don’t want short – I want REAL. That’s why I’m on twitter rarely. As much as I enjoy seeing everyone and often have a good laugh, there are times I feel overwhelmed with the speed of the feed and the interaction seems less tangible to me, like things are speeding by so fast that I’m missing things. The written word is best savored at a speed slower than the trend, in my opinion. God damn, I sound like a crotchety old person. LOL!

        So nice to talk with you RDMickey1989.

        Becca

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  8. I am not a fan of what the fandom recognizes as a drabble. Most are not. Drabbles are no more than 100 words. Most I have seen are more than that and many just short of an “actual” chapter. They are also un-beta’d and it shows. Poor spelling and grammar are enough to flounce stories, with “drabbles”, it’s down right frustrating. The majority that are being posted have no flow and barely a story. They make no sense at all. If they were full stories, they would be ripped apart for that alone, but seem to be acceptable if posted as a drabble. The most offensive are actual shark jumpers with staggering reviews, and these are by well known writers. I assume the well known are given the pass by the fandom for some reason. IDK, I find it so offensive when I see large review counts on what I call the sharks when there are so many good stories virtually ignored.

    So no, I do not see the fascination and am hoping the “fad” dies soon.

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