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:
- A story told in 1st person by someone who is slipping in and out of consciousness.
- A series of letters sent back and forth. (Maybe from prison, maybe from war).
- A series of short radio transmissions. (I think you see the pattern here).
- 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.