So if you’ve never heard the term, what the heck is a drabble? What you get when you cross a dragon with a tribble? A version of Scrabble that only allows cuss words? A duck? Of course, it’s related to writing, and while you might think it has something to do with novelist Margaret Drabble, it doesn’t. The term actually came from Monty Python’s Big Red Book (1971) where Drabble was a game where the first player to write a novel won.
Drabbles later became popular in science fiction and fan fiction fandom. The present concept originated in the United Kingdom. The 100-word drabble was started among Birmingham University Science Fiction Society. Beccon Publications published three drabble novels: THE DRABBLE PROJECT in 1988, DRABBLE II: Double Century in 1990, and DRABBLE WHO in 1993. You can find them here
A drabble is a very short fiction piece. The purpose of a drabble is to express something interesting and meaningful in as few words as possible. Drabble began with the 100-word definition and has since evolved to mean any short work of fiction of 1000 words or less.
Spin-offs of drabbles include droubbles, which is a work of exactly 200 words in length, dribbles, which are only 50 words, and drabblecasts which are podcasts of short fiction. Similar concepts are flash fiction, shortfic, microfiction or nanofiction.
Want to see what a drabble looks like?
You can find samples written by various authors on The Drabble Project website.
If you’re a writer, drabbles can be a way of focusing on, enhancing, or experimenting with your work. Sandra McDonald, author of THE OUTBACK STARS posted a selection of 30 Drabbles on Scribd that examines how the characters from her novel and its sequel, THE STARS DOWN UNDER, may have faired in alternate universes. [Please note the author’s warning of “naughty” content and spoilers.]