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Wed, Jun. 1st, 2005, 08:39 pm
dragonscholar: Drabble - Redefnitions on many levels

Derived from the panels at Anime North 2005 (and there's going to be more, it was quite active).

One of the more interesting discussions was the change in the nature and prominence of the drabble. I've seen similar occurances, and found this intriguing:
1) Several people in the panels noted that they were seeing a LOT more Drabbles - not just in drabble communities or single challenges, but all over, sometimes to the point of annoyance ("can we see some real fics now?").
2) The definition of Drabble seems to have changed for some. To me, and those in the panels, Drabbles are short (100-500 word) fics, somtimes set to the precise amount of words, possibly a theme, and in general done quickly. But shorter fics seemed to be getting the term "Drabble" applied to them (My guess is that the term is altering to mean unedited fics done quickly and/or in a challenge).


Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 12:53 am (UTC)

I was first introduced to the concept of "drabble" as an exactly 100-word fic, usualy in response to a challenge on a particular theme or line. As I learned recently (I think) the term comes from a Monty Python improv sketch.

I've seen some attempt to closely define the term as such, and to apply the term "vignette" to short/unedited fics.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 01:12 am (UTC)

Which I suppose doesn't really answer the question. :) It seems that terms like "drabble" are often thrown around in fandom, and change their meaning over only a short time, simply because those using them usually don't know their history, don't know why they came into fandom use in the first place.

I think there's some need within fan communities to keep terms like "drabble" connected to their origins, simply for ease of communication. Language and slang both are living, changing things, but letting them change because of ignorance only robs words of their meaning.
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Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 12:55 am (UTC)

About #2:

To me, a drabble has always been exactly 100 words. Not 200 words, not 99 words, not 101 words. Exactly 100 words. I stubbornly stick to this definition, and in some bizarre form of self-sacrifice refuse to read drabbles with word counts ≠ 100.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 01:08 am (UTC)

You are not alone. We fight the good (if not futile) fight!

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 01:30 am (UTC)

I think of a drabble as 100 words. The first definition I saw limited the title to four words too, and for the most part I do that. Like a sonnet, part of the value of the form rises because it is defined with precision.

In my very small corner of LJ based LotR fandom we often call 200 words a droubble, 300 words a trabble, and 150 words a sesquidrabble.

I have seen a couple of people attempt a super-drabble of precisely 1000 words, but for the most part anything over 300 is identified as a ficlet. Odd amounts of words are sometimes introduced as "sort of drabbles", but the recognition that they are not actual drabbles continues to be valid.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 01:33 am (UTC)

I've never heard the "four-word-title" constraint before, but I, too, think that if it isn't 100 words it isn't a drabble. (I've managed to convince at least one other person that a half-drabble is a byatt.)

However, I don't think there's any reason to think that drabbles are necessarily written quickly--any more than sonnets or haikus are.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 01:36 am (UTC)

Speed or some kind of time limit was something I was used to. I suspect that part is being more prominent in some of the "mutations" of the term we discussed.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 01:49 am (UTC)

BTW, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a drabble until about 15 months ago... Now I've written dozens, and almost none of them for challenges of any kind. It's a form that is particularly well suited to LJ, I think, or blogging, which probably explains part of the popularity.

A good drabble series, and I've seen a few, is like reading a story in the funny pages, bit by bit...

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 02:00 am (UTC)

Drabbles are fics that are 100 words long exactly. Not fics with 100-word paragraphs. Not short fics. I like it as a writing exercise, because it really makes one pare down their purple prose (who me?) into what really needs to be said.

And one should especially know what length a drabble should be when one joins an LJ community titled, for example, 100_roadtrips or 100bullets.


Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 02:02 am (UTC)

A lot of people are apparently doing short fics/quick fics, etc. and calling them drabbles in some (at least anime) communities. So I suspect the term may be up for a mutation soon.

(which I don't approve of, but there you go).

BTW: Love the icon.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 02:11 am (UTC)

This is like watching punks argue about what's more "real punk", 100 words or 155, a 3-chord Ramones bashout or an 8-chord Clash reggae rundown.

I honestly don't see any point in splitting the hairs this fine; as halegirl said, communities establish definitions---if that is the case, then, logically, attempting to crystallize a broader definition is a pointless, ineffectual exercise.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 02:24 am (UTC)

"can we see some real fics now?"

I hate this attitude. Hate it. It's akin to writing a sonnet and having someone ask "can we see some free verse now?" I have nothing against free verse, and of course I have nothing against "real" fics, but it takes a lot of effort to write a drabble if you stick to the hardcore 100-word definition. Sometimes you have to perform some linguistic gymnastics in order to get the word-count right, and people claiming that drabbles are not "real" fics really undermines that effort. The comment I tend to see when I write drabbles is "good, but short." And while I appreciate the feedback, it's supposed to be short. I don't understand why people feel the need to inform me that my drabble is short. Yes, and also? Water is wet. ;)

The definition of Drabble seems to have changed for some.

I used to be of the opinion that drabbles were somewhere in the region of 100 words. I don't quite know when the shift occurred, but now I only refer to my 100-word fics as drabbles; the rest are vignettes or snippets as far as I'm concerned. That being said, I don't mind if other people's definitions don't match mine--I don't think a drabble should be 600 words long, but if that's what you want to call it, that's cool.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 02:30 am (UTC)

I think the "real fics" attitude that came up was due to the fact that the term Drabble, in some communities, is mutating towards a quickly-churned-out-short fic in defintion OR assumption.

(This ties into tomorrow's post, where I'll discuss the subject that came up next on fic quality, focus, and history. I'm pacing these out so I don't overwhelm or just bore the community and to ensure more detailed discussion.)

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 04:41 am (UTC)

I'm reminded of an old joke. (Mark Twain? Maybe.)

- If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?
- Five.
- No, four. Just because you call a tail a leg, doesn't make it a leg.

The drabble, according to The Writer's E-zine, is exactly 100 words. "Extending" the definition just leads to confusion. This post explained all the various fic terms in clear detail. With drabble, double drabble, flashfic, vignette, short-short, there should be enough descriptions to go around, without 'stretching' one to mean something it doesn't.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 05:12 am (UTC)


And so forth. A drabble is 100 words, no more, no less. The whole point is to stick to the limit and still write a good story. If that rule becomes flexible, then there's no bloody point now is there? :)

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 05:39 am (UTC)

I was introduced to them as being synononimous with 'short fics'. Meaning pretty much about a page or so long.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC)

Interesting, in Pokemon fandom I assume? The drabble-as-quick-short terminology could be a largely anime fandom phenomena then. Just a theory.

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 03:35 pm (UTC)

I swear to god some people just don't pay attention, or something. I wouldn't mind so much if there were no other words for "short thing I tossed off the other day", but there are. Vignette. Flash fiction. Short-short. Ficlet. Snippet. Or, hell, "draft". Or exercise. Why use the word that means something more specific?

No, really, why? Is there some speshul cachet that goes with drabbles? Do you get more feedback if you call it a drabble and not a ficlet? Does it just sound kewlier? What gives?

I don't see this as splitting hairs. More like "a 3-chord Ramones bashout" versus "anything with guitars in".

Thu, Jun. 2nd, 2005 07:29 pm (UTC)

Judging from the responses I suspect this "mutation" is probably recent. Though perhaps there is some kind of attention the term "drabble" brings so the word gets attention.