What is a drabble?

Narrating a tale in six words is a tall order, but 100 words is a great length to work with.

The hundred-word story been popular among science fiction writers since the 1980s, and is sometimes referred to as a drabble — no, not after Margaret Drabble, but after a usage coined in Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book.

The success of Dan Rhodes’ Anthropology, which contains 101 101-word stories, testifies to the fact that it is a length that can be popular with readers as well as writers.

Here are a couple of  sample 100-worders:

Mould by Dan Rhodes

I’m hopelessly in love with a bland girl. She has never said or done anything interesting. I spend hours trying to work out why I’m so deeply attached to her. I can’t find the answer. Her hair is boring, her face is boring and her body is boring. Every time I come home from work to find her slumped on the sofa, surrounded by used yoghurt pots, my heart explodes and I feel giddy, like I’m walking on air. I take her lifeless hand, kiss her pale cheek and say, ‘they broke the mould when they made you’. She rarely responds. —From ‘Anthropology and other stories’ by Dan Rhodes, (Canongate, 2000).

Roaring Water Bay by Lane Ashfeldt

Auntie Rose was the vintage of the oldest penny buried in the garden: 1892. She wore her hair in a white bun. She made bread and scones, she planted hyacinths and forsythia, she scolded and comforted, clucked and sweetened. In her late nineties she went ‘home’ on a visit. Within weeks she was dead and buried in the cramped family grave, as if the very land itself had killed her. Only then did I learn of her lost child, the ‘sin’ that made her leave, and understand why she would say to me, defiant, “they can scatter my ashes over Roaring Water Bay”. —Published in http://www.the-phone-book-com

[this post was adapted from a longer article by Lane which was previously published by Arts Council England].


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