How To Write A Drabble

Many of us geeks are also various types of writers. We here at Girls Are Geeks are clearly interested in some writing as we started a blog that involves writing articles, more or less. Many geeks I know are also fiction writers, or would like to be fiction writers, including my husband. As a scientist, I do a lot of scientific writing, however, I do dabble in another writing world: fanfiction.

Now, I’m sure a few of you are scoffing and thinking that fanfiction isn’t writing, but it is definitely writing, just within the confines of a known universe and often with known characters. I particularly like this type of writing, because since I am not a fiction writer, I do not have to build a whole world, just make additions to an existing one. It is actually quite difficult writing, especially when trying to stay true to canon and character voices. I rarely find fanfiction writers of my fandoms that I really love. For me, it is a nice escape from my real world into their world, and I know I can just write and it doesn’t have to be fabulous or perfect.

Anyway, talking about writing fanfiction in general, there is a form of fiction that I discovered through fanfiction that I really enjoy, and that is the drabble. A drabble is by definition a 100 word story. It is not 100 words of a story (although some get expanded later on). I have been part of a drabble challenge for a while for Supernatural on Every week we are given a word, and sometimes a prompt, and we write drabbles. I love it. It is the best combination of precise scientific style writing and fiction for me. It is quite difficult actually to form an entire complete little story in 100 words, and therefore, I am going to explain how I do it.

First, determine if you are going from a prompt, and if so, get that prompt in your head. Now, consider the story you want to write. It should be a simple story, one to three characters, one or two major actions, one conflict and resolution, if you choose to resolve it. If you want, you can write out the events in a quick list.

Second, write your story. The idea during this first round is to get all of your story down, not worry about the word count. Put the pieces in place, get the dialogue in, and make sure your conflict and resolution occur. Now do a word count. One of two options here: over or under. If you are under, awesome! Go add a little description to something. More likely, you are over, but hopefully somewhere between 100-200. More than that, and you might need to consider if this story is possible to tell in a drabble.

Now, If you are quite a few words over (120-200 range), look back on your story and decide if there are sections that are not absolutely necessary to get to the final portion. Perhaps you can cut a serious chunk of description or leave out a minor plot point that will not affect the ending. What can go without the reader feeling like it was truly missing. It is hard to remove sections of your writing, but the point is to hit the 100 word mark and still tell a story. It might not be exactly the story you started telling.

Hopefully, after a round or two of large chunk removal, you are now down in the 101-120 word range. If not, kick yourself, and remember that not everything you put on paper is golden and reread the last paragraph. For the rest of you, this is the home stretch! Now, go looking for anything you can reword more succinctly or link together. For example, make sure every possible contraction is used, unless it would be a breach of character/canon. Look for areas of description that can be condensed or cut back. You can often rephrase things to make them shorter. The last couple of words are often the hardest, but do it! It isn’t finished until it is 100 words on the dot.

Lastly, enjoy your drabble! Post it somewhere cool, read it to a friend. Put it in our comments section! Here, I’ll even give you a Girls Are Geeks prompt: Falling in love with a fandom – now write away!

Here are two of mine written for Supernatural, but surprisingly applicable to many situations with a few minor adjustments.
Honor Their Memory

The car climbs to the top of the mountain, orange leaves flying out of the way of the tires.

It is cold and quiet at the summit, appropriate.

The younger man leaves the car and takes a seat on a rock at the edge of the cliff.

The elder grabs two bottles from the trunk and joins him.

The beers touch, the two look out silently over the valley. The leaves are peak, with streaks of red and gold and yellow separated by a white church steeple and the wide, blue river.

The beauty of the scene is lost through the blur of unshed tears.
Try to Understand

I’m a free spirit. Independent. Always had to find my own way.

So, my dreams, hopes, and my heaven are that. They are about finding the path on my own and not following for the sake of following.

I still love you. I still want to be beside you, a team, working together toward the same goal.

We both want to eventually reach a place we can call home. I’m willing to compromise what I want to get there, but not who I am.

I’m sorry. That’s the way I am. It’s the way I’ve always been.

Is that so weird and impossible to understand?
Here are some other useful and helpful articles on drabbles

Definition of a Drabble

When Size Matters

Helpful Drabble Hints


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ruth
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 16:45:32

    Have you seen the Neil Gaiman 100-word story he used as a Christmas card? I think it was in Smoke & Mirrors. It’s a really cool concept because it doesn’t let you blather on, which I’ve found can be a problem when I write.


  2. girlsaregeeks
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 17:26:48

    Yeah, i think doing these has really improved my writing all around, it’s great!

    Here’s the Gaiman one, totally amusing!

    Nicholas Was…

    Older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter.

    He wanted to die.

    The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue; conducted incomprehensible rituals when they were not actually working in the factories.

    Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night. During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves’ invisible gifts by its bedside. The children slept, frozen in time.

    He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas. His punishment was harsher.

    Ho. Ho. Ho.



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