Francine - harvest
I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
A dribble, a drabble -- below, please find babble...

A drabble is 100 words. It just is. If it's 300 words long, or 500 words long, or 98 words long, the term you're looking for is "short story" or perhaps "ficlet" or "flashfic" but it is not "drabble." It's exactly like saying, "Well, I like the sound of the word 'sonnet' and it sort of seems like it should mean 'Any poem in iambic pentameter that rhymes,' so I'm going to use it that way."

People who say "Er, no, that's not a sonnet; it's a very nice poem, but it fails as a sonnet because it has too many lines," aren't being tightasses, they're just making a statement that what's been written here doesn't fall under the rules of that specific literary form. Nobody's saying it has to comply with a specific literary form, but if you don't want to be limited to the rules that have been established for that form, all you have to do is not call it that (or in the linked case, admit that it was an honest screwup). It's a problem that solves itself.

I think what bugs me about the way 'drabble' is being used recently in fandom to mean 'any really short story' or at best 'any short story of a pre-assigned round number of words' is that when done well, the 100-word drabble is a lot like a very carefully-crafted poem. I haven't regularly written poetry for years, but it was my first love and it's still the art-form I have the most formal study in, so I love drabbles that recapture that feeling (whether I wrote them or am reading them) of crafting and shaping where every. single. word. and its placement counts at a very intense level. Use of 'drabble' to mean any old short fic bothers me because I sense that the meaning-shift has come because the word sounds like "some little thing that dribbled out of my pen," and that association then attaches itself to the 100-word ones as well, that people have worked hard on to make meet the requirements of the form.

(And I'm not saying people didn't work hard on the 120-word stories and the 500-word stories; I'm just saying that they didn't specifically work hard to make a story that says something touching or clever and says it in exactly 100 words, no more, no less.)


Edit: But then there's people who don't know the original meaning of 'drabble' because they've only seen it used in fandom, by someone else who learned it from someone else who... etc. I'm not bitching at them (or even really at the people who know the literary meaning and have tried to adapt it to different word counts) -- I'm just sort of bitching into the wind that this is what happens when word-meanings become more and more inclusive, moving from the specific to the general. We lose, as julia_here pointed out, meaning, in our quest for inclusiveness.

I like words.

My cat's breath smells like catfood.


2004-12-11 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, oops!

I thought a "drabble" was a very short story written in increments of 100 words since that's how it gets used so often.

I'm going to be using the phrase "drabble or ficlet" a lot more in my near future, I can tell!

Unless it's a novel.

Very quickly written.


2004-12-11 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

ETA time: the community info for slashthedrabble has been changed to note the difference. We'll be making a note of that in all future community challenges too.


2004-12-11 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, cool! I like the way you rephrased it.

Though you might like to specify in the "You may write a drabble or ficlets of 200, 300, 400 or 500 words in length" line that the drabble is the 100 words thing, so people don't assume they can't write a 100-word one. (Since if they already think drabble = any increments of 100, and don't know what differentiates a drabble from a ficlet, that phrasing could be read as "nothing under 200")


2004-12-11 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

(Unless we go with the assumption that everyone on the planet reads my LJ, in which case... Hi mom! There is no porn here. This is not the porn you're looking for!)


2004-12-11 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you! Eventually, someone will write to me to tell me that "100 word drabble" is redundant now. *g*

(I'm glad nobody wrote us a nasty sarcastic email to tell us we were using it wrong! But a nice email would have been welcome.)


2004-12-11 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think I and a lot of others had been going from the (incorrect) idea that most people who were using the word differently were doing so on purpose, so though we might have mentally grumbled about it, would have felt off about telling someone specifically "you keep using this word; I do not think it means what you think it means"


2004-12-11 11:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

People are tetchy these days, all right. I'm happy to have corrected it though since it upsets so many people so much.