Francine - harvest
I Blame the Dutch mpoetess
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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 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think that people have a bias against short fic, but that drabbles are seen as more acceptable, thus they want that perceieved legitimacy that the label of drabble brings to their fic. Honestly I do. I can't think of any other reason why people would continue to mislabel their fics when they know the correct term.

That's one of my thoughts on it too. That, or just a sort of stubbornness that in a way I can understand, of not wanting to let go of a name once they *thought* they had a word for what they were writing. (as in "I like calling it a drabble! It's a neat word! Stop harshing my mellow, man!")

To me, a 200 word fic where the author set that 200 words as a goal for themselves and edited it to be just perfect is more in the spirit of a drabble than a 100 word fic where the author just wrote a random 100 words without putting any thought into it. But still, neither is a true drabble.

And maybe we do need a word for "story of fixed length" that incorporates all sorts of different lengths. That could help with the problem somewhat, if anybody could agree on whatthat word or phrase should be.