A drabble is a short work of fiction of exactly one hundred words in length, not necessarily including the title. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.
The concept is said to have originated in UK science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the 100-word format was established by the Birmingham University SF Society, taking a term from Monty Python's 1971 Big Red Book. In the book, "Drabble" was described as a word game where the first participant to write a novel was the winner. In order to make the game possible in the real world, it was agreed that 100 words would suffice.
In drabble contests, participants are given a theme and a certain amount of time to write. (For example, Wilfrid Laurier University conducted a "100 Words Centennial Drabble Contest" in commemoration of its 100th anniversary in 2011, in which contestants were asked to write about "inspiration, leadership or purpose".) Drabble contests, and drabbles in general, are popular in science fiction fandom and in fan fiction. Beccon Publications published three volumes, "The Drabble Project" (1988) and "Drabble II: Double Century" (1990), both edited by Rob Meades and David Wake, and "Drabble Who" (1993), edited by David J. Howe and David Wake.
Published science fiction writers who have written drabbles include Brian Aldiss and Gene Wolfe (both of whom contributed to "The Drabble Project) and Lois McMaster Bujold (whose novel Cryoburn finishes with a sequence of five drabbles, each told from the point of view of a different character).
One example of drabble is 55 Fiction, which is a form of microfiction that refers to the works of fiction that are either limited to a maximum of fifty-five words or have a requirement of exactly 55 words. The origin of 55 Fiction can be traced to a short story writing contest organized by New Times, an independent alternative weekly in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1987. The idea was proposed by New Times founder and publisher Steve Moss.
A literary work will be considered 55 Fiction if it has:
- Fifty-five words or less. However some publishers actually require exactly 55 words, no more and no less.
- A setting,
- One or more characters,
- Some conflict, and
- A resolution. (Not limited to the moral of the story)
- The title of the story is not part of the overall word count, but it still cannot exceed seven words.
- "Winners named in WLU drabble competition", Waterloo Region Record, October 1, 2011.
- "Flash fiction: 'Intense, urgent and a little explosive'", The Irish Times, October 26, 2011, copy available here from HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- Sarah Womer, "AWC professor impressed by short story entries", Yuma Sun, December 21, 2011.
- "Flash Fiction". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- Liz Smith, "Laurier launches literary competition to commemorate Centennial year", The Cord Weekly, September 28, 2011.
- T K Kenyon (22 September 2011). "REVIEW: ‘Cryoburn (A Miles Vorkosigan Novel)’ by Lois McMaster Bujold". SF Signal. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- Fred Cleaver (21 November 2010). "Science fiction books". Denver Post. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- Ron Wiggins (October 11, 2001). "PAPER CHALLENGES WRITERS TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 7 June 2012. (subscription required)
- "Mini- és maxiregények". Nyelv és Tudomány (in Hungarian). June 27, 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "NEW TIMES PUBLISHER DIED OF EPILEPSY". The Tribune. May 17, 2005.