So, now you know what a drabble is (from part one of this set, perhaps?) but perhaps you’re still curious – or perhaps you want to know how someone else writes them before trying your own?
Well, in this post I’ll talk about my history with drabbles a bit, and then where my ideas come from and how I manage them specific to this format.
So how did I write my first drabble by accident?
Once upon a time – summer of 2009, specifically – a piece of a scene I really liked popped into my head. So I wrote it down. When I wrote it, it was almost exactly how I had envisioned it, so I was quite pleased.
One problem – that was it! I had nothing else, no finish to the scene – or proper beginning – not even a clue what else might be going on.
I saved it as a scrap and hoped more would come to me at some point. Over the next few months, occasionally I opened it up and poked.
Nothing happened. I was stuck, and with only 97 words of a scene I had really loved.
November 12th, 2009 – in the middle of my very first NaNoWriMo, by the way – I realised that I could probably turn it into a drabble with a little work. Drabbles were a format I’d never tried, but had read – though I had not originally thought I would like it, as I often find vignettes rather unfulfilling, both as a reader and a writer.
November 19th, 2009, I posted my first (fanfiction) drabble online. And immediately proceeded to write thirteen more, and posted them daily for two weeks. By the time I did that, I was hooked, and I kept writing and posting them.
It is fairly well-known among my local NaNoWriMo group that I am specifically crazy for the habit of working on other things all through November. This started it, way back then.
Where do I get ideas for these awesome things called drabbles?
I very often write drabbles from a prompt word. Sometimes this is obvious in the completed drabble . . . sometimes it is absolutely not.
It took me a while to learn not to sweat it if the prompt disappeared on me, at least in an obvious sense, in the process of writing and editing a drabble. (Other formats . . . well, sometimes you need your prompt to be both used and obvious. Sticking with drabbles today, though.)
Another thing I often sprout drabbles from. . . Humour my ridiculousness and let me show you a little scene:
I’m waiting. Say. . . I’m fifteen minutes early to a write-in at the library, and the MLs haven’t arrived yet. So I pull out my notebook and think ‘well, I’ll scribble out a drabble while I wait!’
. . .only I have no ideas. NaNoWriMo has eaten all my creativity. Or I’m too bored. Or I’m distracted. Or my mind has just gone completely blank for no reason!
I sit, and I stare at the page, and the circulation clerk is starting to look at me a little funny as I begin to drum on it with my pen.
I look around.
Maybe there’s a book on military strategy in the American Civil War abandoned on the table before me.
Maybe someone walking by outside is juggling coffee, a bookbag, and talking on their mobile phone.
Maybe somebody just looked at the crazy writer in the corner and gave me a smile that cheered me up – or a funny look that made me hide a laugh.
Any and all of those things can be made into a drabble. All of these have become drabbles for me in the past! But each bit of inspiration can be built in different ways, as well.
Let’s look at that first item. What can be made of this abandoned book?
Perhaps I have characters strategising for an upcoming battle.
Perhaps I have a pair of characters preparing for war, and one of them is upset that he will have to leave his friend (or lover) to go into battle alone, because he is needed elsewhere.
Perhaps I have a character is studying history. Perhaps she is bored. Perhaps she drifts off into a daydream about dragons who subsist off of purple marshmallows.
Perhaps I have a character who works in a library, and he is frustrated when people abandon piles of books messily on tables, some of them half-open. (I certainly was, on occasion, when I did.)
Perhaps I have no character and no idea from this item, and I feel the urge to hit myself over the head with the book, and- Ah! Perhaps someone is having a temper tantrum and throws a book across the room.
I choose one of these ideas, enthused with the prospect of getting things done! . . .oh, there’s one of the MLs. I put my notebook away, with however much of my drabble I’ve scribbled out, to help set up for the write-in.
Later – sometimes hours, sometimes weeks (or months – sometimes I forget to check through the notebook that lives in my purse for a while) – I will open up the notebook and transcribe the story to the computer to be edited (and/or finished).
Something else I pull drabble ideas from – requests. This is primarily a fanfiction thing, and periodically when I lack inspiration, or am curious, I ask readers if they’d like to see me write anything in particular for one of the drabble series I write.
Another possibility: I keep a lot of pictures saved on my computer. Pretty things, interesting things, things that make me think ‘maybe there’s a story there. . .’, fandom-related things (including official and fanart), actors and singers I like, snapshots of interesting people or poses or clothes. . . Really. A lot.
Sometimes I flick through these many files (or generate a random number to choose one for me) and pull up a photo to draw inspiration from. It’s a similar process to that outlined above.
Pinterest, deviantART, or any number of art, photography, or stock image sites would probably be able to do the same if you are less of a digital packrat than I – or just want a truly random surprise to work from.
That inspiration can come from anywhere is a big lesson for writing in general, in my book – it so very much was for me; getting over the ‘but I have no ideas’ problem that held me back for so long – but drabbles are perhaps where it shows the most strongly for me personally.
I hope my very personal explanation of how I get drabbles to work for me was interesting and informative!
If you’re still curious how those ideas can be made into mini stories, well, I’m working on a post where I will demonstrate with a handful of drabbles exactly what they look like – at least in my style – and show you the inspiration behind them.