In my pursuit of the form, I’ve now read something like 100 to 150 drabbles. Luckily, hundred-word stories don’t take that long to read.
In addition to the Martian Magazine, which I’ve mentioned previously, I discovered The Drabble (which does include poetry and fiction less than 100 words, rather than exactly 100 words). I also found Speck Lit, which stopped updating a few years ago, but has a large archive still available. I’ve found drabbles of the exactly-100-words definition in a handful of other places. I’m sure there are plenty more out there, especially in flash fiction publications that would accept very short fiction, but typically have max lengths of 1000 or 1500 words. They’re just a pain to find.
One of the nice things about drabbles is that you can read quite a lot of them in a short amount of time. It’s relatively easy to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, because everything has to be laid out in a couple of paragraphs. They lend themselves to quick analysis.
These are my favorite (freely accessible) drabble stories so far. They surprised me, or made me laugh, or made me feel something. As usual, I skew toward speculative fiction. You can read the whole lot in less time than it would take to read a typical short story.
- Nicholas Was — Neil Gaiman
- Orbital Views — Gretchen Tessmer
- Todd — Jason P. Burnham
- The Reluctant Time Traveler Wears Two Watches — Wendy Nikel
- The Weave — M. Yzmore
- Double Trouble — R. Daniel Lester
- The Forest of Memory — Anna Salonen
- A Cabin to Die In — Anna Salonen
- Of Artistic Temperament — Sophie Flynn
- Redemption — Belinda Saville
Styles of Drabble
Having now observed quite a few drabbles in the wild, I tried to classify some of the common styles that are used to make a story interesting in one hundred words. It’s interesting to see that the limited word count really does force a wide variety of forms.
- Non-standard prose (lists, advertisements, news headlines)
- The end of a longer story
- The set-up of a decision (without resolution, or with the implication of a future resolution)
- A fun little idea (that maybe couldn’t support a longer story)
- Twist endings
- Just dialogue
- A little action scene
- Borderline poetry