Practicing the art of writing microfiction: The drabble

Microfiction has gained notable popularity among early 21st-century writers. This trend might be attributed to the shortened attention spans of modern readers who multitask on smartphones and tablets. Alternatively, it could be that microfiction presents a compelling challenge for writers to hone their skills in crafting concise narratives.

Personally, I relish the art of writing concise compositions. Crafting polished prose within a strict limit of 336 words is a joy, but I also find pleasure in creating even more concise pieces, such as fifty-word mini-sagas and one-hundred-word drabbles.

For those unfamiliar, a drabble is a vignette precisely one hundred words long. The term was coined by the whimsical minds behind Monty Python’s Flying Circus. As described in Monty Python’s Big Red Book (1971), it originated as a word game for 2–4 players where the first to write a novel would win. Given the absurdity of completing a novel in such a short span, the drabble was conceived as a miniature novel to make the game feasible in real-time.

In the realm of drabbles, the author is permitted up to fifteen additional words for the title and their name.

I add my twist to the drabble by pairing it with an image, creating a rich tapestry of visual and textual storytelling. For example, here is a piece inspired by a Chagall painting:


By Richard La Rosa

I rush into my SoHo apartment, glancing briefly at the clutter of masterpieces bathed in murky light, before fixing my gaze on the Chagall on the bricked-up window.

Stolen for my art-forger brother a hundred years ago it was created, like all the other paintings, with an extraordinary oil paint made by a Hungarian witch.

A witch whose genetic imprint is stamped in my own art-thief eyes.

Focusing my eyes on the painting, actually my escape hatch, I reach into Chagall’s 1913 Paris to take my brother’s hand.

The past becomes present just before the future unbecomes.


Richard La Rosa is an American writer.

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