The Dribble Solution
by Ran Walker
Have you ever struggled with an idea for a story or even an idea for a scene? I know I have! Even though I am a “pantser” most of the time (writing into the unknown without an outline), I still find it helpful to be able to see a little farther around the corner. That’s where dribbles come in.
Dribbles are 50-word stories. Yes, you read that correctly. While many of you have no doubt read “Dinosaur” by Monterroso or the six-word story about baby shoes often attributed to Hemingway, you may not be aware of how popular the craft of writing 50-word stories, in particular, has become.
Personally, I have all but abandoned novel writing, in favor of much shorter works, but I can immediately see how drafting a dribble can help you to understand your scene or book well enough to begin writing it.
Let’s take a look at one of my dribbles, “Until the End of Time” that was recently published in my collection The Strange Museum.
Until the End of Time
The other owners at the dog park eyed Stonewall curiously, attempting to make sense of the dog’s ticking movements. Ian welcomed the attention. Only another skilled horologist would understand the complex automatic movement, and only someone who’d buried one too many beloved dogs would understand his need to build one.
As a dribble, it works fine on its own, but if it were to be a longer sequence in a novel, there are a number of places where we can expand the story. For example, we could show Ian burying his dog, along side what appears to be the burial spots of other dogs. We could also show him at home preparing to take his new dog out for the first time in public. How does he feel about this? Maybe there is something we can show that illustrates that Ian is a horologist. We also have to consider just what Stonewall looks like. Because of the dribble’s length I did not have to disclose the dog’s breed, but in a longer piece, you might find it necessary so that one reader doesn’t see a Doberman and another see a Scottish Terrier. The key here is to “unzip” a section of the story and write to fill in the answers to those questions.
Have fun trying out dribbles. It might prove to be the thing that helps you breakthrough that challenging part of your next book.
ABOUT RAN WALKER
Ran Walker is the author of eighteen books. A former practicing attorney, he is the winner of the 2019 Indie Author of the Year and 2019 BCALA Fiction Ebook Awards. He teaches creative writing at Hampton University and lives with his wife and daughter in Hampton, Virginia. He can be reached via his website, www.ranwalker.com.