Drabbling in short stories

Ellen Harvey from Griffith has created <i>Drabbles</i>, a website for short stories and blogs.
Ellen Harvey from Griffith has created Drabbles, a website for short stories and blogs.

Here's something to write home about. Just make sure you do so in 100 words or less.

Canberra author Ellen Harvey has designed a website that combines the brevity of Twitter with the narrative of Facebook, which she hopes will take the boredom out of blogging.

Called drabbl.es, the website allows amateur writers to share their musings in 100 words or less. Harvey believes this saves the reader time.

''Personal blogs are a little time-consuming; it's much nicer to hear 10 stories than hearing just the one, and you get to connect with more people that way,'' she says.

A drabble is a story of 100 words exactly but Harvey stretched that rule to broaden the website's demographic.

''I really just like the idea of people sharing their stories,'' she says.

''Drabbl.es connects with this fundamental human need to tell stories and share them with the world.''

After completing her degree in creative writing at the Queensland University of Technology, Harvey decided to move to Sydney for work.

But the idea for the drabbl.es website came when she met her future husband. ''My husband always said he wanted something called a 'life resume', which is when your life achievements can be put up and shared,'' Harvey says. ''It's about capturing moments and sharing them.''

Going on the principle that everyone is a storyteller, Harvey, who is just 22, left her job at Penguin Books to pursue her dream.

''When you take the leap, amazing things can happen and amazing things have happened. I've got this website up that people have been using and I couldn't be happier about,'' she says.

''Everyone's a storyteller, whether they think of themselves as that or not. By posting on Facebook or Twitter, people are telling stories.''

She laughs off the idea that the website will become just another tool for procrastination and says she hopes users will get more creative. So please don't describe to the world what you're having for lunch.

''The challenge is to make it longer than 140 characters, because everyone is used to writing status and Twitter updates, but I wanted to find a way for people to write a story,'' Harvey says.

She and other users also set challenges on the website, asking the community to write about subjects ranging from Halloween to ''your city''. The stories that people write in response can often be cathartic.

''For example: I posted a challenge about anger and the users had to write about their experiences with anger,'' Harvey says.

But the challenges are just one element of the project, with users sharing their work with one another. Harvey says most are professional writers. ''They've been posting snippets of their novels, or short bits from their work that they're currently writing,'' Harvey says.

The aim for drabbl.es is to have users blogging about their life experiences.

''I want to expand it to non-fiction stuff, so perhaps use it as a blog that gives you a 100-word limit,'' Harvey says. The inspiration for the 100-word limit came from Harvey competing in online writing challenges, which were formed in the '80s.

She says she couldn't think of a better place to launch the site than Canberra.

''It's nice to work on this [here] because I find the Canberra community, especially the entrepreneur community, supportive in these endeavours when young people are trying to start out.''

Users can comment on each other's stories, post pictures and post writing challenges to the drabbl.es community. ''We have people on there most days, some of our users are very active and some are supporters,'' Harvey says. ''The idea of humans being storytellers is cemented in history, when cavemen told stories around fires. It's part of our DNA to do this.''

Harvey aims to get promoters onboard eventually, to offer prizes to writers who win challenges.

Harvey has a lot on her plate, working with her sister to create a children's app, and some writing of her own. She hopes to publish novels in the next couple of years.

''The first draft is pretty much done and it's for children aged eight to 12.''

The story?

''It's the age-old classic of good versus evil. This cute little 11-year-old that needs to save the world.''

The website is currently in its alpha-testing phase and Harvey is asking users to provide feedback.

For more information, see drabbl.es


Public Transport

By sassthat

It was a dark and stormy night - and entirely too late to be out. Marcella tapped a foot idly and tried to tune out the low, constant rumble of thunder as the bus rocked along the road. Spotting her stop, she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder, pulled up her hood, and was out amongst the city streets. The traffic swept past in flurries of reflections that she ignored, skirting puddles, turning down a narrow side street and rummaging in her pocket for keys. She threw the door open triumphantly, the weather's damp refugee. 'I'm home!'

This story Drabbling in short stories first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.