Good Things Come in Small Packages

ACFWAdvice, Authors and writing, Short/Flash Fiction 1 Comment

By Julia Fenstermacher

First sentences. The moment our hero walks into the room. The “meet cute.” These are the small packages that if done well, grab your reader, pull them close and say, “you’re not going anywhere.”

We long to develop the craft of hooking our readers and scour books upon books on “writing the novel that sells.” What if I were to tell you there are ways to hone the craft of these hooks, and put them to the test without having to write an entire 85,000-word novel?

When I was at the University of Delaware studying English Literature, I took a course on Shakespeare. I struggled with the language, the desire to get through the thick of it, and my professor’s delivery of the text. This professor was more like I imagined my great-great grandfather Dr. William Heiskell, professor, and inventor of proper dentistry to be–dry and confusing. I longed to hear the articulate and passionate man I expected in Shakespeare.

However, I was saved by the Sonnet. Shakespeare’s short form won my heart, hook, line, and sinker. His sonnets helped me deeply appreciate the author. I became a groupie, went to London, England for a semester abroad, visited his grave, and paid good money to attend his plays.

“Who is this person that just captured my heart?” Tips for writing short fiction. @jcfenfen #writing #Christianfiction #writingcommunity #ACFW Click To Tweet

You can break into publishing and get super creative by writing short fiction. There are many publishing outlets available for the Christian Writer of short fiction. To find them, grab a copy of the new 2024 Christian Writers Market Guide– a generous volume filled with hundreds of avenues to publication, including a chapter dedicated to periodicals. Periodicals are the short story writer’s best friend—open to new things and ready to run with your ideas.

Last month I invited my friend, award-winning flash fiction author, Ronnell Gibson, to speak to our ACFW Chicago chapter. She explained that with flash fiction, which is 1000 words or less, you still need to have a well-developed story with a killer first sentence, and a spine-tingling aha ending. Everything matters in short fiction. The writer seeks brevity in every line which takes careful crafting of dialogue, setting, and plot.


  1. PREP:  Go to the library or hop online and pick out a collection of award-winning stories. Online, you will find and read through some of their flash fiction authors’ works. Check out the 2024 Christian Writers Market Guide to get ideas for your stories.
  2. STUDY:  Read short stories and flash fiction and study what makes them work. Pay attention to the first line, the number of characters and their roles and functions. How much setting detail and dialogue is there?
  3. WRITE:  Pick a genre, any genre, and write something that you really want to write. Try writing a thriller, a romance, or a mystery for a change. Keep in mind, “Brevity is the sister of talent.” – Anton Chekhov.
  4. SUBMIT:  Where is the best home for your flashy-flash fiction, swoon-worthy love story, or life altering SciFi? Find out and be mindful of the unique submission guidelines.
  5. KEEP GOING: Don’t stop with one! Keep going and you will get better and better.

Who knows? You may get discovered through your short story or flash fiction, and find a whole new world of readers jumping to your website wondering, “who is this person that just captured my heart?”

Julia Fenstermacher is an author of Young Adult Speculative Fiction and is polishing up her first novel. She also writes songs, poetry and riddles for scavenger hunts. She lives in the Chicago Suburbs with her husband, Friesian horse, Diesel, and three cats. Julia currently serves as ACFW’s Chicago Chapter Vice President and Treasurer, is a member of Realmmakers, and coaches authors in their craft. Born on April Fool’s Day, she naturally cherishes the silliness, jokes and laughter of life. Join the fun at


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