Five tips, one for each finger, adding up to a handful of storytelling advice.
Yes, it's a Top X blog post. Sorry. These are a few random tidbits I've learnt so far from writing one short story per day. Ironically, I had a really hard time writing this list, because I couldn't neatly tie everything up together. Which I guess is why Top X blog posts are so popular.
1) Serious & Silly... Simultaneously.
A small light shines gloriously in the dark.
A small stain is a horrific scar in the light.
People cope with trauma in weird ways. Gallows humour, doing something silly to distract themselves, or falling so deep into insanity it straddles the line between tragic and comic.
Example: Pretty much all of Kurt Vonnegut.
2) Show that you know where you're gonna go.
Make a damn good promise that your audience's time will be worth it.
As soon as possible in your story, show that there's going to be a long-term goal. Whether it's giving your characters a mission, (Get the ring to Mordor) setting up a mystery, (Who is Rosebud?) or even more un-conventional approaches like flash-forwards. (Memento, Lolita, Breaking Bad Season 5 Oh My God That Show Was Amazing)
Example: Well, uh, all of those.
3) Something's always happening in the background.
Don't have a character explain something while just sitting there. Have them simultaneously do something else that advances the plot, have them do the thing they're talking about, or even intersperse their talking with a completely separate story thread.
Example: Vincent and Jules casually talking about foot massages while they get ready to kill a whole bunch of peeps.
4) Repeat things. Repeat things. Repeat things.
You've seen that optical illusion. The same gray circle looks different on a white background versus a black background.
Same with everything else in this world. The same phrase, action, or object in different contexts and mean completely different things. Use repetition as a way to show how things have changed, to add depth to what you've just repeated, or at the very least, a reminder to the audience.
Example: "Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!"
5) Pretend it was part of the plan all along.
When you know your next big plot point & any in-between steps, simply connect those dots, improvizing along the way. No need to make a beeline from point to point, let yourself wander. Leave loose ends.
Then, when it comes to figuring out the future parts of your story, pick up on those loose ends and pretend that was always part of your grand design.
Example: Pretty much all of Adventure Time.