Although I've published half a dozen short stories, I've never felt totally in control of the process. Having to sit down and figure out "how to write a short story" makes me wonder why I volunteered to be part of the panel in the first place. But it's been interesting looking at things in hindsight. I've got my handouts printed and ready to go. I'm almost done with my speaker notes which should help keep me on track. But, as far as how I write a short story--I have to quote one of my writer buddies who's always saying, "It's organic. You just know."
Kurt Vonnegut had some interesting things to say about short stories in his collection, Bagombo Snuff Box. And who am I to argue with a master?
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.