Name of protagonist squeezed in early, short description, something about the weather. One facet of character explained through action, or no facets through inaction, or both or neither. Foreshadowing loomed: maybe a cloud or a baby.
Protagonist seen holding an object or an ideal, either of which could fit into the palm of average-sized person who has average-sized hands. Protagonist cared, longed for and was bothered: we could see this because the object was a metaphor or something probably. Now a twist. A police stinger struck across the path: protagonist was barbed, punctured, denied. Conflict box ticked.
Shoe-horned quirkiness to please literary crowd. Maybe Judeo-pantheistic hammers, or a landlady who cried at pictures of her spider plant, or an orange brick of sorts. Or steal something from the pages of a book by the author H. Jacobson.
Bottle of whiskey or headache pills. Emptied or half empty. Sadness drizzled onto the letters of the story, smudging the words and representing the tears of the protagonist. Can't overdo it. Have them piss themselves: comedy relief.
Quicker now, protagonist determined to solve problem. Light at the end of the tunnel, not actual tunnel. Short sentences. Sometimes. Single. Words. A denouement beckons. Structure box ticked.
Battle commenced. Protagonist's heart as a shield, their mind a breastplate, their spleen a sword. As much military imagery as possible. Robust writing. Redraft story so that the protagonist was a soldier but off duty. Can't over do it. More piss for comedy effect.
Other things, whatever. Most people stopped reading by now. Threw bottle of whiskey or pills into recycling bin (protagonist not reader), fresh resolve, focused (protagonist not reader). Protagonist watched Pointless on television: author pressed delete key enough times to pretend that was never typed.
Protagonist was about to die, doesn't matter how. All seemed lost. Eyes of reader darted to the end of the story to see how much was left. That was okay: people did that with literary fiction all the time. Protagonist dangling from cliff edge or in front of speeding train or crushed by biscuits. Still doesn't matter how, something, whatever.
A cloud or a baby appears, said "it was me all along". Evil cloud or baby laugh. Foreshadow box ticked. Protagonist has fight (genre) or argument (literary) or something. Wins.
Author parked emotional roller coaster in garage, satisfied at another day's work. Something about a pay cheque. Author walked off page, leaving things hanging without even a full stop nor a complete
National Short Story Day box ticked.