Hahhahaha thanks! I’m so glad you like my stories
Before I start writing, I plan out the entire plot. I find that if I have a clear direction, that will prevent me from waffling on and going off topic. For a really short story (3-5 episodes), I’ll plan out the entire thing scene by scene before I even start writing (some things may change after I start writing, but at least I have a plan).
I think of my short stories more as movies (or a mini series) rather than a full TV series. Rather than many, many conflicts they’ll just have an introduction, a main conflict (there’ll be some other minor conflicts along the way, but those will all contribute to the main conflict) and a resolution (or several resolutions if there are multiple endings). I find that thinking of my stories as a movie helps me stay on topic a lot. When watching a movie, we learn a lot about the characters and we know what the story is about pretty much straight away, but there’s no unnecessary dialogue or backstory. We aren’t told things that we don’t need to know as viewers. That’s the kind of structure I try to follow. When writing, I’ll do my best to make sure that every scene contributes to the actual plot. If I don’t think a scene is adding to the plot, I’ll scrap it.
With characters, I think for a short story it’s best to just focus on a few. You don’t want a huge cast of important characters or people will get confused and forget who everyone is. As a reader, we need to know enough about a character to relate to them and to understand their relationships with the other characters, but we don’t need to know their entire life story (unless it’s important to the plot). I just try to focus on the important things and do it all through dialogue or flashbacks. Again, in a movie, we learn about the characters through their dialogue and interactions with each other, not from excessive narration. I think the key things to know for a short story is the character’s purpose- why are they there? What’s their relationship with the other characters? How do they drive the plot? I then figure out how I’m going to show/tell the reader those things without using narration
I think one of the most important things with a short story is making sure that every scene adds value. You should be able to look at each scene and think “I need this scene because…” not “Eh… this scene is cute but doesn’t add anything to the plot”. Basically all the scenes that you have should drive the plot. If they were deleted, things wouldn’t flow and may not make sense (At least this is what I try to do. I might not always be successful and I’m sure I have some pointless scenes too ahhaha)