The Wisdoms of Poore.
For me it's important that the tips I follow should be different to the ones other people are likely to follow. I'm much influenced by the aphorisms of the little-known art professor Henry Poore, who died in the early twentieth century, a bunch of whose sayings I have written down in my notebooks. Here are a few of them (for "picture" read "short story", or whatever):
A unit near the edge has more attraction than the same unit in the middle.
A picture should be able to hang from its exact middle.
The spot is a potent force of attraction. Its subtlety is often worth more than the simple strength of the line.
The aggression of many foreground items is caused by the lack of balancing elements in the back planes of the picture.
Providing two or more exits is a commonn error of bad composition.
The sacrifice of many measures to one is the wisest.
Light as an element is stronger than position.
If one unit is opposed by two, the force gained by the one through isolation is equal to the other two.
Light is gained through sacrifice of light.
An accent is never more forcible than its intensity, divided by the area it occupies.
Points equidistant from any two sides are also weak points. Balance over the middle should be concealed.
If transitional lines are not available, use oppositional spots to divert from the horizontal.
As soon as I have a compositional problem, Henry's my man.