If biblical contrast helps emphasize meaning, perhaps contrast in fiction can help stress meaning and themes? I'm thinking of contrast in terms of multi-dimensional characters with seeming contradictions. I'm also thinking of convoluted action sequences in stories, since we know that conflict is a chief ingredient for a story.
Having just put together 18 short stories over the summer (an all-out race by July's end--too much... never again), I talked candidly with one of my editors about what is the biggest challenge to me: creating believable conflict and action that can be resolved in 1500 words, and yet not to tidily. We walk such a tightrope in creating conflict that feels realistic and yet satisfying the reader with resolution to it in a way that doesn't feel contrived.
Many think of O.Henry when they think of an author who mastered the rise and fall of action adeptly in the short story genre.
I'm blatantly stealing my friend's advice here, but I've thrown in a few ideas of my own, so I don't think I'll get fined:
1. When brainstorming an action sequence, picture the characters in it and ask yourself if it feels real. Just imagining a cool plot twist isn't sufficient if you can't picture it working for your characters.
2. Draw a map of a house, road, area, so you can plot out the specifics of the action and keep it grounded in a realistic way. Faulkner jumps to mind with his mythical Yoknapatawpha County, which he mapped and then used in most of his work.
3. Walk yourself through the plot sequence and do a critical review to ask if it feels real.
4. Get a friend (or several) to read your work (ouch) and honestly tell you if the action is too contrived or the plot to easily wrapped up.
The above ideas are my guardrails for next time around. What do you think? What works and what doesn't? What am I missing?