I thought I'd take a moment to explain the judging process.
The system I developed for scoring entries is called PETS Voice. I award up to 10 points for each of the following elements: pacing, entertainment value, technical use of language, and storytelling. I then award up to 5 points for uniqueness of voice for a grand total of 45 points possible.
The impact of the system is that I score writing technique (35 possible points) higher than the underlying story (10 possible points). This weighting means that a decent story expertly written is going to place higher than a great story with writing problems.
I have a specific reason for taking this approach. In my view, stories are everywhere, but the skill to make a story come alive on the page is far more rare. Transport me into your world with the first line and keep me there to the end. Don't let me wriggle out of your grasp.
Based on past contests, around 20% of the entries will have very strong writing with a couple getting perfect scores of 45. I set this top group aside and read them a second time. This stage is where the better story (in my view) will win. This stage is subjective.
If you want to win, get yourself into that top 20% with great writing. Only then try to wow me with your story. Depth and complexity of character in 250 words are always impressive. So are clever plots that feel complete in the small space allotted.
Common problems to avoid:
* Telling instead of showing.
* Adjective/adverb overload.
Good luck, and above all, have fun!