But the competition is for a short story, and one of the essential elements of a short story is that it is a satisfying tale. And that means the ending has to work. The beginning sets it up, hopefully in such a way that I'm enticed into the world of the short story, and then the ending rounds it off so I put the story down with a satisfied 'ahhhhh'. Ideally what happens is something I don't see coming, but when it happens is exactly right that it couldn't have happened any other way.
What is clear to me that of the twenty of so stories I've read, well written though they are, more than a handful end suddenly as though the word limit was reached and the author just cut the story off. Others just fizzle out. A couple have been obscure enough for me to have to read again to check that I've understood what's gone on.
The ones that stand out in my mind are the ones where the ending is spot on. Think about it - the ending is the last bit you read, of course it's the part you remember most clearly. I haven't made my final decision yet, and everything could change, but I think the deciding factor is going to be not the beauty of the phrasing, nor the cleverness of plotting, but the aptness of the ending. I'm looking for, not the X Factor, but the Ahh Factor.
PS And not a single one has featured a domestic pet, so - phew - no personal factors to cloud my judgement.