The 55-word challenge
I wrote up a few of these and couldn't decide which to post. So you get subjected to BOTH.
Fifty-five Word Story #1: Dashiell Hammet-style
"So long, shamus!" Aswan gripped the paper package. His goon's heater eyed
us from their heap's window.
Me and the girlie grabbed air until they swerved out of sight.
"Another hood takes a powder," she sighed.
I shrugged and showed her my shiv. "Canyons get tricky at night. Especially
with a sliced-up brake line."
Fifty-five Word Story #2: Rockin' the Lovecraft
"Thank you for coming so soon, Fred."
I slipped as the door clicked behind me. Darkness fell. The floor, to my
horror, hid under fluorescent slime.
I hesitated. "Your call startled me. Are you— did they—" The face before
me was Fitzgerald's, but changed. Alien.
His lips twisted upward.
"Yes," he croaked. "THEY have arrived."
I like the first better, but my girlfriend could make neither head nor tail of it. The major challenges for me were (a) coming up with some kind of narrative to begin with; (b) taming my prolix tendencies and (c) avoiding the passive voice, even when the result is more stilted than the active.
Solving (a) is easy; just ape the greats. The passive voice problem was more complicated, and I spent a while trying to find a more satisfying active verb for "hid" (in "the floor, to my horror, hid under..."). Everything else was either a passive verb, which automatically docks at least one and up to two words (was and by, e.g., was obscured by), or a phrasal verb, which sticks you with an extra preposition.
I used wc -w (the UNIX word counting tool program thing) to count my words. I did double-check to make sure that wc's count matched up with the official rules, but I apologize if I messed that part up. Damn natural language with its context-sensitive word boundaries!