|How’s it going BABYGIRL? I will be submitting this review of your story to the "We luv in depth reviews! Contest" . (Must be a pretty interesting process hearing from all us jackals, eh?) Anyway, this jackal would like to say that he thinks the story expresses the emotion very well. The relationship between Jake and Mary is clear, and the warm yet unsettling ending is a real keeper and could be expanded on.
Reading the story itself can be helped by a lot of line-by-line editing, and a lot more scrutiny toward believability and making us care about characters like Henry and Kelly. I’d use double paragraph breaks instead of single, or the writing ML to indent where new paragraphs begin. Though, the double spaces are only true for online posting. I’m sure the piece has normal breaks/indents etc. offline. Technically, you had problems with punctuation in dialogue, and left out some spaces and pesky apostrophes and things. I’ll point out and go over these without trying to clutter things up too bad. Story-wise, I think, there are a lot of little things that can be done to improve scenes, characterization and to help with flow, to make it more complete. On the whole things seemed realistic, but I go through quite a few sentences and offer suggestions on how to make the dialogue more believable, the plot fuller, or the flow smoother.
I liked how it opened and how it ended. I hope you‘ll understand if I critique you on some things in here that are actually taken from your personal experience or real life that I mistake for a fictional plot (I‘ve done this before).
“Against the Cold Montana Wind”
[to lead off, a discussion of the story and some English teacher-esque technical stuff too]
--- It had taken years of hard work and saving the money to build their dream home and horse ranch. I think a typo: “the” should be “their.“
--- Their love had grown over the years into something very special and rare. It’s possible that you might run into some trouble by saying “rare” by itself. After some thought, I actually think it’s okay in the idea being expressed, but if you look at it, one could say “rare” is a little vague. You could always compare their love to that of the other couples their age; do those couples have dwindling love? To other, younger couples who may not know such love? Your call.
--- ...so Jake and Mary had gone full circle and were alone once more. I’d take this thought and put it into its own sentence. I like the idea of coming full circle. If you want, you could expand this idea by having Mary mention how they have not been alone in the house since their younger years.
--- “Whats wrong sweetheart?” An apostrophe belongs in “what’s” since it’s a contraction; what is. Comma before “sweetheart” since sweetheart is being addressed. I noticed commas and apostrophes needed in several places, so remember that a comma usually goes before each address, and stands for a natural pause. Apostrophes go for contractions/possessives and I’ll be pointing ‘em out.
--- “How could I forget a thing like that, those kids are my world. Oh God, Mary what is happening to me?” Couple of things here. You have two sentences in one separated by a comma instead of ending punctuation. End your first sentence with a question mark at “that.” Make your second sentence: “Those kids are my world.“ I think a comma should belong after “Mary” as well in your next sentence. These rules pretty much hold true for all sentences, but everybody’s going to have trouble with commas. Once a writer learns to hammer out the kinks with mechanics, it’s really a relief! And the piece will be much stronger.
--- By the time he was finished they both were crying openly. The placement of the crying struck me as a little too early, maybe a bit dramatic, and I couldn’t quite picture them doing it so fast. I suggest putting it after this conversation is over, and after Mary finishes her dialogue as well. Not because I think it’s ‘too’ dramatic, but because these two -- as close as they are -- probably know each other‘s breaking point, and probably wouldn’t want to breakdown, causing the other to breakdown...would they, at first, try to show strength to support one another? Jake seems more “tough” than this to cry right away. Also, I’d recommend the change because this would give the crying scene more power, if you built it up over their entire conversation, and then hit us with it at the end.
Also, a small thing: in conversation that is emotional like this, you can add to the feeling by describing Mary and Jake better. One way to do this without getting overzealous with detail, is keeping your speech tags fresh. You use this one a lot: Jake said...Jake sadly said. You can use other speech tags that are sad or suspenseful by nature without having to ‘tell us‘ he is sad, (“Jake tried to whisper...“Mary swallowed“), and these can be used to better express what they feel. Plus, you’d avoid repeating the phrases “he said, she said.” In many cases, you can cut the “she said” altogether.
--- Mary held her husband close to her and said, “You know it could be something medical that’s making you forget things, please let me call Dr.Davis and get an appointment.” Technical things: A new paragraph is needed when the new speaker, Mary, starts her dialogue (remember as you go along editing that a new paragraph is always begun with a new speaker...I think I saw this in a few places). You have two sentences here...make that comma a period. Also, a space is needed between “Dr.” and “Davis.” One more note: I think it is a common rule to spell out “Doctor,” though I’m not positive.
--- “Oh, please Mary don’t ever tell the kids I forgot them, it would devastate them.” Jake cried. Punctuation...commas to isolate the address “Mary.” This line is actually two sentences again or “independent clauses.“ “It would devestate them” is it’s own thought. The existing period needs to be a comma since the tag “Jake cried” follows it to actually finish the sentence. Also, “devastate” is misspelled.
--- “You don’t have to worry, I won’t tell them that and I will be right here for you no matter what.” 2 sentences here again; between “worry” and “I.” Also, this line struck me as a bit forced. I suggest a rewrite that could perhaps make it more believable: “I won’t tell them that. And you know I’ll be right here. Right by your side.” Obviously you can, and should, play with the language on that.
--- “Alright, make the call.” Jake sadly said. A comma instead of a period before you close the quote, and, again, I’d change “Jake sadly said” to a fresher description. And this line: They held each other close for a few more minutes. It’s simple, but it paints the picture well.
One thing I liked about the style is how it doesn’t get very stale. You moved from the conversation, then to the hospital exam...then to the next scene etc. without much boring info about driving there and things the reader would not be interested in. When she made the call the nurse told her to have him there the next day. That’s slick. But a lot of it is choppy elsewhere in the story, and the transition can be better helped by spending a little more time on what you say. Through the characters of course. Intersperse brief descriptions of characters, setting and emotion wherever you can, and cut down on the explaining.
--- The doctor did a thorough exam and then a verbal Alzheimer’s test. Is the first a normal physical exam? And, what does a verbal Alzheimer’s test include? I tend to think going through the test, even briefly, would be a good opportunity to make the reader feel what Jake feels. The reader could feel horror as Jake cannot remember, cannot answer the questions, as he feels horror. Just me speculating, but imagine for a second the two of them going through the test: “All right, Jake, the name of the hospital you were born?” The weary man fumbled over the incredible question; the onslaught Doctor Davis put together. Where? He didn’t know. Finally he offered a name, but it didn’t sound right to him. It didn’t sound right to Davis either; the man in pure white shook his head, hurting for Jake. Then the harder questions came.” That could really put a chill into the reader. (But now imagine that I am a dark Sci-Fi fan looking to be chilled anyway! ) I think this does need to be fleshed out though, and that this possible scene could help your audience as well, to get inside the head of Jake, and add likeability to him too. Intersperse some of the medical setting too. And remember that no one feels quite right at the doctor’s office.
--- ...and be back here in the morning for me to give you the results.”Dr.Davis said. I would make this fragment of the sentence into it’s own sentence. (you can start it with “and” even if some say not to.) Then, a space after the quote, a comma instead of a period there, and a space between “Doctor” and “Davis.” (For the commas instead of periods in dialogue, you get the idea. A comma if there is a tag, a period if there isn’t. Watch for this throughout.)
--- ...but he already knew what the outcome was. Possible addition: “...but he already knew what the outcome was going to be.”
--- He knew in his heart that he has Alzheimer’s. Okay, for a brief moment I was wondering whether you wrote the present tense on purpose...“has” instead of “had” because that would be creepy! It would almost put the reader in the story and show us how Jake’s concept of time is going with his memory. If I’m wrong to be going out on a limb here, make “has” into the correct past tense of “had,” because, as people have lectured me, the story should almost always remain in one tense. But if you wanted a devious little hook for your story, you could make all of Jake’s thoughts, or “internal dialogue” in the present tense; different than anyone else’s. For example, an event in the past could be right in front of him one moment, gone the next: The kids are here. Maybe I should ask them what birthday this is for one of them. The youngest. Oh wait -- here comes the Doctor and Mary. That could give the reader something to ponder over, and even have them feel a little of what Jake is feeling. That’s just a suggestion if you wanted Jake going through his own story inside his mind...within this existing story. But, before that, you need to better explain the Alzheimer’s. Use some internal dialogue.
--- Jake was in such a state of shock that Mary had to lead him to the car and put him in it. He felt like he was walking through a thick fog and couldn’t find a way out. A nice bit of description.
---When they got home Mary got online to look up Alzheimer’s and any helpful information she could find. Jake looked at the info with her but when he saw a statistic on death rate he panicked. Try to make the first sentence sound more polished or clear: a comma after “home” and I’d change the word “got” to “went.” The last sentence in here I think is great. However I believe it should begin in a new paragraph.
--- After he was done ranting and raving he got his act together and started cleaning up the barn. This sentence and scene is a little weak. I see another opportunity for you to show us what Jake’s going through, by perhaps saying that he “gave up shouting at ghosts” or “finally sat on a workbench, trembling.” Instead of “got his act together” you could say “he, at last, collected himself to start cleaning up the barn.” You’ve used a plain language for Jake which can be effective, but be sure we can picture the things he is doing. I’d add a little more to this scene -- does he throw anything against a wall? Hold his head in his hands? In other words, don’t say he rants, show us how he does it, or even what he says.
--- She made herself calm down and went to the barn to check on him. I see the possible adjustment: “She made herself calm down. She decided one of them needed to keep a level head when she went out to check on him.” Stand alone, the sentence is good, but in context it kinda gets choppy transition-wise. Also be careful not to repeat the word “barn” as the reader knows where she is going.
--- She took fresh linens for the beds so it wouldn’t look like she was just checking up on him. Very believable. But choose different words than “check up on” because it would be repeated since you used it earlier.
--- He was cleaning up a mess he had made when she walked in. “the mess” instead of “a mess.”
--- He could see she had been crying also and held her in his arms like it was the last time he would ever hold her. This struck me as a little choppy and overdramatic. I’d rewrite this one to say: “he was afraid by letting go, he may forget her.”
--- When they got back to the house he took a shower and lie down on the bed and cried. “lie” for past tense should be “lay.” That’s always a tricky one.
--- “Lets go get something to eat and get back online again. I need to learn more about this so that I can deal with it a little better.” I’d look over this dialogue to make it more believable. Something like: “Let’s go get something to eat,” he started slowly, “and let’s get back online again. I need to learn more about this thing I have,” he sighed and looked at her, “so I can deal with it better.” This could help the scene more, as it would be better described. It’s a breath of fresh air that they would go on the internet, though, should they not rely on more of what Davis said than the internet? I don’t see a problem with the internet, but that is what would be running through my head if I was diagnosed. I’m sure they would trust Davis more than the computer at their age. Old school and all.
--- Promise me that you wont shut me out again. An apostrophe is needed in “won’t.” “...This affects me also. What hurts you also hurts me.” Mary said softly. I’m not sure that someone would actually come out and say this. This is more of an unspoken understanding, isn‘t it? Is she speaking deliberately like this so he can understand her? You could express the idea in silence, another way: “Jake admitted that this affected her as much as it did him. What hurt him also hurt her.”
It is unnecessary, to me, to say that they had roast beef sandwiches. Unless the smell/taste rekindles some memory, or they remember it as their favorite food. As a little moment together, and something they have in common, it works well, but show us this. Show us why “roast beef” is important!
--- Knowledge is power. Unless it’s done on purpose, this is present tense again that should be the past: “Knowledge was power.” ...that deals with it. Present again. Should be: “dealt with it.”
--- ...and also found a doctor about a hundred miles away... For this part of the sentence, I’d replace it with: “They were even able to locate a doctor, only about a hundred miles away.” It’s a drag for the writer to have an editor going thru line by line, but, for this particular story, I see the basic fundamentals and little things as being what could really make it improve. Also, with more experience, these types of things will be old hat.
--- ...doctors office... Apostrophe, doctor’s.
---They had room reservations at a nice hotel in that city because it would be too late to try to drive home in the snow. Decide for yourself if this aspect is really necessary. If you decide to keep it, make the idea sharper. The snow is cold and can be depressing, much like Jake and Mary feel on the inside. The weather conditions will describe their feelings (some people call it “pathetic fallacy”) and helps here without having to say they are cold inside. With that and the idea of being away from home, I’d make the most of it. My suggestion: “The snow thundered down now. Heavy. Because of the storm, driving back and forth was made too dangerous. They were able to get room reservations at a nice hotel in that city, but, of course, it was foreign and Jake was unable to enjoy it much.” One other question: you say “reservations.” Would they get a one room reservation, or separate ones?
--- ...and told them everything that had happened so far... In general I think this is a phrase that a writer should stay away from. It hurts the reader’s suspended belief, and will often sound choppy, or like the sign of an amateur. Instead, you could have a bit of dialogue here: “’You were unable to pass an Alzheimer’s test, hm?’ ... ‘That’s right. And we’re looking for a second opinion, if you can give us one.’ ... ’Hm, all right, we’ll make the appointment for this afternoon, then.’ It was happening right away.”
--- ...the same conclusion as his hometown doctor. Say it was Dr. Davis since we knew him for a while and I think he should be featured a little more.
--- ...in the coming months to years. I’m not sure if this phrase should stay the way is or if you should say “and“ “...in the coming months and years.”
--- It was painful for them both to listen to but they would face this demon head on together. Well, “Demon” is a bit forced to me. I’d just say “it.“ Other small things. I would substitute the words “decided to” for “would,” as it seems a better fit, and is telling of their action. A note on commas again...it is common to put one before the word “but” and other words that join two thoughts. An example: “He would get there. He would be late” ... “He would get there, but he would be late.” The two thoughts are joined by “but,” and there is the comma before to give the natural pause.
--- Jake said, “Ok Doc, what you are telling me is that I will forget everybody I love and everything that I have ever done. Also that I can be a serious danger to myself and those around me.” You are able to cut the “Jake said” since we know he’s the one with the disease. Jake seems down to earth, and straightforward, so I think playing with his dialogue to fit this type of realistic guy could be a real help: “Ok, Doc, what you’re telling me is that I will forget everybody I love and everything I’ve ever done? That I can be a serious danger to myself and the people around me? To Mary? My kids even?” A mention of the kids would help here, as well as Mary. It would help put us in Jake’s shoes.
--- I am terribly sorry Jake but there’s no cure for Alzheimers, the outcome is always the same. Independent clauses. Two sentences instead of one. Plus, show us what Jake thinks about the doctor. He doesn’t seem to be very considerate.
--- I am really sorry Jake. Remember a comma before “Jake” the address.
--- “Mary, we need to make some big decisions before I forget everything, chances are I could forget I even have Alzheimer’s.” That’s a chiller. Nice one. Like this, expand on what Alzheimer’s does to a person. More of the horror. A lot worse than mere death.
--- ”...till after Thanksgiving?” Since this is the shortened “until,” it is spelled with one “L” (two would make it plowing dirt!) and an apostrophe goes on the side where you remove the letters. “’til.”
--- ...as if it were out last... Typo: “out” should be “our.”
--- ”...every moment of this lifetime...” I can’t picture him really saying this. How about just “life?”
Oh! I did like the scene where they danced and ate, and Jake even tipped the waiter......that was quite good and touching. They went back to the times when they were younger and happier.
--- ...out the restaurant. “Out of the restaurant.”
--- When they got back to the room Jake asked her what she thought about getting their children and grandchildren a special gift just from him to open on Thanksgiving, because they didn’t know what condition he’s going to be in for Christmas. A run-on sentence that could be sharper. Suggestion: just divide the sentence, and begin a new one with “Because.” “He’s” not really a correct contraction written like this. It looks like present tense “he is.” I’d spell out “he was.”
--- ...about several of them and helped him pick out something special for each of them... You repeat the word “them” so I’d make the second one, well, “one.” “...for each one.”
--- ...how much he loves her. Tenses. Loved.
--- They took long walks along the countryside... Begin a new paragraph at this line because, as of now, they are lying in bed!
--- In those days he decided that this is where he wanted to die. Tenses. “Is” becomes “was.“ Powerful line. Yet, I’m not sure if you mention that the ranch is on the same countryside. Wasn’t the hotel in a city? Do you intend for his thoughts to be cloudy? If not, better describe the scenery.
--- All of the kids and their kids got there on the same day and once Jake saw them he remembered them all. Rough sentence. I’d say that they “arrived at the ranch.” A comma may go before that “and.”
--- When he said the blessings over the Thanksgiving meal there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. He thanked the Lord for all of them there and asked the Lord to watch over each of them always. Here in the story you become more of a narrator instead of letting the story occur through dialogue or action, (and by action I mean interaction, thoughts or even the whistling Mary did at the open.) It is considered being passive by using words like “was” and here is a useful link to help “tame” this problem. "Invalid Item" (Since I have the same problem I’m there quite a bit.) But, in general, consider scenes as a better/more effective way to tell your story than narrating it. You have also used crying quite a bit in the story. It kind of wore on me. Is there another way you can tell us that the blessings he asks for are touching?
Also, at the Thanksgiving table perhaps some smells of the food flood back memories for Jake? Painful, or pleasant? Can he or can he not remember why the smells are important to him?
--- Daniel had been sitting in the living room talking to Jake about some old horse that was special to Jake when he noticed that his dad didn’t remember the horse. You don’t have to elaborate too much, but do tell us why the old horse was special to Daniel. “Some old horse” I think is much too vague. Reserve that kind of language for when Jake thinks to himself.
--- Kara came out and said she had a similar experience with Jake also. Again, same thing here. What experience? Show us the scene and make us feel what Jake feels. And perhaps he could watch the two of them talking about him, and this makes him feel afraid?
--- Mary called everyone inside as Jake handed each of them his special gift. This should start a new paragraph. New idea.
--- ...his special gift. I like the idea of the gifts. But, hey, we need to know what they got! You could give the kids a sense of individuality here and how each relationship with their Dad is special and different by letting us know what gifts he chose. And this is a short story, with a quite a bit of secondary characters: The 5 children, the several grandchildren, the 5 spouses. (By the way, should they all be married? Happily?) I would actually make a sort of radical suggestion and cut down on a few of the children. 5 is a lot to keep track of. Maybe there are three kids? At the open, Jake could forget merely about the third?
--- Jake asked that after they got the kids down for the night that they needed a family meeting. This sentence was kind of rough and confused me a little. Maybe say: “After Jake got the kids down for the night, he decided that he needed to call a family meeting.” Also, maybe clarify that these are the grandchildren. And, at the party itself, an offhanded remark about the grandkids milling or running around can really help us remember they‘re there. Can really help the “coming full circle” idea.
--- That made everyone of the siblings nervous along with his odd behavior today. Substitute the words “as did” for “along with” to make this sound more correct.
--- Daniel said,“Ok Dad tell us what’s wrong.” Commas to isolate the address “Dad.” Remember that a space goes between the comma and the quote itself.
--- ...so I wont keep this from all of you but I don’t know how to tell you this.” An apostrophe in “won’t.” A comma before “but.”
--- ...and its in its... Every writer’s most dreaded word! The first “it’s” needs an apostrophe ‘cause it’s a contraction. But the second actually doesn’t because it is possessive! It’s in a world all its own.
--- By the time he got through everyone in the room... I might substitute “to” for “through” but the way it is written makes it sound like he is struggling, so that also helps.
--- ...crying and in total shock. I tend to think “total” shock would mean he is near paralyzed, or in an even worse way medically. Perhaps the word “utter” can be used. Or you could simply describe what it is he is doing to be in shock. Is he biting his lip? Are his palms sweaty, clutching the sofa cushions?
--- Not a death sentence of Alzheimers.They... Great line, but maybe tell us that it is “killing his mind.” Here, you’re missing a space between the period and “they.”
--- ...their fathers feet... Apostrophe, possessive. Father’s.
--- Everyone was openly sobbing... Here is another image I can’t quite imagine, and it is also kind of a repeated phrase and tired scene. Sobbing seems to strong for me for everyone to be doing at the same time. In a situation like this, I’ve seen several cry, others not want to believe it, and still others staring off into space. I don’t know why, but where I can picture Jake and Mary having a crying moment together, I couldn’t see this one. Maybe, instead of all the sobbing, some might only have wet eyes, or a standing tear in their eye? Gaping eyes? Mouths hanging open?
--- ...so devastated and shocked... I’d use another word for “shock” since the word is used a bit earlier. The paragraph we’re in appears to be a pretty large one. I think a new one can actually begin at the sentence that starts: Henry was the first to speak...
--- “Dad, is that why you gave us all a special gift early?” Kara asked. To me this sounds like something more a young child would say instead of an adult daughter. A possible change: “Dad, so that’s why you gave us all a Christmas gift early? Oh Dad--”
--- “...You know tomorrow I could forget today and all that is precious to me so I wanted to give you something just from me.” Commas needed in this sentence: after “today,” and after “me.” “Precious” is used a lot, and he says this same line too much. Maybe say instead: “I could forget anyone of you....”
--- ...husbands loving arms. Apostrophe. Husband’s. I have another comment about the children. I think because we know so little about them, they all strike me as a little too perfect. The family is close, but sometimes they appear to be ‘too’ close and are all getting along ‘too’ well. Who is the oldest? The youngest? Do they fight? Even close families fight. I know that sometimes fights break out over Thanksgiving! Between sisters and brothers in law, and siblings too! I liked the part about the spouses staying out of the meeting for respect. Maybe, in just a small way because it is a short story, Jake could be “watching Kara and Henry argue over the candied yams. It was funny to him.” Or “Dan and Ben were watching the Thanksgiving day football game, bantering over the defense of the Detroit Lions.“ I think just small stuff like that is needed and could give us a better atmosphere to the visit.
--- ...and discussed the situation. Since you want kind of a homey feeling, and since this is more of an overview, I’d simply say: “and talked about it.” Or, just cut the line and go right into your dialogue.
--- I say we because where dad is, I am. I like how strong Mary appears in this scene and her dialogue.
--- It’s not the safest... You repeat the word “safest” in this dialogue.
--- That’s all the kids needed to hear to let them know they would do whatever Jake and Mary wanted them to. Rough sentence. I would just say it like this: “That was all the kids needed to hear.” Because they already said in the living room that they would do whatever it is Jake and Mary wanted. I also like the fact that the kids don’t try to suggest a nursing home to his face. ‘Cause I hear-tell that’s just very arrogant.
--- I would rather have you here and enjoy the time I have with you than for you to be up all night and sleep all day. You understand. You convey this information already. So, here is a chance to add in some heated, gritty dialogue if you wanted. Since Dan seems to be the oldest he might keep insisting on taking some of the burden. Jake could snap back and say: ”Look, I’m not going to have you all coddling me for the rest of your lives! You understand?” I, as a reader, would react to that.
--- ...to live here till its his time... Apostrophes and company. “Till” should be “’til.” “Its” should be it’s.” Always watch for ‘til and it’s.
--- ...we need to coordinate our work schedule... Shouldn’t it be “schedules?”
--- You know I’m in healthcare... I think this sounds like she’s telling them for the very first time. Since they know this, she might say: “You know I can call around at the hospital, and help in setting all this up. I could take a week off from there -- just get the ball rolling.” Also this conversation is heavy in the way of the “he said”, “she said.” Easily fixed with some being cut, and others just replaced.
--- ...and do the rest of the night.” Missing word “it” before “the rest of the night.”
--- Henrys wife Lacey said she was used to being up at night because of her job and would stay up. First, Apostrophe in “Henry’s.“ Tell us what the job is, make this idea sharper. Possible rewrite: “Lacey, Henry’s wife, had been a night shift detective used to keeping those hours in Great Falls. She said she’d stay up tonight.” I just offered a few extra details. And, you skip over the entire scene at night. Does anything happen? Something ought to, or ought to be alluded to with this much build up. At least, I expected something to go on.
--- It was really hard for anyone to get any rest because they had too much on their minds. Very real. That indeed would be a restless night.
--- ...saddle up several horses.Mary,Jake,Henry,Kelly You’ll need a space after the period and each one of those commas.
--- Jake had long since hired a man named Joseph to tend to the horses he had left and keep the ranch up. After breakfast Jake said he wanted to go for a ride on his favorite horse so Henry went down to the barn and helped Joseph saddle up several horses.
This appears to be a big jump in time but really is not. I don’t understand what you mean by: “he had left.“ And you repeat “horse”, “horses.” I’d, again, just tweak a few things: “Joseph was a man Jake had hired a while back to tend the horses, and the next morning, he and Henry helped saddle a few up. Jake wanted to go riding.” However, it is unnecessary to even have Joseph. Henry could do it himself, couldn’t he? But, now that he’s got a name, we’ll be wanting to know more about him. But, he’s just a background guy, and the last think I think you need is more characters that are names without faces to go with them.
--- He cherished every moment this life was giving to him with his family. Confusing. How about: “He cherished every moment his family and this life was giving to him.” Also, the horseback riding scene is kind of just thrown in there. It is an important scene. I would either explain it, or cut it since it is so fleeting, and find another way to show us this sort of “last perfect day” kind of idea.
--- They next day when everyone left Kelly and Dana... Comma after “left.”
--- ...stayed on to help get things ready and safe. This sentence is too simple, especially if your target audience is adults or young adults. I’d just bypass telling us what they were there to do and show us what they actually did. Did they lock a gate to make things safe? Did they gather the numbers of Home Health Aids?
--- Jake spent a few minutes with each of his children. He told them each how proud he is of them and how special they are in his heart. Sorry, but I see this as overdramatic wording too. I’d make the change: “Jake took a few minutes to talk to each of his children. For maybe the last time he told them how proud he was of each of them; the careers they were able to attain, their spouses and their own children. He, Mary and these five -- no matter what the future brought, would remain together.”
--- Jake needed them to know how he felt about them. I’d just cut this line, since we’re kind of bursting at the seems with him telling them this already.
--- Jake spent a lot of time in the barn that day. This should begin a new paragraph. And I also forgot about the barn during the visit. Make a mention of it.
--- “I thought that you would never settle down but look at you now.” Ha! That’s funny, but I thought he’d already said his goodbyes to them. Come to think of it, how could he have said his goodbyes to each of them if Kelly and Dana are still there? Clarify who his goodbyes are said to.
--- “Daddy, I love you so much and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without your strong guidance and love.” I can’t picture this being how someone would really talk either. I’d cut the “guidance and love” and say: “Daddy, I wouldn’t be the person I am without you. You know that.”
--- ...needed to get done during this week... Rough and a little vague. If it is a list of contact numbers, or them working out their schedules, say so. And cut the words “get done” as it’s not exactly correct, and dive right into what the list actually is.
--- “I’m making a list of things to do.” No need to repeat yourself, we know what she is doing. Start her reply with: “To be honest...”
--- “Listen pumpkin...” Calling her “pumpkin” is starting to wear on me some. I’d just forget about the “pumpkin,” and have them talk. And remember to isolate your addresses with commas. In this example: “Listen, Pumpkin,”
--- Kelly said as she started to tear up. Alright, there’s just way too much crying, LOL. If you cut most of the crying scenes beforehand and saved it here, it would be understandable, and I wouldn’t mind as much.
--- “Of all my children you are the most responsible.” A parent should never take sides, should they. Maybe, instead of putting her on such a pedestal, he should tell her: “Kelly, you’ve always been very responsible, and you know I’ve always admired you for that.”
--- “...you are very precious to me.” Sorry to sound mean, but we get the idea. He doesn’t have to say this line again.
--- They were both crying when he was done. LOL, too much. Get rid of this scene.
--- We have a boatload of insurance on me and that long-term care insurance. We can hire some people and not have to pay out a whole lot because we got the long-term care insurance. We have stocks, bonds and so many investments that I can’t keep track of them all. You repeat “long-term insurance” and I find this to be way too convenient. It’s realistic for Mary to not want to deal with the money aspect, but still a little too good to be true. There are problems with sentence structure: ...all.Kelly,you... You need three spaces. ...assetts,insurance...Missing space.
--- let me know and I will sign the necessary papers. You don’t have to tell us this. We can infer that he would sign the papers so it is unnecessary.
--- ...either.ok.” Missing space. Also, “Ok” needs to be capitalized, and that is a question mark so: “Ok?”
--- “Yes sir I understand, I can handle all of that.” Commas...isolate the “sir.”
--- He wanted to make sure that everything would be ok for his wife and children after he was gone and she understood that. Kind of unnecessary to say so...you have alredy made this point.
--- “Are you telling me that you and Ben are having a baby?” For some reason this seemed out of place. I may cut it out because I saw this aspect as getting in the way of the story. If you want to continue to portray how close this family is, have it more realistic. Have them crack jokes. Have them pull together even if they are separated by miles and years. Wouldn’t Kelly want everyone to know around the dinner table, perhaps? And I figured they all had kids since you say that the kids had kids. Clarification is all.
--- ...everything got done for their dads care. Rough. Suggestion: “Everything was taken care of.” Also missing apostrophe in Dad’s.
--- ...when it was done they felt proud of themselves as did their parents... This struck me as too simplistic for the adult daughters to think or to feel. Perhaps they: “were amazed at what they could do, and Jake and Mary told them so.”
--- stocks, bonds,IRAs Missing space.
--- Mary never knew what they had only that they were doing alright.Jake... A hyphen (--) is needed here before the word “only” since it is a greater “set up” pause. Missing space at the start of the next sentence. This entire paragraph is heavy in the “narrator voice.” As a reader, I can say that a quick scene or bit of dialogue would be better. It’ also is very large so that would break things up.
--- ...he could trust Kelly to carry out his wishes and handle everything like he wanted. Unnecessary. We understand this already.
--- Kara and her daughter Danielle flew in from California and would be there for a week. Give yourself a larger story break before this part. And, if you are going to name names, they should be involved somewhat, and have a face to go with the name.
--- Kara called Kelly two days later to tell her that dad had a bad incident the night before. Kara said that Jake had woke up in the middle of the night, came out to the living room where the sitter was and didn’t have a clue where he was. Here, you really need to have a scene of suspense and fright. Don’t tell us what happened, show us what happened.
--- Days turned into weeks and Jake was going downhill quicker than anyone had thought that he would. I like this sentence, but you can cut the last “that.”
--- The last one he had Henry was there with him... Insert the word “when” before “Henry.” And, again, write a scene instead of an overview.
--- ...could be Jakes... Apostrophe. Jakes.
--- ...with all them made it more loving and emotional than normal.Switch around these words to: “them all.” And, we’re kind of heavy on emotion and love by now. It would not be possible to get more so, LOL. And, I’m wondering, if it is a subdued atmosphere, can it be emotional or loving?
--- Meanwhile Jake woke up to find himself alone in a strange place. This sentence should begin a new paragraph. And, you have kind of abandoned scenes and action writing here and gone into total narrator mode. I suggest replacing the remaining paragraphs of explaining with scenes, dialogue, and suspense. You have proved you can do this in the story, so go with what works. As you get more used to writing, things will all get sharper, you will know where to place the scene, and where to explain the scene. And this is a bit rich coming from me, but just be patient with the story and put in some hard work.
--- ..to find his father missing... TeeHee, you cannot find someone if they are missing...aw, just a little contradiction in sentence.
--- ...on the intercom to alert them that Jake was missing. Alright, this one struck me to be a little silly. LOL, You cannot use an intercom...you just can’t. I won’t allow you to. Suggestion: “When they all gathered outside...”
--- ...into the woods to look for Jake. Use a synonym like “forest” since you use woods a few words earlier.
--- ...without the right protection, so they had to find him fast. Mm, a dicey way of saying he needed his jacket, if you know what I mean! I’d say: “Without the right protection against the cold.” But, in this case, far worse worries would be going through my head than him in the elements. Why, so much can go wrong here...I want to know what worries would be running through your head at a time like this.
--- Meanwhile Jake... I’d stay away from the word “meanwhile,” partially because it is used before, and also because it is more like a crutch for comic book writers than story writers. Use the word “but.”
--- ...all of the sudden... I hear that this, too, is a phrase writers ought to avoid.
--- ...Jakes name... Apostrophe.
--- ...and was deep into the forest... You need “were” in place of was. Agreement.
--- ...everybody else got there about that time... I’d just say instead that: “By the time everyone else arrived...”
--- Daniels arms... Apostrophe.
--- Everyone there was almost hysterical in their grief and didn’t know what to do except hold each other and cry. Mary is enough in the way of crying. Having so many group crying scenes becomes unbelievable for me. I’d just leave it out, and say there was a sense of finality. This kind of thing was expected...and not everyone reacts to death the same way. You know...the stages: denial, guilt and so forth.
--- ...in his arms. Cut this part of the sentence.
--- ...jakes body...Apostrophe and capitalization.
--- They got their mom... We’re still talking about the paramedics here. Say who did what with Mary.
--- ...in the house paying their respects... Would they pay their respects in the house?
--- Mary had a nervous breakdown. Too...expected? One of these is a build up type of thing...I’d say that she broke down in an attack of depression or anxiety, but you have it a little vague.
--- Jakes spirit Apostrophe.
--- Jakes spirit... Apostrophe.
--- ...to hear her... Cut the word “her” to sharpen it.
Okay, the ending helps bring the idea of coming full circle...and we’re left with the feeling that maybe Mary is losing her mind too. That, I really enjoyed. It is an uncertain ending.
“Knowledge is Power“ [in this section I will offer my opinion on how to strengthen and better define what I saw as the message of your story]
I see the “knowledge is power” idea as a strong concept to your story. Of course, the close bond between Jake and Mary holding/lasting through the hard times may be the most significant and moving element here, but, to me, you’ve been fairly clear and good with that one, and with more polish, it can be very good. But, the whole feeling of having no knowledge, oftentimes no memory, and thus having no power can really be a powerful thing to tell the reader. I think you could stir such a message within us a little better if you did a few things: Explain the disease of Alzheimer’s and how it effects Jake and makes him feel. Utilize the doctors; spend more time in the hospital -- this is under the Medical genre after all. They would be good in educating us on the disease itself, and how one loses their memory function, executive function and so forth. Above all, include scenes instead of an overview of how Jake deteriorates. I want to really care about Henry having to take his father’s place, and feel like the story can just be repeating the cycle. I liked the change and continuity, and there is potential for it being quite good.
“The Humanoids“ by Jack Williamson [in this section of your review, I will draw comparisons to another story and offer other ways in which to approach your main character.]
I gotta say I love earthy characters like your Jake who are normal, struggling characters going through an extreme situation; sometimes stubborn or tenacious. Because of that, I’d like to get more of how he feels and what it is like inside his head. We really need to know more about him, and it would be a shame for him to become secondary to the ending you use. In “The Humanoids” there is a character much like your Jake in Clay Forrester. As the world changes around him, he becomes alienated by friends, co-workers and even his wife. These near-perfect androids from space have come and turn everything upside down, and Clay feels inferior. When I read this story I was put in Forrester’s shoes, I felt like he did; sick, hurt, overcome with fear and worry. I think your Jake is a character with the potential to be that strong and close to us readers, if the story was seen mostly through his eyes. We would feel what Jake feels. And when we get to the end, we will care more about the ending because a character we loved is involved. Because he really has something to offer, and his personal story is a story worth telling, I would make Jake more of a “major viewpoint character.” In other words, you don’t have to have Jake tell us the story in the first person (I felt this way; I failed the Alzheimer‘s test etc.), but you could write most of the scenes with an angle on how Jake sees this world, this disease, these fleeting memories, and even educate the reader on the disease. I made a little example: “When Mary came over to him at last, he shuddered away from her, embarrassed. He never liked this feeling of helplessness. Now he had no choice in the matter. He tried to recall what she had said, but knew he just looked like a vegetable to her.” First person is always something to consider too, but either way, if we knew him a little better, then we would all be able to identify with his personality, his relationships toward his kids and grandkids, and I’m sure we would all get to like him even more. Obviously, in your story, Jake’s wife is always by his side, unlike Forrester‘s wife. She adds more to Jake’s story as well. In the same spirit, she could be the major viewpoint character, and the reader would feel for her situation plus Jake’s. It would be interesting either way: someone who has the disease and deals with it, someone who doesn’t and deals with the person who does. But as far as major viewpoint characters go, I’d choose Jake.
Comparing and analyzing Jake and Forrester a little more...the Humanoids was also strong in bringing home the point of “murder of the mind.” We need more emphasis on this in your story I believe. What can the reader learn from Jake’s experience? Do we truly lose everything if we lose our ability to think, or, as in both your story and Williamson‘s, our ability to remember? In his story, Forrester has a great fear of forgetting who he is, for the androids will take his painful memories away for a time. But, there is more to Forrester than that, and his particular unsettling, unsettled ending leaves us wondering what Forrester has really become. I heard in a movie once that a man “is defined by their actions, not his memory.” If this is what you believe, show us; spend more time on that aspect than the family bond even. What do you believe? Do you think that’s really the end of Jake? Or is there more to a person’s mind than what we, as watchers of someone with Alzheimer’s, can see? You only touched on this, and you wouldn’t want to over do it. But as the most pleasing part to this story -- I think you should make it central. Don’t be afraid to add some philosophy to “Against the Cold Montana Wind” so it will be excellent, or even seminal.
And so, to bring this surreal encounter of ours to an end, “Alzheimers” has been written with an apostrophe, and sometimes with no apostrophe in your story, (also in the item description.) I’ve seen it with or without one when I ran a search on it on-line (like Mary herself!) It is possessive, so, If you wanna get technical -- and you’d definitely want to be consistent with it -- it may be more correct to spell it: “Alzheimer’s.” (It also may be more correct for the reviewer to spell “wanna” as “want to.” )
Bye now, and good luck with your story! I did think it was a nice one with much effort and relevance. It even shivered back some memories of my own family dealing with death. That is the underlying strength of the story -- the reader connection. Just remember to work on it, work on it, work on it! And when you get done with that, work on it some more!
I read on your bio-block that you were new to the game, so I honestly hope I didn‘t come on too strong. I’d be happy to discuss any questions you may have about anything I said. Or didn’t.