Sunday, January 22, 2012


by Earl Staggs

Marilyn Meredith posted here recently about the value of her critique group. I’ve belonged to one or more critique groups since I started writing and would be lost without them. Now I belong to two. One of them is long distance. We exchange critiques via email. The other one is local and we meet in person whenever we can schedule a date convenient to enough of us to make it worthwhile.

Both groups contain experienced, published writers who have become close personal friends. I love them and respect their expertise a great deal. If any of you are reading this, please know that. I never feel confident about anything I’ve written until you’ve gone over it. You point out the errors in spelling and punctuation, of course, but you also question story and plot points. You tell me if something I’ve written doesn’t make sense, simply doesn’t work, or if I’ve left out something important.

Like yesterday, for instance. I attended a meeting with my local critique group.

The chapter I submitted to the group for their slicing and dicing pleasure takes place in an outdoor market place near Kabul, Afghanistan. Tall Chambers, the main character, belongs to a secretive government agency which tracks and deals with terrorists. Tall and his team are on the trail of the worst of the terrorists who may be hiding out with a woman who runs a fruit and vegetable stand there.

I did some research and found a good place for the market to be located. I looked up what the people at the market would be wearing. I came up with the kind of stuff the different vendors at the market would be offering from their tents and lean-to stalls in the market. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, meats, handmade clothing, rugs, and such as that. There would also be animals. Camels, donkeys, and goats, for instance.

So I described the market and had Tall and his team walking through it, passing all the stalls, looking for the missing terrorist.

Good job, I thought.

Then a member of the group asked, “What did it smell like?”


I hadn’t thought of that. Naturally, all that produce and meat and fish would produce odors that would permeate the open air space. Not to mention what the animals parked beside the stalls would contribute to the immediate environment.


Okay, back to the drawing board – make that keyboard - for me. I have to describe how all those things would smell, even to Tall and his men who are on an important mission.

I don’t think Google or Wikipedia will give me that information, so I’m on my own.

Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Earl Staggs

SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 short mystery tales on sale now for 99 cents. That's only about six cents per story. Wow.


PJ Nunn said...

Ooh! I love Tall Chambers. Go to it Earl! Can't wait to read it!

Anonymous said...

It would smell manure, cigarettes, and two-stroke engine exhaust, with subtle hints of opium and figs.

William Doonan

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Not only did we tell him this in detail yesterday, we even told him what a bois d'arc tree was.

We done good.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

You guys really need to adjust your comment settings to stop the spammers.

Earl Staggs said...

PJ, always a pleasure to hear from you. If all goes well, you'll be reading Tall Chambers soon.

Anonymous, sounds like you've been there. Thanks for the tips.

Yes, Kevin, you done good, as always.

Mark Troy said...

Kevin, you don't like comments from Adult Chat and Cruise the Maldives? Okay, I deleted them.

Earl, such markets can be smelly places, but the folks there will do the best with the sanitation conditions they have. There will probably be flower vendors, whom other sellers will vie to be near to. You might also find out what spices are commonly used in the local diet because those will be on sale, probably in open containers, and will add to the aromatic scene.

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Earl Staggs said...

Great suggestions, Mark. Thanks.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Smells are important to help transport your readers.


Morgan Mandel said...

Yes, we need to engage as many senses as we can to offer the reader a full blown experience.

Morgan Mandel