It makes sense

Roses - Ece on Sovalye Fethiye TurkeyI’ve just returned from a trip to Turkey’s stunningly beautiful Lycian Coast. Whilst it was most definitely a holiday, I went, notebook in hand, to refresh my memory and inspire my senses. ‘My first novel’ – its working title, by the way, is Singled Out – is set in Turkey, along this same coastline and I was looking for fine detail.

I carry my writer’s notepad around with me whenever I go out. I occasionally jot odd things down – a few notes whilst I’m sitting in a coffee shop perhaps. It still feels a bit writerly and pretentious, but I expect it may feel more natural in time. Last week in Turkey things took a big leap forward. My notepad, smeared with suntan oil, became a sponge, soaking up my sensory experience, absorbing everything.

I realised as I filled its pages, how inert ones memories of a place can become. It’s easy enough to pick up an old photograph and see what a raggedy coastline looks like, or a market, or an ancient ruin. But when you’re there, you smell the pine and the citrus, the sweat and cigarettes; you see the gnarly knuckles and the stained aprons; you hear the wail of the muezzin’s prayer and watch the sun radiate from the golden dome of a mosque; you feel the sting of perspiration as it trickles into your eye and savour sweet green peppers and succulent tomatoes under a canopy of twisted vines. Oh, I could go on… and on…

I saw and smelled, tasted and touched, listened to and noticed . . . everything; from sea breezes and sunsets to frogs in a pond and fields of pomegranates; from breakfast buffets to sizzling sea bass; from buzzing mopeds to hissing sprinklers and barking dogs.

But here was the surprise. I’d expected this to be something of a chore, interrupting my lazy sunshine holiday like homework you have to finish before you go back to school after the summer break. But this conscious, purposeful sensory exposure enriched my vacation in a thousand ways I hadn’t expected. It heightened every sense, turned up the volume and sharpened the dazzling, vibrant panorama that is contemporary Turkey – a country I’ve grown to love over many years.

11 thoughts on “It makes sense

  1. What a fabulous description, Julie. You’ve taken me there already! Can’t wait to read the novel… There is no substitute for being there, smelling it and tasting it. One of the many wonderful things about writing a novel is that is can take us to places, physically as well as imaginatively, that we might not otherwise have visited. Great that your acute observation enhanced your holiday experience.

  2. Thank you! I think you’ll find you’re having that very same experience too, in a few weeks time…

    1. Hi. I love Turkey – it’s such a beautiful country, and people are so very hospitable and welcoming to foreign visitors. I’ve only been to the coastal regions, but have returned several times over the years, and I’ve never had a bad experience. My favourite places are the small towns and villages along the Lycian coastline (where the landscape is luscious and beautiful) and the Bozburun and Datca Peninsulars and also parts of the Bodrum Peninsular. I don’t favour the larger towns, I’m afraid – far too many tourists! One day I may venture farther inland. Turkey is the backdrop for my novel and I hope that, whilst it’s a story with darkness at its heart, my fondness for Turkey will shine through.

    1. I first visited Turkey for a holiday around 20 years ago after a friend recommended it as being relatively ‘undiscovered’ by tourists. Over the years, it has changed, inevitably; modernising to meet the needs of growing armies of visitors. But to me, in the places I like to visit, Turkey still retains its essential character. It’s abundant and warm, and a little bit exotic – an alluring mix of East and West – and the people, everywhere, are very hospitable and genuine. It remains my favourite destination.

  3. Reblogged this on Wendy Anne Darling and commented:

    I am there in my mind
    The taste of citrus on my tongue
    The odor of pine, all-pervading
    I glory in the warmth of the sun
    My subconscious celebrating ancient mysteries.

    I will never leave home without a notebook again…

    1. Thanks for reblogging my sensory post, Wendy, and for your poetic response. The whole experience surprised me. The interesting thing is, once you write down all your sensory detail – not just what you see – it’s so much easier to work with, when you come to use it in a story.

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