Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pay attention to the dead llama

I have a confession: when horrible things are happening to me, I consciously tell myself to pay attention to every detail so I can write about it later. This habit is not so awesome. It usually happens during really awkward moments: like in the middle of an argument with my boyfriend or when I'm bleeding into the dishwater after slicing my hand open with a Slap Chop.

An example, you demand? Okay. But I'm warning you now squeamish people.

For context, this story takes place a few years ago when I was home for the summer and my parents had ditched me for Yellowstone National Park. They're animal-watching people, so they do that. Anyway, we used to have a llama. His name was Astro and he looked like a cuter, fluffier version of the llama from Napoleon Dynamite.

While my parents were gone, Astro the llama decided to lay down and die. I didn't notice this because when I went to feed and water our sheep, Astro looked like he was busy taking a nap instead of being dead. Two days later my parents returned, and as you can imagine, it is unacceptable to leave dead llamas decomposing in the pasture. Something had to be done.

Now instead of asking a neighbor to scoop Astro up with a tractor, my father decided that we were fine with rope and the flatbed trailer. Important fact: an average llama weighs somewhere between 250-450 pounds. And Astro had been decomposing for two days.

Let's sum this up simply: I have never experienced anything that horrifying since. But, if I ever write a zombie story, moving Astro the llama onto the flatbed trailer will be the best research I can ever do. Why? Because I know things about maggots and rotting flesh and the slime that oozes from dead bodies. I could go into great detail about this. But I'm not going to, because it's gross.

Paying attention to details like this is important to being a writer though. I mean, how can you properly describe something even as simple as wood if you've never really paid attention to it? So next time something horrible is happening to you, focus. Things like dead llamas don't come by everyday, and you can never have too much experience on the matter.

So does anyone else do this? Or are your thoughts a little more removed from the event? Tell me in the comments!


Sierra said...

I can't say i have anything to compare to the llama but i do focus on things and reflect on how they could have gone better. For simplification i will say i take a middle road when it comes to analyzing things. I pay attention but not to much attention.

Annerb said...

Is it sad that the parts of this post I want to comment on are what did you two fight about and to laugh slightly at our ineptitude at doing dishes without cutting ourselves. Remember when I took a chunk out of a finger with a broken glass?

I'm still sorry about the llama. But I was on the phone with you when that happened. You make a good point. I wish I sometimes paid more attention to those kinds of things.

And now, I demand of you a zombie novel.

Kate said...

I do this all the time. When I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with a 1/4 tank of gas and 1 bar in the battery of my cell phone surrounded by huge windmills feeling lost I thought I need to save this feeling and scenario to put into a story...

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