Day 18: There is a house…

Day eighteen, primal scream.

Today we’re gonna throw a bit of meta absurdism at ya because, well, it’s just that kind of day.

On one of my regular scheduled mindless social media scrolling sessions I came across this ridiculous little exchange on Tumblr that made me snort:

Image depicting three screenshots of text. 

The first reads: There is a house in New Orleans they call the rising sun.

The second reads: There is a house in New Orleans. Not the one you've heard about, I'm talking about another house. 

The third reads: There is a house in New Orleans, not the one you've heard about. No not that one either. I'm talking about a third unrelated house.
Screenshot of a tumblr post listing where each of the above quotes came from: 

The Animals, House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Silver Jews, New Orleans (1994)

wdhmbt's Tumblr post (undated)

Beneath it says: there are at least three houses in new orleans

The frist reference I think we all know.

The second is another song I wasn’t familiar with but you can listen to it here (the line above occurs at 2.28).

The third is the kind of absurd internet response that makes me love humanity. And the final sum up is more of the same glorious silliness.

And y’know, they’re right. There ARE at least three houses in New Orleans, and I bet they all have a story to tell. So why don’t we tell ’em?

I guess this is a sort of mash up between Day 5 (the story inside a song) and Day 7 (combidioms) AND Day 15 (legendary) because recycling is good for the environment and going meta is all part of today’s theme.

We’re gonna take a familiar opening to a story, poem or song or saying, and turn it into a layer cake.

For example:

  • Ground Control to Major Tom… No, sorry, not that Major Tom.
  • Two households, both alike in dignity. No, not those ones. Two different households.
  • Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene… Ah, but not the Jolene you’re thinking of.
  • Sing, goddess, of Achilles’ ruinous anger… Wait, no, not that Achilles.
  • A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… No, not that one — the next galaxy over.
A gif of two cats fighting with lightsabers
This one has CATS

Now, in previous exercises we’ve asked you to come up with a completely new iteration of a song/phrase/legend but today you have free rein to reference your source material as much as you like.

So… perhaps your story’s about a New Orleans homeowner’s association meeting…

Or an old retired Major Thomas who keeps getting calls from NASA…

Or a hapless Jolene who can’t figure out why she’s being blacklisted on all her dating apps…

The ridiculousnness lies in the story’s self-awareness, but by making the story one step removed, you get to twist and mutate the original to you heart’s content.

Pick one of the examples above or choose your own. Take 20 minutes. Get meta. And above all, have fun.

Then come and let us know about your familiar-but-not-the-one-you’re-thinking-of in the forum!

One of our classic exercises, Increments of a Story, is kinda perfect for this one: taking an old familiar story and reinventing it a bunch of different ways.

Indulge our love of story repetition and reinvention in this unit from our Write What You Know course: The Only Two Stories in the World...

You need the famous Writers’ HQ newsletter

Yes you do. Writing inspo, buttkicking, upcoming events and special offers, and the occasional bum joke. You know what to do – put your thing in the thing.