NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments! and often have guest bloggers.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Marcelle Dube . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Readers, Writers, and Easter Eggs



As a reader, I love discovering “Easter eggs” and as a writer I’m challenge to come up with meaningful ones for my readers. And if you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, read on.
According to Wikipedia, “An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, video game, movie, book, or crossword.”
I learned about this concept in software, when sneaky programmers liked to insert hidden gems like images of butterflies that took flight when you rolled your mouse over a spot on the screen or undocumented features that you stumbled over while trying something else. Recently, this concept in writing was highlighted when I was re-reading a long series that had several Easter eggs sprinkled throughout.



Now on the first read, did I recognize all of these little sly reminders from earlier books? Nope. Oh, one or two seemed vaguely familiar, but I think real recognition happens at the subliminal level. It was that wonderful sense of coming home, a familiarity that draws me back to characters and stories that I will read over and over again. And in the process of re-reading these books, I was able to consciously see the connections the author had created over multiple books that spanned several years (probably why some seemed familiar, but not readily remembered).


I want to write books that readers return to again and again. I want to sprinkle in Easter eggs that reward those repeat readers but also resonate on a subliminal level the first time through. These little gems are not the important clues in a murder mystery or the red herrings we use to misdirect the reader.



No, they are the characters that drift in and out of our stories that amplify our protagonists. The characters that provide our heroes and heroines with what the late Blake Snyder called a “save the cat” moment. A scene that shows the kind of man, or woman, your protagonist really is. And in doing so, endear them to the reader—even, maybe especially, when our heroes and heroines are not acting particularly heroic.


Or maybe it is a location that your chracters return to periodically. A building under construction in one book is complete and visited in another. Or a background eyesore that is renovated over several books becomes a focal scene in a later book. All of these instances help ground your characters in a real world.


So the next time you are plotting a multibook story arc, be sure and include some Easter eggs. Reward your readers with a little brightly colored jewel burried in the black and white print and help your characters remain memorable book after book, read after read.

(by Sharon Calvin)


8 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

I love finding Easter eggs. :) I agree it gives the reader a sense of connection to the characters. I think that's why I love reading series so much, rather than single books.

Rita said...

There is that ah-ha moment when that weird easter egg at the beginning of the book is explained. Love it.
A mentor told me this happens subconsciously writing first drafts. which is a good reason not to edit until you're on later drafts.

Sharon Calvin said...

Anne Marie, my love of reading series goes back to such classics as Doctor Doolittle and the Black Stallion books in grade school. My conscious knowledge of Easter eggs didn't happen till much later.

Rita, I love those ah-ha moments! I wish I had more of them :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Oh, is *THAT* what you call them! Thanks for pointing this out, Sharon. Once you did, I immediately recognized that I do indeed enjoy the Easter eggs. Now I have to go back and see if I ever use them in my own series.

Toni Anderson said...

Oh, I like Easter eggs. Funny, I'm writing a novella right now and I had to reread the original book which I wrote many years ago. And though I didn't plot them, Easter eggs have turned up. It creates a lovely sense of continuity and sense of place/time that people really relate to. Nice post, Sharon. Thanks for sharing.

Sandy Parks said...

Never knew the names for these "gems." I love these kind of things woven into stories. You're right, they add depth and a treat for the reader. Hmm, now where to put a few into my series. :)

J Wachowski said...

Me too! Love those tasty Easter eggs! I remember the first series I ever read "Trixie Belden" mystery stories for kids had this great episode with a gypsy who predicted the future with a poem. Some of it related to that book, but some of it went further. I loved searching for the connections between the poem and what happened in future books!

jean harrington said...

Interesting. Easter eggs sounds a lot like the old-fashioned term, "foreshadowing." No?

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