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)