Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Easter Eggs

If you’re a video gamer, regularly watch DVDs, or even just a user of computers (and who isn’t at this point?), then you’re probably familiar with “Easter Eggs.” These are hidden bits of coding that reveal or unlock some special feature or joke: maybe an extra level in a game; a goofy message; an extra video clip; the names of the members of the development team. They don’t necessarily add anything of real significance to the experience, but they are no doubt fun for the people making the product, and give the end users plenty to do as they seek them out.

He’s even got Indy’s trusty whip!

I remember the first Easter Egg I found was in the LucasArts produced game, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. While wandering through the game’s last level, I took Indy down a long, dark corridor with a light at the end. As Indy stepped into the room, his appearance changed: he became Guybrush Threepwood, the hero of LucasArts’ Monkey Island games; the room he came out in was a reproduction of a barbershop from one of those games, the walls lined with pictures of various LucasArts people. It was good fun, though it made me wonder what I may have missed in other games I’ve played over the years. When I was playing, however, I did not put a whole lot of time into trying to find these things. There were always other things to do.

Late last week, I found what I consider to be an Easter Egg in a book.

Technically I suppose it’s not an Easter Egg. Books can’t have Easter Eggs in the same way as so-called interactive media; what books can have are inside jokes and self references, spoofs and homages. Readers might get the literary references (when Stephen King and Peter Straub co-wrote The Talisman, you can be that naming their 12-year-old hero Jack Sawyer was a nod to Twain’s Tom Sawyer), but they can’t be expected to get the inside jokes–unless they know the author. In this case, I do, as she lives and works locally. More importantly, I know the person whose name she dropped, and while the way she used it didn’t unlock any secret levels or hidden chapters, it did unlock a laugh from me. Right or wrong, I took it as a bit of a backhand at her boss.

When I write, I let bits of myself out into my characters. Places that are or were important to me often filter into it (I have a terrible habit of including ocean beaches as significant places in my writing), but I have not included names of people I know, or written directly about things that have happened to me or my friends and family. No Easter Eggs in my writing. What about yours? Do you include deliberate references to people, places and incidents from your life in your writing? Do you hide Easter Eggs?

4 Responses

  1. I wrote in an "Easter Egg" in my ghost book by putting one of my vampires in a scene. Now, the world in this book don't know vampires exist (as does the world in my vampire books). Anyone who hadn't read my vampire books wouldn't suspect anything strange about this character, but anyone who has read my vampire books would know this character is a vampire. It was fun.

    Most of my books are set in cities I either live in or have visited. Only one is set someplace totally different (and of course it's not published yet). Man, that one was HARD to picture. Google maps helped a lot there!

  2. No Easter eggs for me. I never use people or places from real life. They'd conjure real memories, and I like to keep the fantasy in the forefront, keep it fresh. Lucky there are plenty of names out there I don't associate with people I know! 🙂

  3. -Lexa–plus, you won't have that uncomfortable moment when a friend or family member comes to you, your book in hand, and says, "How could you do this to me?"

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