Monday, February 19, 2018

Easter Eggs on President's Day

It’s President’s Day and I’m thinking about Easter Eggs.

Isn’t it a little early? I don’t mean the kind we hard boil and dip dye for the big bunny to hide, I’ll get to those next month. I’m referring to another type – literary Easter Eggs.

Yes, literary Easter Eggs. If you’re a writer, do you use them? Apparently, I do. I’ve been weaving subtle ‘gifts’ for my friends and family in my writing since I began. However, it wasn’t until years into my venture I learned this practice is an intentional method.

Much like the physical Easter Eggs, they can be decorated and hidden in many ways. Without knowing the term, I was leaving them for my friends and family via personal references. Naming characters after friends and family members seemed too obvious (and cause for possible contention), but I wanted to include shout-outs to my people who I hoped would be reading a someday-published novel after hearing me complain about it for months and years. I began to sporadically drop Easter Eggs and it made me smile to imagine my friend or cousin coming across their name as the title of a business or street or their childhood house phone numbers (‘disguised’ of course with the universal 555 pre-fix). I’ve used birthdays, addresses, pets’ names and most recently a combination of names to form a fictional law firm.

Why? Who doesn’t like seeing their name in print? Or better yet, a personal inside joke hidden in dialog? It’s fun. After my most recent novel released, I received a middle-of-the-night text from my cousin when she discovered her egg and another call from an old friends’ mother to say how tickled she was to see I used her last name as a neighbor in the story. I haven’t seen her in years, but it came right to me and I knew she’d appreciate it.

While I’ve never been able to use trademarked song titles in my writing (something to aspire to) I dance around the issue by referencing lyrics that I know will evoke a certain emotion or define a timeframe. But, secretly I think about that friend or ex (okay, definitely the ex) who might wonder if I was thinking of them. Devious? Hey, writing can be frustrating and lonely. If motivation arrives dressed as devious, I let her in.

Another way to use Easter Eggs is to hide them amongst your various stories. This is easily achieved by having a past character pop up in a new work, or better yet an obscure, minor character appear in the background. Inanimate objects work well too. That necklace a character wanted in book one, might show up on someone else’s neck in book three. Movies are notorious for using this kind of egg dropping.  My current work-in-progress is set in the 1990s, and some of my friends may recognize their before-becoming-a-mom cool cars.

A hook for friends, family and loyal readers? Sure. Fun for the writer and reader? Definitely.

Who doesn’t like an Easter Egg hunt?

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