I’ve already partially covered this subject in my articles about crossovers and geeking out about your story, but it probably deserves it’s own article too – although some of this stuff is probably fairly obvious anyway.
In short, an easter egg is something amusing, fascinating or just plain cool which is hidden in your story or comic. It’s like an in-joke, but less obvious. Not everyone will see it and not everyone will probably understand it. Still, if you get a chance, it can be worth including easter eggs in your stories and comics.
How often you do this is a matter of personal preference, but as long as they don’t get in the way of the story – add as many as you want. Interestingly, I haven’t really added that many easter eggs to this blog (the only one I can think of is the hidden poem within my article about writing poetry) although they turn up very occasionally in my other works.
So, how do I add them?
Since stories and comics aren’t usually interactive in the way that DVDs and computer/videogames are, then you’re probably going to have to hide your easter eggs “in plain sight” so to speak. In prose fiction stories, this usually means burying them in descriptions, dialogue or lists.
In comics, this usually means hiding your easter egg somewhere in the background (eg: a film poster about one of your other comics in the background of a panel where your main character walks past a cinema).
You can also add easter eggs to chapter titles or add secret messages to your story by italicising certain letters (kind of like the “Smithy code” ).
In fact, codes and cyphers are a brilliant way of adding easter eggs to stories and comics (Dan Brown is notorious for doing this in his novels…).
Even something as simple as a few lines of ROT13 code hidden within some random text on a computer screen in the background of part of your comic, is a brilliant way of adding an easter egg.
Another thing about adding easter eggs is that they have to blend into the story too, they have to feel like a natural (if slightly amusing/random/geeky) part of the world of your story and/or comic. They have to be camouflaged within the world of your story/comic. Of course, there’s also something to be said for including totally bizarre easter eggs for comedy value too.
One other way of hiding easter eggs in things like short story collections and interactive fiction novels (eg: “Choose Your Own Adventure”/”Fighting Fantasy”-type stories) is to make your easter egg a short chapter which is not mentioned on the index, or an entry in a interactive story which can’t be reached from any other page.
But, all of these are obvious places to look for easter eggs. When it comes to hiding easter eggs in your creative work, then you have to be more imaginative.
Of course, if you’re writing any kind of online fiction or webcomics, then you can do a lot more imaginative things – like hiding a link to an easter egg in a single pixel on your website which is only active for one day every month and then requiring a ridiculously bizarre password like “mzzyzplex” or “drowssap” and large quantities of biometric data in order to access it.
Use your imagination. Be fiendish.
Why bother with adding easter eggs at all?
Because they’re fun.
No, seriously, why should my story/comic include easter eggs if most of my readers aren’t even going to notice them?
Most of the practical reasons for including easter eggs are the same as the reasons for including crossovers in your story and/or comic. Namely that they provide “added value” for fans of your work and they also ensure that it’s more worthwhile for people to re-read your story and/or comic (eg: if they notice something when they’re re-reading it which they didn’t notice the first time that they read it).
In other words, even if (for some bizarre reason) you don’t really like adding easter eggs to your stories, it can still be a good thing to do in order to keep your fans happy and to reward people who look at your story/comic closely.
But what else can I do with them? Any other tricks?
Another cool type of easter egg is to add a hidden “clue” or “preview” to what your next story or comic will be about. Ways of doing this include hiding a central object from your next story in the background or just a brief reference to something in it (for example, if your next story/comic is a seafaring adventure story set aboard a ship called “The Trout”. Then either include a painting of The Trout on a wall in the background of one panel of your comic, or mention the name of the captain of The Trout briefly in your story amongst a list of random names or something like that).
This differs from ordinary foreshadowing, since it gives your reader a subtle clue about something which happens outside the story/comic they’re reading and/or something you haven’t made yet. Of course, this type of easter egg requires a fair amount of advance planning (so it might not be useful for people like me who hardly ever plan stories/comics in advance) and it should be very well hidden too.
It should be so well-hidden in fact that, ideally, your readers shouldn’t notice it until you’ve actually published your next story. Then you can reveal your easter egg to your readers, much to their amazement, shock and delight.
I’ve mostly heard of this particular technique being used in videogames and films, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use it in your story or comic too.
This article was probably mostly stating the obvious, but I hope that it has been useful nonetheless.