What Are Easter Eggs and Why You Should Include Them in Your Writing

I love an Easter egg, especially the kind made of chocolate and filled with jelly sweets and...NO! That's not what I mean by Easter egg, but is anyone else excited to stuff their faces with Easter chocolate soon? Me too. You might have heard the term 'Easter Egg' when it comes to film and TV, but did you know you can, and should, include them in your writing too?

In this article, you'll find out what Easter Eggs are, why they're so important and how you can include them in your writing. Keep reading!

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What does the term 'Easter Egg' mean?

A literacy Easter Egg is a little something extra to an object, dialogue, action or character in which something is hidden, waiting for a reader to find. This could be an inside joke or a hidden meaning behind something or a clue to solve a riddle. Why should you include Easter Eggs in your writing? For those who work the Easter Egg out, it provides them with a little kick of pleasure because they've understood the intended reference. It also provides layers to a story that they might miss the first time they read the book, making it exciting for them if they go back for a second read.

You can choose who to write Easter eggs into your story, but to do so you should bear in mind that you ultimately want readers to catch on, otherwise what's the point? You should include a mixture of broad Easter Eggs that most readers will be able to pick up, but also a few that are discretely hidden that someone might pick up on a second read of the book, or when reading future books from the author, or in the same series. You also don't want to include too many Easter Eggs in your story and send readers down a rabbit hole of trying to find all these Easter Eggs as this can actually take them away from the story.

Examples of literacy Easter Eggs

Titles listed below may contain spoilers.

Here are a few examples of literacy Easter Eggs done well;

Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling

In the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore leaves Harry the golden snitch he caught in his first game of quidditch. Inscribed on this snitch is a phrase that says, "I open at the close." We later discover that the Resurrection Stone is hidden within the snitch and the snitch opens when Harry is ready to die - which signifies "the close". Not only that, but the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was published in 1997 which is just a year before the great Battle of Hogwarts in the Potter world timeline, so the entire series literally opens at the close.

IT, Stephen King

Stephen King is a horror writer who regularly includes Easter Eggs in his fiction which is arguably why his novels make for great film and TV. One of the most notable Easter Eggs is in his movie-adapted book, IT. One of the main characters, Eddie Kaspbrak, lives next door to a neighbour called Paul Sheldon. If you're a fan of Stephen's work, you may recognise this character as being the main protagonist from his novel, Misery, which was published years later.

The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

Hiding Easter Eggs in your work doesn't just have to be in your writing, but it can also be in design aspects, whether that's your cover, front or back matter, chapter headings or anything else. For example, see the below image from J. R. R. Tolkien's title page in The Fellowship of the Ring. The two bands above and below the page might seem like intricate design detail but really it's a writing system that Tolkien invented himself which translates to, "The Lord of the Rings translated from the Red Book of Westmarch by John Ronald Reel Tolkien. Herein is set fourth the history of the War of the Ring and the Return of the King as seen by the Hobbits."

Literacy Easter Eggs Dos and Don'ts:

  • Include a mixture of easy to figure out and more discrete Easter Eggs

  • Think about how you can incorporate Easter Eggs in your book design

  • Add Easter Eggs creatively, not just through description but also in dialogue, bonus material, dedications, acknowledgements, title pages and more.

  • Make them overly obvious

  • Include too many Easter Eggs (stick with including between 1-3)

  • Don't just add them in for the sake of it. Determine when the perfect moment is to add in an Easter Egg and why

  • Explain your Easter eggs, the point is for the reader to figure them out