Always Leave an Easter Egg

Easter eggs are a time honored tradition in most of today’s science fiction. This is the hiding in plain sight of something which came from somewhere else. Not an entire script or story line, but rather a nugget of information, a scene or just a few lines. An Easter egg differs from a nod in that a nod will generally reference the source. Allow me to demonstrate with a few examples.

While I was watching some “bonus features” on the “Babylon 5” DVDs the show’s creator talked about one story line where various ministries were being set up on Earth to control peoples thoughts and actions. He called it a nod, but the actual show did not make reference or at least significant reference to “1984” so it really was an Easter egg. A fan of “1984” would have gotten it immediately, but someone who hadn’t read that work in years, like myself, missed it.

The television series NCIS used to give numerous nods using the character of Anthony DiNozzo spouting off titles of old movies and their cast pointing out where they blatantly stole an idea from. You didn’t have to be a fan of any of those movies to get where the idea came from. If you really liked the episode you might even watch the old movie. I do highly recommend writers of any genre give up cable so you can get one of those over the air channels which runs old black and white movies. Some of the best writing ever happened when we didn’t have special effects teams.

An Easter egg does not need to be either a scene or a line. It can be an object or a sound. The Star Trek movies reboot did an excellent job of this recently. In the current movie there is a scene where they need to broadcast loud music to destroy enemy ships. They did a very good job setting this Easter egg up too. The music starts playing and Captain Kirk says “Good choice.” A bit later Spock and Dr. McCoy are in an alien fighter ship and have this exchange.

McCoy: Is that classical music?

Spock: Yes doctor, it would seem to be.

The music was of course a hard rock/heavy metal kicking tune. It also sounded very familiar. A night or two later I dug out the first reboot movie. Sure enough, it was the same tune which was playing when we first met James Tiberius Kirk.

See for yourself.

Clip 1 Clip 2

An Easter egg is a way of bonding with your audience in a manner which transcends the writing itself. It shows you cared enough about something they care about to include it in your work. Even computer programmers hide Easter eggs. The OpenVMS operating system has an error code which returns “my hovercraft is full of eels.”

Some may believe it would be difficult for young writers to have enough life experience to generate an Easter egg. Some young writers generate Easter eggs without knowing it. You see you’ve either read enough or watched enough to have something make you want to write. These things will even influence type type of work you create. Maybe during edit round N of your story think back to those experiences of something or many somethings which stuck with you, then hide the egg.

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