Tuesday 27 August 2013

Cameos & Easter Egss - The Creative Process

Cameos and Easter Eggs

When you start writing your first piece, whether it's a novella, short story, full length novel, or series of novels, there's the temptation (at least for me) to add in little surprises for those who have read all your work. There is also the temptation to do cameos of people you know and turn them into characters. Since these are both broad subjects, I'm going to break them down into two. First, I'll discuss cameos and then Easter eggs.

Cameos are primarily when you either name a character after someone you know in real life, or when you give a character in your work the appearance and personality of someone you may or may not know. It can work for you depending on how you go about doing it, and it can sometimes be a way to give a thank you nod to someone who has inspired or helped you along your writing journey.

I will admit that I have, a few times, used cameos to do just this. I have either given a character the name of a friend, or I have used their personality or appearance as a way to thank them for their support. One thing I will stress is that you need to do this only with their permission. A friend of mine let me use their name and then I turned them into a killer with a drug habit. They loved it! I know that at the beginning of most books,  there is a disclaimer that any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental, and it's mostly true. Yet, there are times when you already know someone who would be perfect in the role of the character you are writing.

When I first started writing BLACKOUT, I hadn't yet got into writing seriously and didn't think of a baby name book as a useful tool. The internet was around, but it was 2001 and I wrote by hand. I chose names for people from things that were lying around - hence why there is a character named "Dr. Miffy"! However, though later books have been written in similar ways, I soon learned that using too many of the same names would just get both boring, and confusing. So, I would use names that belonged to the wide support network of people who had helped cheer me on, beta read or even edited my books. I wasn't making huge amounts of money (not that I am now!), and it was one of the ways I could pay them back, but immortalizing them in print.

In fact, quite a few of my "bit" characters - those who only have a few lines and are then relegated to the hidden depths of my memory - have been modelled on people I have known, and who have been of great help to me. Some of them have their names, others just have identifying features that only they and I am aware of. In some ways,  these are Easter Eggs of their own, for people who know where to look. That brings me to the second part of this piece, Easter Eggs.

I'm sure you've all had a favourite author, whom you follow and read as many as you can. Sometimes you'll find that they "hide" parts of previous (or future) stories in their books as a something for those loyal followers to find. I have done the same with a few of my books that I'm sure people had found already. Yet, there are other pieces of information that would not make sense to anyone but me, and would seem as nothing important. When I first starting writing, I wrote every day with my best friend, B, who was writing her own series of books.

We both made a deal, and that was to leave Easter Eggs to the others books in our own. BLACKOUT has a reference to her first book in it, but since her books were never published, it's seemingly meaningless. Still, it makes me smile to read back through it and remember those days. I'm sure that if she ever does manage to re-write and get her books out there, that people may connect the dots. I'm also sure that people may wonder what the reference is, but I'll leave that to your imagination. Answers on a postcard!

The thing about Easter Eggs is that they need to not stand out too much. I'm sure you've all made the connection between BLACKOUT and another book, in that you get to revisit BLACKOUT towards the end of LYNNE & HOPE. I don't know how many other references there are to my books in other ones because I can't remember how many of them made it past the red pen of death of my editor. The ones that stay though are fun to look back on.

Both cameos and Easter Eggs are a fun part of writing. If done well, then no one but you and the editor possibly, will even be aware that they exist. You don't need to talk about them, and I'm sure that I am not the only writer who does them. If you look closely at other writer's work, I'm sure you'll be able to see their own versions of Easter eggs. Cameos are harder to spot because usually, the link is only known to the writer and the person the character is based on. I wish you luck in finding some though!

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