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I'm sure that somebody is going to point me to this question, but my case is different.

So I and my best friend are currently writing a science fiction novel that has many plot twists and "objects" that appear frequently throughout the book. We are still in the drafting stage, while I'm working on another individual writing project.

So we had this brilliant idea of using the characters from my individual writing project and slip it into a single scene in the sci-fi novel. It doesn't provide any meaning to the plot, I just thought it was an interesting easter egg to add in.

So the scene is the MC and her friend are biking, walking, something like that, and all of the sudden, a group runs into their way(the group is the characters from my individual project, btw). The group consists of a strange-looking girl along with 5 dogs. Two of the dogs are disguised and are capable of human speech. The two disguised dogs talk, which is weird.

Overall, I like the concept of the idea. It's really interesting and surprising, however, I want the readers to focus on the plot, the objects that keep popping up, and the patterns. But I do not want them to think that this one scene has any meaning to the story. I don't really want the readers to think that this is a really important part of the story, and let them crack their heads trying to figure what two talking dogs can possibly mean.

Is this too much of a plot distraction?

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    What is the general level of "freewheeling" in your book? Talking dogs would raise big question in "Star Trek", but hardly be noticed in "Alice in Wonderland". – Alexander Dec 18 '20 at 23:18
  • Sorry, but I don't quite understand you. I think you mean by what's "normal" in my story? – Alexandrang Dec 19 '20 at 18:26
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I'd advise you to proceed with caution.

First, how likely is your audience to recognize the cameo or easter egg? If you expect the audience of the two works to overlap almost completely, then this might be fine. They'll either read your current story first and get a kick out of recognizing the character (although they might still expect her to play a bigger role in the second story, too) or they'll read your current story later and experience the Aha! effect of, "Oh, that's where that was coming from."

However, the more likely it is for the audiences to differ, the more important it becomes for the scene to stand on its own. Ideally, the reader wouldn't even realize it's a reference to something else.

It also depends on how unusual this encounter is. If the main characters meet wacky characters and their talking sidekicks all the time, even the readers who don't recognize the character are unlikely to dwell on this particular encounter. Otherwise, they're likely to assume that the character is significant. (After all, even your super-brief description painted a vivid picture in my mind, so as a reader I'd like to read more about her and would be disappointed and confused if she never turns up again.) You can mitigate this by making it clear this is a one-off appearance (for example, because she mentions in dialogue that she's leaving somewhere that the reader is unlikely to expect the story to follow), or out of universe, you could add a footnote recommending readers to read the other story if they want to learn more about the character.

And finally, even if the reader does recognize the characters, it might not have the exciting easter egg effect you were hoping for. For example, when I was reading Stephen King's "11.22.63", I was confused and annoyed by the cameo of characters from "It". I had loved the characters in "It", but they felt out of place and their appearance took me out of the story. Even as I continued reading, I spent part of my brain power on the question of whether this meant the stories were otherwise connected. In other words, it completely broke my immersion in the story I was actively reading at the time. I think the problem was that this particular scene was too long and detailed to be a mere reference. There were other references to the events covered in "It", but those didn't bother me.

I actually never finished "11.22.63", though I intend to complete it someday, so if the two books do turn out to be connected after all, please don't tell me in the comments. :)

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It's up to you, but I would say yes, it is a plot distraction.

Personally, that would throw me off. I would be asking, "Could the dogs have significance? Should I remember them?" When really, I should be focused on the actual story.

But, like Alexander pointed out in a comment, it kind of depends on the rules of your science fiction world. If talking animals are possible, then sure, the dogs and their owner would be fine. But, if talking animals are not possible, then no, don't add it in, it would be a distraction, and I would wonder if all animals could talk.

Unless putting these strange characters from your novel into your and your friends' novel is symbolic for you - I would just keep the plots and characters separate from your other book.

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Short answer; probably should be okay

Slightly longer answer; ask betas if unsure

Long answer; If you already have several red herrings in your book, then this is a gamble. Maybe the reader will just nudge it aside as meaning nothing or maybe chase down every possible vague reference to them to try and figure out what they mean. It sounds like this would be just nudged aside since it's one scene, but there's always a chance a reader wants more of your talking dogs than the one bit.

A bit off topic, this also means you can link the books together when you publish and say they are part of the same universe and interact(similar to the bonus short story that links the Kane chronicles and Percy Jackson). This will probably boost the sales of both books a tad and everyone is happy.

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  • Beta readers are a good suggestion. If you can arrange it, try to get both beta readers who have read your current story and those who haven't. They might have different reactions. – Llewellyn Dec 19 '20 at 19:18
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Readers generally react unfavourably to randomness, logical inconsistencies, and ex machina solutions. Unless a book is intenionally (and predictably) absurd, fictional worlds and the events that take place in them must appear logical and meaningful. Anything can happen in a book, if and when it is consistent with the "rules" as they were defined or implied in the preceding text. These rules can be unique to your book or universal to all books or a genre. Unique rules are commonly defined at the beginning of the book, often in the first scene, for example by showing your readers how magic works in your world. Universal rules follow from the book's genre and that genre's conventions or the conventions of fiction in general.

"Easter eggs" are not common in literature. They are a part of media franchises such as the Mavel Universe, Star Wars, or computer games. Do not use them in books that are not part of a specific fan culture.

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An important concept to consider is the idea of plot promises (see for example this video by Brandon Sanderson if you're not familiar with the idea). By introducing an unexplained event, you're implicitly promising that it will be explained by the end of the story. If it isn't, your readers may be unsatisfied.

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