What if you start reading a book and suddenly realize that the book is about you!
This has got to be some joke, right? But then how could whoever wrote this have known that you would read the section which says you are in the cafeteria reading the book under a table, at the exact time you were doing just that? And now it's talking about what you're contemplating at this very moment, and this blows your mind
Don't worry, variations of this happen a lot and it seems like Reality Writing Books are everywhere. There are three main types:
Type 1 : Your Fate Is Already Decided
The book already seems to be completely written and appears to have predicted your every move. This may double as a Tome of Fate
, depending on whether the book itself is magic (which would qualify under this trope), or someone else merely wrote such things in a more or less standard book (which would not qualify). Sometimes events written in the book turn out to be wrong, or able to be changed by the character's reaction to the information the book provides.
Type 2 : Automatic Data Recorder
The book writes itself as you read it, observing rather than predicting your movements. It may contain information merely about what happens around the book itself or things which are pertinent to the plot of the story. Often these books also have some form of omniscience, and have things written in them that the protagonist could never have known about ("Little does Alice know, that Bob is sneaking up behind her at this very moment!"
). The words might literally appear on the page before your eyes, or as you turn the last page written on there might mysteriously be a next one.
Type 3 : Choose Your Own Adventure
The book must be written in, and the things you write about start happening. There may be certain rules attached to this version, or not everything you write will happen, it might be random chance which elements you write down come to pass.
Keep in mind this isn't always a book. Online material or videos and such are growing more popular to use as such items.
Compare Tomes of Prophecy and Fate
, Brown Note
, Rewriting Reality
, Reality Warper
, and Author Powers
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Anime & Manga
- The Death Note is a book that when you write someone's name in it, they die. If you write in how they are to die, provided it's feasible they will die in that manner and time, otherwise they die of a heart attack by default.
- Mirai Nikki features journals which contain the future entries of characters, allowing them to see what they'll experience in the future, and react to them. The journals change as they do things. Most of these journals take the form of diaries entered into cellphones, though one woman has hers on a scroll.
- Cardcaptor Sakura: The Create Card is a Reality Warper book that makes everything written in it materialize.
- 'Fushigi Yuugi has "The Universe of the Four Gods", which is type 2. While Miaka and Yui continue their adventure, people in our world can read, what is happening in this moment in Four God's dimension.
- Zetta becomes a type III book in Makai Kingdom.
- Dilbert was once forced to work in the Accounting department, where he was taught that numbers create reality rather than just reflecting it. He erases the budget for the Accounting department itself, which causes the head of Accounting to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Films — Animation
- In Epic Nim's tree is a data recorder example. Everything that happens in the forest is recorded on the scrolls within, down to the most minute actions.
Films — Live-Action
- The Neverending Story features The Neverending Story, a magic book that dictates what is happening in the world of Fantasia and the main character, who is initially reading the book on earth.
- Late into the the first half of the book, the Childlike Empress meets with the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, who spends all his time writing into what appears to be the "master" copy of the book. He writes everything that happens into the book, and everything that he writes into the book happens. The Empress forces Bastian's hand by having the Old Man recite what he's written back to her. He begins reciting (beginning with the start of the actual book, describing Bastian), and in doing so, he also re-writes everything he's already written, causing it to happen again, including his recitation, throwing reality into a recursive loop without end. Bastian breaks the loop by giving the Empress a new name and entering the world of the book.
- An example of a video rather than a book. Spaceballs has the evil characters discovering the video of the movie they are starring in—at one point their actions both in the film universe and the video are perfectly synched up ("Sir, you're looking at now now"), to the characters' bemusement.
- In Stranger Than Fiction, the protagonist finds out that unwittingly by all involved, he's the main character of a book currently being written by an author famous for killing off her characters.
- Ruby Sparks: Calvin brings the Manic Pixie Dream Girl from his dreams to life by writing a book about her.
- In the Land of Oz Glinda the Good Witch of the South has a book in which is written everything that happens in Oz, as it happens. If she needs to find out what happened at any given time she just looks it up.
- The Book of Three from the Chronicles of Prydain.
- In Discworld death has an entire library of books that write themselves as people's lives unfold.
- In Edward Eager's Seven Day Magic, the children find a magic book that not only lets them wish themselves into other books, but also records everything that happens to them as it happens. And whenever anyone else picks it up, it appears as whatever book they would most like to read.
- Inkheart had a variation: Meggie and Mo can read things (and people) in and out of books. In Inkspell, they both read themselves into the Inkworld, where this becomes a Reality Warper power—Fenoglio, the author, is there too, and he can write passages for them to read aloud and make those things come true.
- Young Wizards has The Book of Night With Moon, a supernatural book which describes the entirety of existence. If the proper conditions are met a wizard can write alterations in it, letting them change anything about reality. At the end of the first book, Nita changes the True Name of Satan to make it possible for him to be redeemed, where before his unchanging nature prevented it.
- The eponymous book in The Neverending Story, the basis for the film mentioned above.
- Within the context of the book, it gets a little deeper. The main character, Bastian, is reading The Never-Ending Story. We as readers are reading the story of Bastian reading The Never-Ending Story. At a certain point in the book, a character within the story begins to read the story of Bastian reading The Never-Ending Story, causing all the stories to repeat in an infinite loop. Bastian, quite reasonably, freaks out at this point.
- Goosebumps did this with "The Blob that Ate Everyone."
- "Say Cheese and Die" could be a variant too. If you take a picture of someone with the cursed camera, the photo shows something bad happening to them. Later, that same bad thing will happen to them.
- At the climax of Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones, Howard Sykes dictates the actions of several other characters by typing them on a typewriter that's been enchanted for the purpose.
- Everworld had a magic scroll that defined what the laws of physics were for the eponymous land of the gods, although the Cosmic Deadline hit before it could be more than a background mention.
- "Word Processor of the Gods", a short story by Stephen King was also adapted as an episode of Tales from the Darkside. It featured a word processor that could edit people into and out of existence.
- The file/database/repository from Scott Meyer's Magic 2.0 (depending on the person who finds it). Every once in a while, a hacker (or just someone who likes to snoop around corporate servers) finds a plain-text file (usually named something like "repository1-c.txt") with a huge size (around 5 terabytes) and values that constantly update, even if opened in a text editor that doesn't support real-time updates. It's not long before they realize that it's a parameter file for the whole of reality. Almost anything can be changed by editing a part of the file. When Martin first finds it, the first thing he (accidentally) changes is his height (he later finds out that he's lucky he only tried about 2.5 inches; any more, and his spine would have stopped working). He then learns to teleport (by changing his GPS coordinates), time travel (by changing his time code; only to the past and back to his present), levitate (by writing an Android app to constantly update his altitude multiple times per second; a very shaky and uncomfortable experience), and make himself rich (by altering his bank account balance; cue Those Two Guys from the US Treasury showing up). According to Phillip, there is only one "master file", but it has multiple "projections" on the Internet that he explains akin to A Glitch in the Matrix.
- Lost Girl has the Blood King's book with which he can alter reality if he writes in it with his own blood.
- Supernatural: Chuck the Prophet writes books about two characters he thinks he made up named Sam & Dean Winchester, who have lives identical to the real Sam & Dean. At some points what he writes lines up with what's happening to Sam & Dean at that exact time. Like this scene in the laundromat:
[Sam is doing laundry as Dean sits nearby, reading from Chuck's latest manuscript.]
Dean: I'm sitting in a laundromat, reading about myself sitting in a laundromat reading about myself... My head hurts.
Sam: There's got to be something this guy's not telling us.
[Sam turns to toss his darks into the machine. Dean continues reading.]
Dean: "Sam tossed his gigantic darks into the machine. He was starting to have doubts about Chuck, about whether he was telling the whole truth."
Sam: Stop it.
Dean: "'Stop it,' Sam said." Guess what you do next. [Sam turns away, scowling.] "Sam turned his back on Dean, his face brooding and pensive." I mean, I don't know how he's doing it, but this guy is doing it. I can't see your face, but those are definitely your "brooding and pensive" shoulders. [Sam sighs, exasperated. Dean looks down at the manuscript.] You just thought I was a dick.
Sam: [turns around looking impressed.] The guy's good.
- The Xena: Warrior Princess episode "The Quill Is Mightier..." features a magic scroll that causes whatever is written on it to become reality. The scroll tends to be something of a Literal Genie. The scroll is even powerful enough to depower Aphrodite, the goddess who enchanted it in the first place.
- The X-Files had an episode where a writer moves in to Mulder's building in the neighbouring apartment and starts affecting Scully's life with his writing. He also spawns a serial killer.
- The Viking Book of Love from season 3 of Round the Twist.
- The Twilight Zone 1980s episode "The Library" had one of these for everyone.
- In a variant, Azalin from the Ravenloft setting has a library containing the self-writing biographies of everyone who lives in his domain of Darkon or visits it for more than a few weeks. These accounts contain their subjects' true histories, even if the actual people have forgotten this same information due to Darkon's nature as a Fisher Kingdom. (As destroying someone's biography causes their stolen memories to return, it's implied that the books are actually draining visitors' memories right out of their heads.)
- Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney seems to have such a book. However, it's subverted in the end.
- Maxwell's notebook from Scribblenauts is a type 3. It's able to summon pretty much anything written into it. Including itself (which results in a notebook that spawns random items when you use it)
- The book in Avalon Code is roughly this. It's meant to record everything in the world, but you must record everything manually by slamming the book on top of them, whether they're a person, a monster or an inanimate object. You can play mix-and-match with some of their attributes to weaken or strengthen them (making monsters easier or harder to fight) and do other tweaks.
- Makai Kingdom. The Sacred Tome predicts the future with absolute certainty, and whatever is written in it BECOMES the truth. 'Badass Freakin' Overlord' Zetta is pissed off because the tome claims that he will destroy his own Netherworld through foolishness and arrogance, so he burns it. This causes the entire world to collapse, and he has to quickly transform HIMSELF into the Sacred Tome to prevent a total collapse, though his own Netherworld still bites it, thus proving the prediction true... Most of the gameplay basically centers around using the powers of the Zetta-Tome, by having various characters write 'wishes' into it, thus making them come true.
- Wizardry Dark Savant Trilogy (VI, VII, 8) has the Cosmic Forge, a pen and Tome Of Fate. Anything written in it will become true, albeit not as the writer expects. If written pages are torn out, history itself will be Ret Conned. One of the endings in 8 has you doing exactly that in an attempt to Ret Gone the Dark Savant, but since the process is not instantaneous, you must fight him anyway. After you defeat him, you quickly write down every bit of history you can recall.
- Gran Grimoire from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has changed entire town into fantasy kingdom.
- Luso Clemens from Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift has Type 2 / Type 3 book (Grimoire of the Rift) that writes itself, recording Luso experiences. It was also used to travel between worlds.
- A non-book example happens in Persona 2: rumors become true if enough people hear about them (this is due to the local Made of Evil Eldritch Abomination Nyarlathotep dicking with humanity.) No writing needed, just word of mouth. Mostly this results in Urban Legends becoming true, but at one point the player characters themselves take advantage of it. The villains aren't slouches, either - the heroes' escapades result in a friggin' lot of people assuming the bad guys were incredibly powerful if they could pull stunts that outrageous. This resulted in a small group (as in five people) slowly becoming a major cult. And then somebody arranged for the publishment of a Big Book Of Everything on conspiracy theories. This one ended with the return of Hitler and the Letzte Bataillon.
- The Myst series has Type 3 books as a main plot point and game mechanic. They can create entire worlds or just allow you to teleport around, though it takes years of study to write one. Failure can trap a person inside one forever and some called "prison ages" do that intentionally.
- When exploring the Wizard's castle in the final level of Hack N Slash, you enter a library filled with these books. Each book represents a specific file in the game's actual folder, and their contents can be altered by the player in various ways, which actually reprograms the game. Pretty novel concept.
- One of these appears in a later episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, when it's rewritten by Shendu. Luckily Jade is left unaffected since she manages to tear out the page that relates to her, leaving her unaltered.
- On Regular Show forging the park records has this effect. Mordecai and Rigby do it to trick Benson into giving them a raise, but Rigby overdoes it, resulting in the park being attacked by a snow monster.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Sabrina finds a typewriter in the attic. The short story she writes is Type 3.
- Seemingly the script in the Taz-Mania episode "Retakes Not Included", as turning back pages allows Bull and Axl to undo events that have already happened.
- Strange Hill High: In "Read All About It", the magic ink used in the school newspaper causes any story written in it to come true. This is a problem as Mitchell has made up a story about the school collapsing tomorrow.