Now the giant Brain was trapped in Fry's book, full of plot holes and spelling errors.
Writers are used to the power of stories to evoke feelings and create new worlds: in some stories this is explicitly possible, as a form of magic.
Rewriting Reality is a form of magic where the invocation is writing — or in more recent tales, typing. Usually it is one specific object that the writing works with, such as a Reality Writing Book, a typewriter, a sketchpad or a PC. It is sometimes based in mythology where a creator god "writes" the "Story" of history. The device might come from a mysterious deal, a magic spell, a technical device gone strangely wrong, editing the Tomes of Prophecy and Fate, or it could just be, y'know, there.
In some cases, the user may not even know about the power: an author may use a cursed device to create some form of unstoppable monster, or cause all sorts of wacky hijinks for his friends. Or it may be used purposefully but unwisely, taking the statements with cruelliteral-mindedness. Or perhaps the Big Bad has just found a new source of fun.
The ensuing mayhem can often be stopped by destroying the object that caused it, or killing the writer, which may, or may not, lead to a Snap Back or the writer waking to find it All Just a Dream... Other methods may involve working within story rules, either playing to or breaking the conventions of the story's genre.
Compare with Author Powers, in which a character within the story has this sort of power because they are an author interacting with their creations. Unlike this trope they don't necessarily need a writing device for this, though.
Also compare with Art Initiates Life where the visual arts shape reality, or Formulaic Magic where it is pure mathematics that will change reality. See also I Know Your True Name, Language of Magic, and All Just a Dream.
Not to be confused with figuratively rewriting reality.
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The notebook from Death Note- though it's only good for killing people and controlling events leading up to their deaths. The Death Note could be used to make a prison inmate sing show tunes for an hour before he dies from a heart attack, but there are rather realistic limits and rules to its power. It couldn't make him sing show tunes he doesn't know, and it's against the rules for him to kill anyone. Physical impossibilities like teleportation or even levitation are similarly off-limits. The list of rules is ridiculously long and arcane.
The non-card form of The Create of Cardcaptor Sakura was a book that made anything you write in it reality. This caused quite a bit of a problem for the titular heroine when it then fell into the hands of her fantasy story-loving friend.
Rohan Kishibe from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a stand, Heaven's Door, that can turn people into human books and rewrite them. While he usually uses it to manipulate memories and control a person's actions, it has also, to shown the ability to control what happens to them.
From S-Cry-ed, the Alter (superpower) of Unkei is called "Mad Sprict" [sic] and enables him to write a script for reality that people will follow, and alter perceptions and (to a lesser extent) memories to fit. Not as powerful as other examples of the trope, as he can't seem to make someone behave completely out of character, he can't affect the perceptions of a character with super-powered perceptions, and the only times we see it used it was directed at a single victim. It also doesn't work very well if the person figures out what's going on. Which is bad, because then they are majorly pissed.
It doesn't help that Unkei is an idiot who doesn't do any research about his targets before he writes the script.
Serial Experiments Lain: Lain gets ability to do this by the end of her series. She uses it to wipe out all the abnormal, dangerous elements from the world, including herself. Though she still remains watching from the outside...
In Princess Tutu, Drosselmeyer and his descendant Fakir can LITERALLY rewrite reality. During the climax of the series, the former uses his powers to forcibly change what the latter is trying to write, making this reality-rewriting-rewriting.
In DC Comics, John Ostrander's run on Suicide Squad briefly featured a character called "The Writer" who had the ability to control reality by writing on his laptop. However, now he was part of "the continuity" the other Writers could control him. He was soon killed due to writer's block. Canonically, the character was Grant Morrison, who wrote himself into continuity in Animal Man.
An arc from Shade the Changing Man featured an inversion. Anything that frustrated writer Miles Laimling wrote would be fictional, even if it were true before. Miles drew inspiration from personalities around him, and as their traits became more lifelike in his fiction, those traits would fade from the individuals they were inspired from.
Played straight at the end of the arc when Laimling types a passage that grants Shade his full size and powers back, not by negating the effects trapping him, but by affirming that he had them.
One of the latter Mike Wieringo issues of Fantastic Four had God, who resembled Jack Kirby, re-draw reality. Ben Grimm literally gets his rockiness drawn onto him to 'compress his sub-plot'. Writing shows up when God gets a call giving Him several ideas. When questioned, He states it was His "Collaborator. 'Nuff said."
Kevin Thorne from the Vertigo title Fables is the 'Literal' personification of this trope.
It is the main motive of "Fone" (title that can be translated, er, as The Ond), a short comic tale by Milo Manara ("Shorts", 1995). The two characters (an alien and a human) are able to leave a strange "planet of books" by reading (not writing) a mysterious book which describes their lucky escape. The act of reading makes real the description, alas, completed with typos. And also the typos, also the nonsensical ones, become immediately real... The name of the planet is "Borges prophet".
It becomes a centre plot point in the final book of the 6-books comic Koma, by Wazem e Peeters (2003-2008). The tale starts in a victorian-like industrial town, where is living Addidas, an ill child with a thing for strange words. She finds an underworld where giant humanoids are maintaining machineries linked with every single human - but not her. In the last volume, the child meets one of the demiurges that constructed the devices (a creepy red amorphous creature) that thinks of her as a virus, since she is able to be alive also if her machine is destroyed. So she is "real" and we have the duel: both begins to warp the reality with gestures (the blob) and words (the child), but using a vocabulary the child is able to rewrite the being itself.
A Superman comic featured a pulp writer whose creations came to life, unknown to him. One group of these creations ran rampant because the writer didn't finish their book, leaving them uncontrolled and unstoppable. Superman finally figured out what was happening and got the writer to finish the book, whose ending caused the bad guys to remove themselves from existence.
Marvel's Silver Age anthology series Tales To Astonish (the series which would later feature the first appearance of Ant-Man) had a few of these. One involved a writer whose stories started coming true, spawning monsters who were destroyed exactly as the story went. Unfortunately, he didn't realize the connection until after writing a story about "X," a shapeshifter that could not be destroyed by any means. He discovers that his antique typewriter is the source of this power, and destroys it when X tries to stop him from re-writing the story. X evidently has No Ontological Inertia, and fades into nothingness.
A very odd story in The Brave and the Bold had the Western Terrorists who were the villains of that issue kidnapping artist Jim Aparo and forcing him to redraw the story so that Batman and Sgt. Rock were killed.
Usagi Yojimbo had an enchanted/possessed inkset that made whatever was painted with it come to life.
There have been at least two Fan Fics for The Beatles' fandom involving using a magic typewriter to prevent John Lennon's assassination. (No links; not even a guarantee that they both still exist.) One of them had a typewriter that, for the first document it typed only, changed reality; the person who sold it to the Beatlemaniac had used it to prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis from becoming a nuclear holocaust.
There's a story on fanfiction.net called Consequences in which some of the popular Discworld characters get heartily sick of fanfiction writers constantly forcing them to get off with one another, turn into supernatural creatures, and have Harry Potter invading their universe. They eventually get revenge by writing stories about the fanfic writers, forcing them to Retcon everything they did to the characters in their fanfics and then kill themselves.
Vimes: How is it possible for one man to be a vampire, a werewolf, and a homosexual at the same time?
Andrew Tinker is a Mad Scientist with his doctorate in English, who can invoke this trope by writing on just about anything- he prefers to use an old Notebook of his. However, he's very aware of the consequences and tries not to rely on it too much- except a few choice incidents where he has:
Brought the Dead back to life (Although it has been established that he can't do it if too much time has passed)
Created little odds and ends — a new Cravat, a new room in his house.
Made a character he wrote real, a Demon named Sayasuke- 'and inserted him into the last 500 years of Japanese history to support his backstory.'
In the Mouth of Madness had a living character and town that was written into existence by an author called Sutter Cane, who also produces a number of retcons that remove a character from existence and reshuffle an entire sequence of events within the film. By the end of the film, the entire world has apparently been absorbed by Cane's latest novel. Once he finishes his novel close to the end of the film, Cane appears to be able to warp reality at will, as demonstrated with the conversations he has with John Trent.
In Stranger Than Fiction, the lead character begins hearing a voice narrating his day. He finds out he's a character in a novel, the voice is the author of his story, which happens to be a tragedy.
In the short film The Census Taker, the title character begins falsifying his census forms when the locals keep slamming their doors in his face, then finds that whatever he writes becomes fact — an empty house suddenly becoming home to a happy family of five, for instance. In the end, someone is coming to kill him, so he picks up a census form and writes himself into a life of wealthy wedded bliss.
The John Candy movie Delirious had him as a soap opera writer named Jack Gable. After taking a head injury, he found himself in his own soap opera. The limitation was that he could only directly affect characters for which he was the primary writer before. This did not prevent him from causing all kind of chaos before having his karmic epiphany. Fun included forcing Raymond Burr's character to not leave his house because he had to wait for the cable guy, and when Robert Wagner made an inconvenient guest appearance as Jack Gates:
Jack Gates: I have to go to... Cleveland? Jesus, I hate Cleveland!
Jack Gable: What are you doing here? I sent you to Cleveland.
Jack Gates: I should kill you for that alone.
The Chalk of Fate in Day Watch, with the twist that it only really works if you rewrite your own fate — trying to bring other people back to life or patch up rocky relationships just won't work. If you're rewriting your own fate, though, you can go pretty far to the point of a Retcon of your own supernatural nature.
In Ruby Sparks, a geek writes about a beautiful woman who comes to life. He finds that anything he writes about her affects her.
The story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius , by Jorge Luis Borges, is about a secret conspiracy that wants to turn the objective, God-based, incomprehensible universe into a subjective, man-based, comprehensible one. They do this by writing encyclopedias.
The Neverending Story is, within the story itself, a book that is reality itself. Anything that is written into it happens, and everything that happens is written into it. At one point in the story, the Childlike Empress forced Bastian's hand by ordering the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, who writes the book, to recount the story to her. By doing so, he spoke every line of the book, and wrote himself speaking those lines, and so continued to write and recite and write over and over, with all those events repeating themselves each time, until Bastian called out the Childlike Empress's new name and broke the cycle.
Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones has a typewriter that's enchanted to do this, as the result of a misunderstanding between magician siblings. It ends up being used to force a number of the siblings, including the one who enchanted it, into a spaceship making a one-way trip to Alpha Centauri.
This is how the entirety of wizardry works in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series; basically, if you're really young and really, really good at using language, and willing to take and abide by the Oath (and take a few life-or-death risks, oh, every other week or so), you get the cheat codes to the universe.
Since Thursday Next takes place mostly within the Book World, it can be rewritten from either the inside, or by editing an early copy of the book or text. If a fictional character escapes into reality, it's still possible to rewrite it with the right book. Since the Thursday Next series (written by Jasper Fforde, not the series-within-the-series) may be the final, rewritten version of the series, rewriting the real reality in the series may be possible.
The Wall and the Wing has the scientist's pen that when written with adjust reality, but in an unusual way. When the thief that stole it from the scientist writes (not knowing it's powers) "I will be a rich man when pigs fly," he becomes the worlds richest man and humans start flying.
Ulises Silva's Solstice tells of Scribes, people who have the magical ability to change reality with the written word. Anything they write happens, up to and including forging new objects out of thin air, as long as any changes made seem to conform to the laws of reality- you can write a gun into being under the seat of the car (because you can find it as if its always been there or left there by someone else earlier), but you cannot write the same gun as just appearing in your hands (because guns can't do that)- the Scribes' magic seems to work based on the idea that while, for them, Life imitates Art, the Art they're making still imitates Life.
One of the first indications of anything supernatural going on in The Last Dragon Chronicles is that David's short story he's writing about a squirrel is actually happening outside effectively parallel with his typing. As in, he mentions that the squirrel jumps onto a washing line and the Pennykettles' voices drift in from the window exclaiming about precisely that (though he doesn't pay any attention.) Debatable as to whether he's writing reality or simply being precognitive, but it seems to be the first.
The Fire Eternal reveals that Arthur can do it too.
Gywneth had her hand in messing with the flow of time by writing her dead counterpart back into reality.
In the Goosebumps novel "The Blob That Ate Everyone", the hero gets a magic typewriter that causes anything he types to become reality. In the end, we find out that the typewriter actually gave the kid the power to warp realitywith his mind.
Labyrinths of Echo series has it in the grand finale. The Minor Investigative Force stumbles on an ancient artifact, the seal that makes a page come true just by stamping it. But it directly affects only the people whose signature is there, which mostly limits the user to wishing himself good things until he fails to add "...and no one notices".
A variation on the theme appears in J. Michael Straczynski's story "Cold Type", in which the protagonist has the power to completely erase a book from existence (i.e. create a new reality in which that book was never written) by burning one copy. A religious fundamentalist convinces him to transfer the power, intending to use it on a wide range of "anti-Christian" books. The protagonist tries to get him to stop, and resorts to burning the fundamentalist's driver's license, thus erasing him from existence with a bit of the power he'd held back. The story ends with the protagonist thoughtfully holding the fundamentalist's copy of the Bible....
In Julie Kagawa's The Iron King, Nevernever is fundamentally changed by what is written about it. In particular, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, vulnerable to Cold Iron, are facing a new court — ruled over by the Iron King.
The episode "Printer's Devil" features a linotype machine (gotten via a Deal with the Devil) that causes the horrific accidents that are reported on before they actually happen to become reality. The reporter who writes these 'scoops' is in fact the devil. The 'infernal machine' is eventually used to break the contract that got it to begin with.
Another episode had a variation, in that anything the author spoke into a tape recorder became real. He could also destroy the creations by destroying the tape. This is how he stopped a fight between his wife and mistress. Cut to Rod Serling's closing monologue about how the story was complete fiction. The main character interrupts Rod to warn him about saying such things, revealing a line of tape labelled "Rod Serling" and tossing it onto the fire. This was the first appearance of Rod onscreen to do the monologue and was so well received that he came on for almost every episode afterwards. However, it was the only time he interacted with the story's characters.
The second season of Beetleborgs concerned the Big Bad using the evil brother of the creator of the Beetleborg comic to create/summon Mooks.
The X-Files episode "Milagro" features a serial killer spawned from a story written by Mulder's next-door neighbor.
Clive Barker's Masters Of Horror episode "Valerie on the Stairs" is about a Round Robin story which, unbeknownst to its authors, was causing real people to be murdered. Eventually, the story's characters broke from the script and killed the authors.
Doctor Who: In "The Mind Robber", the Doctor and his companions wind up in the Land of Fiction, populated entirely by characters who are fictional (even within the world of Doctor Who) or mythical—e.g. Medusa, Rapunzel, Gulliver. The Land is controlled by the Master of the Land of Fiction (not to be confused with recurring villain The Master), a prolific hack writer who somehow wound up in this place. He makes everything happen by writing it. The Doctor finds a typewriter in the villain's castle and they have a Rewriting Reality showdown. (Also, the Doctor's companions are temporarily turned into fiction.)
The 2009 Red Dwarf three-part special used this when the characters were sucked into another dimension in which they were fictional characters. After tracking down and killing their creator, they were bemused to find that they didn't die, and that it wasn't necessary for Lister to keep typing for them to continue to do anything. Funny, though.
A recurring sketch on The Carol Burnett Show featured a writer struggling to write a scene while we saw the characters acting out what he wrote and frantically trying to adjust to their shifting reality as the writer changed his mind and rewrote events as he went. Sometimes the humor came from ambiguous text passages being brought to life, as when a woman was giving multiple births in a life raft awaiting rescue: "It's a boy! It's a girl! It's a submarine!"
In Warehouse 13, Edgar Allan Poe's notebook made anything written in it with his pen real. Fortunately, the person who ended up using it only copied Poe's horror deathtraps.
In Charmed, Paige and Kyle were sucked into a magical book and become their characters. Phoebe was able to help out by writing stuff in it. Unfortunately, she is limited to the genre of the book in respect to what she could change so she couldn't write them out. So, while causing a flat tire or dropping a piano nearly on a character is possible, changing things so the bad guys don't have guns or they all die suddenly cannot be done.
In Lost Girl, the Blood King can do this with his book, if he writes in his own blood. He only uses it as a last resort, as each change always comes with a price.
This is the gimmick of the Power Rangers Time ForceMonster of the Week Cinecon; he's a film director who can make anything written in his script come true. This ability is so potent that he's only beaten through dumb luck, as Trip had earlier absentmindedly ripped out the page of the script where he beats the Rangers.
666 Park Avenue: Annie, a journalist with dreams of making it big, makes a deal with Gavin to become a success. This manifests as gaining the ability to make whatever she writes come true. Unfortunately, this leads to the assassin she created killing her.
Used for comic purposes in The Goon Show episode "Six Charlies in Search of an Author".
The Order of Hermes is big on language (and numbers and formulas). This is often depicted as speech - literally telling reality what to do - but House Shaea in particular is also interested in written magick (and written historical records).
The Virtual Adepts practice magic mostly by writing and executing computer programs.
The French tabletop game Le Donjon de Naheulbeuk contain the legendary Pen of Chaos (Pen of Chaos being the name of the game's creator). This pen is an ordinary pen, except it writes on history itself.
In Nobilis, the player characters are Physical Gods. Mortal NPCs often have enormous magical, supertech, and quasi-miraculous powers - and remain completely unable to challenge them, except extremely indirectly. What is the one class of mortals these Sovereigns of Creation must be cautious of? Botanists. It turns out the Angels used a language of flowers to define reality. Clever botanists can write their own addenda.
In the Myst series, entire worlds, called "Ages", seem to be literally created by writing descriptions of them in books, and they can then be traveled to through the book. This becomes an important plot point in the novelizations and in later games in the series, however; canonically, a version of the Many Worlds theory is true and the other universes already exist, and the Descriptive Books act as a search engine to find the right one. Writing the Descriptive Books is a precise and dangerous art. If you cannot describe a world in extreme detail, it will not work. It is also possible for you to properly create a link to a world that cannot maintain itself. You could find yourself stepping into a world that is just as you described it... for a brief moment before it all falls to pieces. Some form of re-shaping a world is possible, but it must be discreet and careful. Changes must be small enough that the world in question can actually change in that way. Trying to effect a change too large, too quickly, will instead cause the original link to be closed off, and the Descriptive Book to link to another, similar-looking Age entirely. The world of Riven is a good example of careless writing.
The Sacred Tome fulfills the wishes written upon it, but this comes with a hefty price in mana. Also, damaging the book or its writings inflicts the same on whatever was created by that particular line of text, so needless to say doing so is usually a spectacularly bad idea — especially if your entire netherworld is written down in it. It goes without saying that Zetta does it anyway. When writing something into the book, the book's spirit has to accept the wish before it becomes reality. This explains why King Drake III's wish for Zetta to yield control of his Netherworld to him (Zetta -> Drake, that is) continues to disappear when it is written down. Pram reprimands him on it after being tipped off by Trenia. That's how she knew about that function, too - Trenia was the spirit of the Sacred Tome before Zetta confined himself inside it.
It also happens in-game, too. If a curative spell is cast on the Sacred Tome, it affects everything on the map, ally or enemy. Likewise, if the Tome ever gets damaged by anything (accidentally or not), everything on the map suffers Massive Damage, and you're not allowed to run away from that particular battle.
Used in the Neverwinter Nights expansion Shadows of Undrentide. A certain library has two books that the player can enter, and later rewrite to end happily.
Time, Gentlemen, Please! has a similar puzzle, in which a time-rip-within-a-time-rip allows the protagonists to enter a half-programmed adventure game and assist its protagonist. This allows them to get a telekinetic crystal's data, which they then program in to a different text adventure so they can deactivate a trap.
The action in Alan Wake starts picking up when the titular author starts finding pages from a book he can't remember writing and the pages start coming true. Turns out the lake with the cabin Alan was vacationing in has the power to make works of art made there come true; he suffered a week's worth of amnesia while writing the pages under the influence of an Eldritch Abomination. Said abomination was trying to get Alan to free it, but he realized what was happening and wrote his escape into his manuscript.
The Rune-Keeper in The Lord of the Rings Online practices his "magic" by scribing runes onto stones. As so many skill descriptions begin, "When the rune-keeper writes of x, the effects can be real." Not every attack or healing spell is carried out this way, but a good many are.
Dresden Codak possesses a writer who has the power to alter reality by writing it. However, he has a few rules about it.
The Celestial Files in Misfile tell the world what it should be. For example, put a boy's file in the "girl" file and Hilarity Ensues. It's interesting in this case that the contents of the file tell all about who you are, while the location of the file in the system tells the world what you are. One of the threats to the protagonists is that eventually the system's error-correction will notice the discrepancy and fix it by editing the contents.
In the first episode of Ashen's Tech Dump, Dr. Ashen interviews a researcher who has cracked the "source code" used by God to create the universe and wrote a program to access its functions with simple keywords. To Ashen's dismay, rather than use this power for anything noble, he was more interested in using it to start booty parties.
It is implied that this is how low magic works in Adylheim, with the caster's using various words of power (among other things) to cast spells.
The various Master PC stories involve a computer program which can do this on a personal level. Most such stories are pornography involving mind control and body modification, but some explore the unintended consequences of such a powerful tool.
Extreme Ghostbusters had a story involving a horror writer who was kidnapped by his own creations, who were using him to write out their ultimate victory.
The Real Ghostbusters involved the ghost of an Agatha Christie pastiche who had died without finishing her last novel. Winston had to solve the mystery in order to make the ghosts of her characters disappear.
The Fairly OddParents has a neat variation. Changing the text of a non-fiction book changes the reality it describes. Altering a biography on the last President to say he was a foot shorter? His bodyguards will be happier. And, on the show, Hilarity Ensues when Cosmo gets his wand on a physics textbook.
The show once featured a plot about the "Book of Ages," a book in which history was magically recorded. However, human intervention is possible by just writing on the next available page of the book, thus offsetting anything previously written and enabling the writer to change history.
Shendu possesses Jackie and writes it so that all the demons were never sealed away. Humans are slaves to the demons now, and technology is outlawed. Nobody remembers what it was like in the original continuity, except Jade, who ripped her page out so Shendu couldn't overwrite it.
Jade and Paco have some fun with this at the end, with Jade beefing up Jackie, and Paco beefing up El Toro, and then continuing to one up each other until Uncle puts his foot down and tells them to write him getting rid of the demons, which they do. Once everything is back to normal, Jade finds the place where her page goes and resets the timeline.
Transformers Prime's Alpha Trion has an artifact called the Quill, a mechanical pen that, when used to write in the Covenant of Primus, can to a limited extent alter the future.
Futurama: Fry writes the reality at the end of "The Day The Earth Stood Stupid", and thus saves the planet. The Giant Brain trapped Stupid!Leela and Fry in several books. Fry breaks free of the illusion, and tries to attack the Brain. However, he's crushed to death by a bookcase, but it's only an illusion based on a story Fry has quickly written. The Giant Brain then announces that it is leaving Earth "for no raisin" (Fry's misspelling of "reason").