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Reality-Writing Book

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"Suddenly, the tropers added a self-referential caption to the Reality-Writing Book page!"

"One day, I found a big book buried deep in the ground.
I opened it, but all the pages were blank.
Then, to my surprise, it started writing itself:
'One day, I found a big book buried deep in the ground…'"

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:

Your Fate Is Already Decided

The book is already completely written and has 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.

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.

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.

See I Should Write a Book About This for cases where the story the character writes/tells in the book is (implied to be) the very book you are reading. Compare Tomes of Prophecy and Fate, Brown Note, Rewriting Reality, Reality Warper, Author Powers, and The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bungou Stray Dogs
    • The book Fitzgerald wants to use to bring his daughter back to life. Chapter 46 reveals that it's a blank novel that brings to reality anything written on its pages.
    • Kunikida's notebook is a minor Type 3, where his ability allows him to create whatever object he wrote onto its page. But this only works if the item he wants to create isn't bigger than the notebook itself.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable: Rohan's Stand "Heaven's Door" gives him a combination of Type 2 and 3, with the caveat that it only works for one person at a time. When Rohan activates Heaven's Door, his target becomes stunned or unconscious, and their body literally unfolds into pages. Rohan can then read the pages for highly-accurate information gathering on the target, and is also capable of writing in his own details, such as "I can't attack Kishibe Rohan", "I know how to speak Italian", or even "I'm going to hell", which immediately come true for the target.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: The Create Card is a Reality Warper book that makes everything written in it materialize.
  • The titular Death Note, if someone’s name is written on its pages, they will 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. Given that the only requirements are that the victim dies within and everything written is physically possible the writer can exert a lot of control over the victim's final days.
  • Future Diary 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 a girl named Tsubaki has hers on a scroll and a Creepy Child named Reisuke has his in a Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book.
  • Fushigi Yuugi has "The Universe of the Four Gods". While Miaka and Yui continue their adventure, people in our world can read, what is happening in this moment in the Four Gods' dimension. And it keeps going even after Miaka and Yui return to the real world.

    Comic Books 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The canon continuation of the television show has this. Due to magic being 'reset' the Vampyr history is now the pre-eminent magical tome. Careful writing in the tome allows reality to be re-written. One spoiler-free example is Xander removing a magical compulsion deep from within his mind after consulting with his friends and writing an appropriate passage in the book.
  • Once In a Blue Moon has sort of a timey-wimey twist: Aeslin goes back to Avalon because of something she sees about to happen in the magic book, but the writer of the book in Avalon doesn't write that part until after it happens.
  • The Sandman (1989): Destiny, the eldest of the Endless, only intervenes when the Book of Destiny tells him to.
    Destiny continues to walk... He is holding a book. Inside the book is the universe.
    • The Brave and the Bold storyline The Lords Of Luck has an interesting spin on this — once, Destiny noted that there were blank spaces in his book. He desperately sought the cause, and realized four men had left the book's pages. Realizing their mere existence was throwing the book's infallible predictions askew, he cast it away in hopes it would reach these four — the Challengers of the Unknown, as only they could repair it.
  • The Awesome Comics mini-series Youngblood: Judgment Day, written by Alan Moore, revolved around a mystical book. Anything written in this book became reality.
  • In the Dragon Magazine comic Libram X, the eponymous tome is both the accurate self-writing log and can be written (one magic quill is included in the kit). Which naturally explains why everyone and their dogs tried to find it all this time.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert: The titular character 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.

    Fan Fiction 
  • The (Edit) War for Ash’s Freedom to not be Betrayed has the Book of Fate. Typically, it's meant to act as the Automatic Data Recorder variant (recording everything in the world of Pokémon: The Series as it happens), but it can also be written in to change the fates of the universe's inhabitants — something Darkern Edgier wants to exploit. There's also more than one Book; the one Darkern and Arceus fight over is explicitly said to record the happenings of an Alternate Universe, while the one that details the anime's actual canon is hidden away in Arceus' nightstand.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Epic (2013) 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 
  • In In the Mouth of Madness, Sutter Cane's publishing company sold the movie rights to Cane's latest novel. Trent watches it in a theater at the very end, and it turns out to be...the very movie we're just finished watching. He Goes Mad from the Revelation, moving from Laughing Mad to Cry Laughing just before we cut to credits.
  • 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.
  • Ruby Sparks: Calvin brings the Manic Pixie Dream Girl from his dreams to life by writing a book about her.
  • 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.

  • Transformers Aligned Universe: The Covenant of Primus is a recording of Cybertron's history from the past to the future. Alpha Trion can influence it to some degree with his artifact the Quill, but it's implied that any major events cannot be prevented, such as the Great War.

  • 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.
  • In the Tais Teng book Beyond The Grave, the most dangerous of the three MacGuffins is a book crafted from the skin of the creator goddess Tiamat. Anything written inside it will become reality, and the process can't be reversed in any way (such as destroying the page or writing in an additional wish). Lo and behold, at the end a young boy who has just learned to read and write gets a hold of a torn-out page and writes "The Sun Goes Out".
  • The Book of Three from The Chronicles of Prydain. The book was ancient and worn, and contained a record of the past, present and future of Prydain, though its knowledge of the future was ambiguous until a given event came to pass; as Dallben would later explain, the tome could also have been called a "Book of If."
  • In The Dark Profit Saga the goddess Al'Matra communicates with her priests by automatic writing, as she's a Mad God most of it is incomprehensible rambling but as the heroes go about their quest it becomes clear that her writings through Niln's pen are an uncannily accurate account of their doings. First seen when he writes about Kaitha rejecting Heraldin's amorous advances and then hears him screaming from the far side of the temple.
  • In Discworld Death has an entire library of books that write themselves as people's lives unfold. As shown in Mort, in the case of severe alteration of history, the autobiographies of people involved continue to record what should have happened until the inconsistency is resolved.
    • They're also stored by date of birth, which allows Mort and Ysabel to locate Albert's book by heading further down and listening for the scratching of a quill. And makes for a severe Oh, Crap! when they read his thoughts as they're being written and realize he's at the foot of the ladder...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • In Night Watch (Series), everyone has a Book of Fate, which is normally simply a recorder. Very few Others can read it. However, a Grand Sorceress can use the Chalk of Fate to rewrite anyone's Book of Fate. The Books only really figure in the second story of the first book, but the repercussions from changing it propagate through the whole of main series (the parts that deal with Anton and Svetlana's daughter, who wasn't originally supposed to be The Messiah, until Olga rewrote Svetlana's Book of Fate).
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed (1998): Paige and her love interest once get sucked into a book in the Magic School Library. Piper and Phoebe aren't able to get them out until they finish, but they find that they can write in the book and change the story. It has an interesting twist that they can't just write in a Deus ex Machina; they can influence what happens, what the characters say, etc., but they have to stay consistent with the rules of the work. Phoebe can't just hand them the MacGuffin or take them to its hiding place, but she can drop a piano off a rooftop to stop them in their tracks and tell them to turn around.
  • Elseworlds (2018) has the Monitor give a Morally Ambiguous Doctor the Book of Destiny, with which the doctor starts to rewrite the reality of Earth 1.
  • Lost Girl has the Blood King's book with which he can alter reality if he writes in it with his own blood.
  • The Storybook in Once Upon a Time, it's not clear what type it is until late season 4, when it turns out the Storyteller is only supposed to record stories but he can alter reality with his pen and the current one thinks making things Darker and Edgier creates a better story.
  • The Red Dwarf movie "Back to Earth" has the crew end up in Real Life and try to find their creator upon hearing that at the end of the "Back to Earth" movie, they will die. They manage to get to him before he finishes writing the ending and kill him in self-defense, because it turns out the whole thing was a ploy of the creator's to commit an elaborate suicide. Then they begin writing their own futures. Of course, the whole movie, except for the monster at the beginning, was a hallucination caused by said monster at said beginning.
  • The Viking Book of Love from season 3 of Round the Twist. When someone reads a poem from the book, whoever they've read it to falls in love with them. Each love spell lasts until the next one is cast. When the book runs out of love poems, it starts to give out curses.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: In "Sabrina, the Teenage Writer", Sabrina's creative writing assignments aren't going well until she accidentally gets a hold of Hilda's magic typewriter and uses the people in her life as models for characters in a James Bond-type story. As usual, things take a turn for the worse when the characters literally come to life at school living out the plot of her assignment.
  • 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.
  • Supernatural: In "The Monster at the End of this Book", Chuck the Prophet writes books about two characters he thinks he made up named Sam and Dean Winchester, who have lives identical to the real Sam and Dean. At some points, what he writes lines up with what's happening to Sam and 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 The Twilight Zone (1985) episode "The Library" had one of these for everyone.
  • Edgar Allen Poe's quill pen and notebook (when used together) in Warehouse13.
  • 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: In the episode "Milagro", a writer moves into Mulder's building in the neighboring apartment and starts affecting Scully's life with his writing. He also spawns a serial killer.

  • Björk's music video for "Bachelorette" revolves around a book about Björk that writes itself as the story unfolds.


    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.)

    Video Games 
He took out his hip flask when he reached the page that described how he reached the page that made him take out his hip flask.
  • 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.
  • The Gran Grimoire from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance transforms the heroes' entire town into a fantasy kingdom.
  • Luso Clemens from Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift has a book (Grimoire of the Rift) that writes itself, recording Luso's experiences. It was also used to travel between worlds.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Myst series has books as a main plot point and game mechanic. They can create (or rather, link to) 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.
  • 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.
  • Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney seems to have such a book. However, it's subverted in the end.
  • The title book of Rakenzarn Tales is of the recorder variant, doubling as the in-game journal feature.
  • In the RuneScape quest "Once Upon a Time in Gielinor", Closure, who resides in Death's office, writes biographies for every adventurer. Changes to the text in the stories will also change history and memories.
  • Maxwell's notebook from Scribblenauts is able to summon pretty much anything written into it. Including itself (which results in a notebook that spawns random items when you use it).
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-140 is a book chronicling the culture and history of the Daeva, a highly militaristic and conquest-driven ancient civilization who practiced slavery, Human Sacrifice, and other nasty things. Any time a fluid suitable for writing comes within 15 meters of the book (human blood being its favorite, naturally), it will use that fluid to write more of itself and continue the history of the Daevites. While the book originally ended with the Daevites being wiped out around 200 BC by the Chinese general Qin Kai, it now records them surviving until being wiped out by Genghis Khan instead. New archaeological sites corresponding with this new information will appear as well. Should the book be allowed to keep writing itself, it could cause a CK-class restructuring scenario as the Daevites are transplanted further and further into the future. While containment sounds easy, the Foundation doesn't have every copy of the book.
    • SCP-4001 "Alexandria Eternal" is an entire library of these. It seemingly contains a written record of the lives of every human being that has lived, going all the way back to the Toba supereruption. Writing in a person's book can alter reality according to the changes, such as changing sex, curing or causing diseases, or even expand one's life indefinitely, though the changes only extend to what's written in the book, with no Butterfly Effect. Destroying a book causes that person to be Ret-Gone, and several layers of ash beneath the floorboards of the library implies that this has happened to the entire human race several times before.

    Western Animation 
  • DC Super Hero Girls: A two-parter has Lex Luthor discover an ancient book of prophecies that functions like this. It shows him every move the Superhero Girls and the Superhero Boys (and Superman) plan on making against him, allowing him to easily capture them. Upon finding out he intends to use the information inside to destroy the world for profit, Catwoman switches sides, manages to swipe the page of the book that said she'd do so, and thwart him.
  • In the season two finale of Jackie Chan Adventures, Shendu and his siblings grow desperate enough to seek out the Book of Ages and rewrite history in their favor. 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.
  • Seemingly the script in the Taz-Mania episode "Retakes Not Included", as turning back pages allows Bull Gator and Axl to undo events that have already happened.

Alternative Title(s): Reality Recording Book