Just FYI, you should probably wait on this one until you’ve read Kaschar’s Quarter.
Writing is weird. So much time gets spent by an awful lot of internet writers I’ve encountered on ensuring that their stories are original, to the point that most of the writing subreddits I follow are filled up with posts of story outlines and plots posted so that others can point out tropes and help the authors get rid of them. Another one that pops up often is writers, oddly enough including a lot of fan fiction writers, going to or at least inquiring about going to great lengths to ensure that their story can’t be plagiarized. Copy-pasted copyright notices, all caps disclaimers about original content, the whole works.
I don’t really buy all that, even though I do put copyright notices in my e-books. Sure, I don’t want to fall into traps already littered with the corpses of unsuccessful writers/imitators of great writers, but I don’t really sit around and fret about what my story would look like if it was written up on TvTropes. Mostly, I like putting little things in my stories that tie them either to themselves or to other literature that I enjoy. Here’s some off the top of my head.
In Kaschar’s Quarter, Matthieu’s beloved Beate and her sister Heide play important roles in his character development even though they only appear briefly. For the first few chapters, Beate is completely absent for the reader, just as she has been for Matthieu while he was at school, and soon becomes nothing but an ideal that he clings to under duress. For those of you who’ve read Dante’s Divine Comedy, the connection should be pretty clear. Beatrice, Dante’s beloved, exists only as a mental guide to him as he passes through Hell and Purgatory, finally appearing to him at the end of the second part to guide him into Paradise. As with Beatrice, her name goes back to the Latin beātus, or blessed, but she doesn’t save Matthieu as her counterpart does Dante. Trapped in Purgatory with the soul of Leopold Ment, he and the reader finally meet Beate as she is called in by Matthieu’s guide to persuade him to continue in his torture. What Matthieu doesn’t understand at the time is that she wasn’t brought to him for a happy reunion; rather, it was the guide’s intention that her rejection of Matthieu’s brutality would give him the last push he needed to fulfill his contract. And speaking of contracts…
Beate’s sister, Heide, plays a different role. Dying of the plague when she’s rescued from Heilicon, her role is mainly to ask Matthieu the Gretchenfrage in reference to Goethe’s Faust Part One (not Part Two, because that one’s strange and I haven’t finished it yet) that leads him to question the sincerity of his belief in God and the Global Church. Literally, the “Gretchen question” is meant to arrive at an uncomfortable truth, usually the truth about one’s religious convictions. This is about where the similarities end with Gretchen/Margaret and Heide, though there’s also a character named Greta (Matthieu’s grandmother) who shares a similar sort of fate with Faust’s lover.
Switching over to my science fiction stories, all of which are in the same timeline, the main thing I keep consistent is that the fictional Interplanetary Resources Incorporated shows up in four of them. It’s Andy Lukassen’s employer at a lunar mass driver in First Instance, the operator of a passenger freighter in Divided House and a scout ship in The Ryosh, and Rell is a climatologist on one of their terraforming inspection teams in Waiting on the Rain.
The “why” of it could turn into a much longer essay on how corporate interests will affect space exploration, so I’ll just say for now that I think it’s a neat callback to much earlier events, giving readers something consistent in the background to link all the stories (for now) together in an unobtrusive fashion.
Or something like that.