Qualities of a Good Narrative 2: Self-referencing
I like to say that a narrative is a sphere in the shape of a line. One reason I say this is self-referencing: the various ways a good narrative refers to itself. At the moment, I can think of three kinds of narrative self-reference.
Intertemporal references occur between earlier and later sections of the piece. The narrator or the characters mention planned or possible future events and observed or experienced past events. This has the effect of connecting past and future in the text the way they are connected in our brains through memory and imagination.
Intercharacter references involve a character who is present mentioning a character who is absent. Again, this mimics reality. We are constantly thinking of and talking about those who are not with us at the moment.
Intersetting references happen when characters in one place bring up another place. Once again, this mimics reality. Our minds are seldom focused entirely on the place we find ourselves in. We long for places we've been to, compare present and past locations, and dream of going somewhere else.
Self-references enrich a narrative by making it spherical rather than linear. The points of a sphere cross reference. Those of a line do not. Memory and imagination are spherical, not linear. Narrative should follow suit.