Write On! 3-15-23

Write On! 3-15-23

Posted on 3-15-23



1. An implied or indirect reference, especially in literature

2. The act of making an indirect reference to something: the act of alluding to something.

“Allusion Definition & Meaning.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allusion.

We know several of these already.

The Prodigal Son (religious)

Jekyll & Hyde (literary)

Herculean strength (mythical)

We’re not in Kansas anymore (popular culture)

Benedict Arnold (historical)

Good Samaritan (religious)

Scrooge (literary)

Cupid’s arrows (mythical)

Kryptonite (popular culture)

Titanic (proportions) (historical)

Pandora’s Box (mythical)

Cheshire Cat (literary)

Most everyone recognizes these allusions. And when used in works, it can go without being said about what happened. It saves explaining more than necessary.

For instance:

“He had Herculean strength!”

“The Conservatory was straight out of the Garden of Eden.”

“He was a regular Benedict Arnold.”

“She was smiling like the Cheshire Cat.”

“He held onto his money like Scrooge.”

No more needs to be said in these cases because we instantly have an image inside our heads. In fact, many times, these allusions can help explain an event much better than extra words can.

But don’t forget these allusions:

Casual – Usually referenced as something ‘everyone’ knows. Pop culture references. “It was a house straight out of Stranger Things.”

Self-reference – This one is not as common. It is generally an author referring to their works or a poet using a refrain from a previous poem in the next.

Corrective – Opposing an original reference. “The Queen of Hearts, let me keep my head.”

Single reference – Straightforward allusion that the reader will recognize immediately. “Don’t go opening Pandora’s Box.”

Apparent – Specific references to challenge that reference. Finding examples of these is trickier because you must be sure your reader knows what is clearly referenced before the source is challenged.

Conflation or multiple reference(s) – These often come in the form of making fun of tropes. (See; Scary Movie, Naked Gun.)

So now that you know about allusions, how do youuse them in your works? Sparingly, not at all, when the scene calls for it?

Don’t be shy.

Test them out and see how they fit—or don’t fit—in your story.

Allusions can be very effective when used correctly and can really add a nice flair to your writing.

Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to…

Write On!

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