Allusion: A Literary Device Used in a Passing Comment

image by PIRO4D

What Allusion Is 

  • The word allusion comes from the Latin a playing with. Allusions play with a reference from another material source for use in a current writing.
  • An allusion is a literary device that makes a brief, passing reference to a real or imaginary place, person, thing, quote, or event found in such items as works of art, literature, folklore, mythologies, historical works, news stories, or religious manuscripts. It’s used in a cursory comment that the writer expects the reader to recognize and understand.
  • Many common allusions pop up from Greek Mythology or the Bible.

Common Examples of Allusion

   “Twenty dollars! Put the book back, Allison.” 
   Allison returned the book she’d wanted to buy for her grandmother to the shelf. “You’re such a Scrooge, Lane.”

Miser Scrooge from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is the reference.

image by falco

   Jackson ended the phone call, dropped his hoe in the garden, and headed for the house. “I’m taking Mrs. Santini to the doctor.”
   He didn’t like it, but we called him the Good Samaritan of the family.

The Good Samaritan references a parable Jesus told about a man from Samaria being the only passerby who helped a man who lay beaten and robbed on the side of the road.

   Angie opened the box and groaned. Alex knew doughnuts were her Achilles’ heel.

In Greek Mythology, Achilles’ mother dipped him into a river that had special powers to protect him from his foretold early death. But where she held him by his heel was unprotected, and Achilles died from a poisonous arrow shot into his heel—his weak spot.

Why Use Allusion 

  • Writers use allusions as a ready-made device to describe something or make a point without having to go into lengthy details.
  • Allusions can broaden the reader’s understanding of something— connecting emotions or thoughts already associated with the object or event in the allusion to the current object or situation.
  • Allusions can simplify complex ideas by boiling them down to a commonly accepted reference.

Caution in Using Allusions

  • Allusions depend on the reader’s familiarity with the thing or event referenced, especially from older works of literature. However, if a reader is curious to know the connection, he can easily turn to the Internet.
  • Allusions can become overused clichés such as the two below.
image by thfinch

A loose cannon.

Cannon’s breaking loose from their moorings on ships of yesteryears during battles or storms and causing damage to the ship or crew is the reference. The phrase often alludes to an out of control person.

 

It was a dark and stormy night.

The opening phrase of the 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton is the reference.

An allusion can make a thing or event easy to understand in few words. Click to tweet.

What’s a common allusion you’ve used in speech or writing?

8 Tips in Writing Deep Point of View

image by geralt
image by geralt

Whether you write in first, second, or third person, you can increase intimacy between reader and character by writing in deep point of view* (DPOV).

Tip 1: In DPOV, we see, smell, hear, feel, and taste only what the POV character (POVC) senses. We’re privy to only her thoughts.

Tip 2: DPOV is used in a POVC’s thoughts, not dialogue. The POVC’s actions and the way he experiences his surroundings are written with his POV involved. His actions and thoughts are linear; stimuli precede his reactions.

Compare:

image by geralt
image by geralt

Sam took great pleasure in his meal. He planted a heaping spoonful of corn on his plate after Ann passed him the creamed corn. He glanced up from shoveling in corn. Ann stared at him, smiling.

Ann passed Sam the creamed corn. He planted a heaping spoonful on his plate. What a feast. He sampled the mashed potatoes. Nothing could be creamier. He sank his teeth into a fried chicken breast, and closed his eyes. To die for. If only mom could cook like this. He glanced up from shoveling in corn. Ann stared at him, smiling.

Tip 3: DPOV isn’t a flow of internal monologue or using italicized direct thoughts.

Tip 4: You rarely say to yourself, I:

  • thought
  • felt
  • wondered
  • realized
  • decided
  • wished
  • hoped

So, DPOV doesn’t state these. POVCs merely do them.

Compare:

He thought Mary was mean. He wished she’d leave town, but he realized she wouldn’t. He’d avoid the battle-ax, he decided.

Mary was mean. If only she’d leave town. No way would that happen. From now on, he’d avoid the battle-ax.

Tip 5: Don’t name a feeling. Instead, give thoughts, actions, and behaviors that accompany the feeling.

Compare:

portrait-53899_1280Bob felt sad his granddaughter didn’t want to visit anymore

Bob ran his fingers over Nell’s sweet face in her school photo. Why’d she have to grow up and prefer her friends to riding the tractor with Grandpa? He pulled off his glasses and wiped away the mist that had formed on the lenses.

Tip 6: Don’t use in or with to name feelings or attitudes.

Compare:

Maud spoke harshly to the child. Jack looked at Maud with disdain.

Maud spoke harshly to the child. Jack drew himself to his full height. He arched his eyebrow, curled his upper lip, and glared at Maud. Was she getting his message? His dog had more tact than the shrew.

Tip 7: Don’t state that POVCs are using their senses.

Compare:

I heard the stairs creak. I turned toward the staircase.

The stairs creaked. I turned toward the staircase.

Tip 8: Avoid made, caused, and gave as a way of telling.

Compare:

image by Alexas_Fotos
image by Alexas_Fotos

I tiptoed into Carl’s empty bedroom. Suddenly his alarm clock sounded and made me jump. I thought I’d set off the security system.

I tiptoed into Carl’s empty bedroom. Brrring! Brrring! I jumped and spun in every direction. Had I set off the security system? No. Too close. I clamped my hand on Carl’s alarm clock.

For more examples of DPOV click the link.

Write in deep point of view & create intimacy between reader & character. Click to tweet.

What keeps you from writing in DPOV?

* I recommend Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Elizabeth Nelson.

Non-Fiction: Novel Ways to Spice It Up

image by OpenClipart-Vectors
image by OpenClipart-Vectors

I’m working on a non-fiction book based on my blog’s writing posts and more. The book’s purpose is to help writers transform their manuscripts into editor-friendly books in 32 steps.

Here’s what I learned about introducing novel ideas into non-fiction books from Debbie Harmsen’s article, “Straight Up Non-fiction With a Twist” (Writer’s Digest March/April 2015).

Framework 

 

image by Deedster
image by Deedster

Harmsen talks about how we present our thoughts, ideas, and information. This involves the title, chapter titles, headings, and running themes. She suggests the that framework add fun, make the content memorable, and provide lightness.

I want my title to communicate the benefits the book provides. But I also want readers to anticipate fun as they work on their manuscript.

 

 

When I brainstormed titles, the first seven revealed my book’s benefits, using lofty but tired words. Then I pictured what my book would help writers do to their manuscripts. With the resulting simile, I wrote a title that sported creative words. I brainstormed other images, similes, and creative titles.

Once I choose a title, I can work the theme of the simile into the chapter titles and headings.

Contrariness

 

image by OpenClipart-Vectors
image by OpenClipart-Vectors

Next, Harmsen mentioned the novelty of exchanging the normal cheerleader approach with helping readers realize whether the work involved is right for them.

In my introduction, perhaps I’ll ask whether performing 32 steps seems too much work to improve their manuscript. Writing a sellable novel is much work, and getting one into shape may not be worth their time. That’s okay. Another choice may be to pursue forms of writing that require less editing.

Scenes and Dialogue

 

In this section, Harmsen discusses using stories to show how a principle works, e.g. characters in business situations.

My book will have plenty of fiction examples to support the principles.

image by eslfuntaiwan
image by eslfuntaiwan

Supplemental Material

 

Here, Harmsen talks about the importance of such things as sidebars and subheadings. She stresses adding novel materials that interactively engage the reader, such as quizzes and fun extras at chapter endings.

So, I’ll include simple, humorous drawings, text boxes, and worksheets to help readers work on their manuscripts.

 

 

“Flashback” 

 

Harmsen suggests a flashback could work well in non-fiction books. She mentions opening with a failure story about a person who hadn’t used the book’s principles and then closing with a success story for a person who had.

My book is for:

  • the unpublished writer, whose manuscript needs work, has been rejected, or received low contest scores;
  • the self-publisher, who knows his manuscript needs work or has received poor sales and reviews; and
  • the published author who wants to improve her manuscript.

Therefore, my targeted audience should identify with my opening failure story, and my ending success story.

Testimonials

 

Testimonials can make information and principles stronger. Dave Ramsey sprinkles in testimonials in his Financial Peace books.

At the end of each chapter, I might add a testimonial about how a writer improved his manuscript by applying a technique or principle.

(If you’re interested in possibly having your testimony in my book, contact me at zoehgwp@gmail.com with “Testimony” in the heading.)

Try these novel ideas in your non-fiction book. Click to tweet.

What technique made a non-fiction book you’ve read enjoyable to read?