Writers Toys – Allusion





Writer’s Toys is a series of blogs outlining a bunch of different literary devices. I’m writing it as much for my benefit as yours – while I know I use some of these things, I have no idea what they are!! I’m hoping to educate both of us, so we can use these devices on purpose and with purpose. This thing called writing is much more complicated than you could ever imagine!

illusionNo, not illusion, Allusion

What is it? An implied or indirect reference, it’s referring to something that is well known in order for the reader to understand something.


Referring to a thing, to make a connection, so the reader can better understand it.

For example, if someone were to say “Your nose is growing!” that’s an allusion to the story of Pinocchio, whose nose grew when he lied. The person saying “Your nose is growing!” is accusing the other of lying.

What other examples of allusion are there?

Erhmagherd, SO MANY:

They span

Greek Legends (Achilles’ Heel – Achilles’ only weakness was his heel. By using this allusion, the person is pointing out a person’s weakness; Pandora’s Box – When Pandora opened her box, all the human ills spilled forth, and if someone is said to have opened Pandora’s Box, they have brought bad occurrences down on everyone; and Muse – we writers love our muse, she is a creature of inspiration)

Literature (what kind of a person is a Scrooge? A Lothario? A Jekyll & Hyde? A Svengali?)

Biblical References (Someone who betrays another is often known as a Judas)

Historical References (‘he is such a Casanova!’, stonewalling comes from Stonewall Jackson who loved to use delaying tactics, and boycott comes from Charles C Boycott, who refused to lower his rents, so his staff… um… boycotted…)

Merriam Webster gives the definition as “a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly.”

The only caution for fiction writers would be to take care that your allusions aren’t too remote, or too ‘time-based’. It’s quite possible that the allusion you make to the 2017 Man Of The Year may not filter through people’s consciousness in the longer term…



Writers Toys – Allusion
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