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How to Make an Allusion


In writing, an allusion is a figure of speech that draws connections to an earlier work of art. This can be an earlier piece of writing, a myth, music, or even a painting or sculpture. An allusion leaves the task of connecting the two works to the reader, unlike a reference, in which the writer might elaborate on the connection. Allusions work best when they seem to fit naturally into the text, instead of being forced in and announcing themselves to the reader.

Decide on an appropriate allusion. If you're writing a story about a fishing trip that goes wrong, for example, an allusion to "Moby Dick" might be more resonant to your story than one to "Pride and Prejudice."

Locate a specific moment or image to allude to. An ideal allusion should make some connection to a theme or detail of the earlier work, or even a specific line. If a piece of writing says something was full of sound and fury, for example, this is a clear allusion to a line in "Macbeth."

Write a sentence that contains the allusion. If you wrote, for example, "I felt like a Capulet among the Montagues," this would be a fairly straightforward allusion to Romeo and Juliet, one that would allow a reader to understand the themes you are referring to.

Insert the allusion into a paragraph to see if it works with the writing and flows naturally. You may try to write an allusion only to find that it does not match the voice of a piece, or draws too much attention to itself.

Share the section with the allusion with a few readers. Ideally, give one copy to a reader familiar with the work alluded to, and one copy to a reader who might not know the allusion. This way, you will see if the writing makes sense even if a reader doesn't understand the allusion.

About the Author

John Shortino has written for numerous publications, including the "Philadelphia Inquirer." Some of the subjects he has written about professionally include books, film and business. He is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Temple University.

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