I’ll SHOW then TELL:
“Goodbye LA, G'day Australia.” She wiggled her hips and Beyoncéd into the hall.
That fun example was written by multi-Immersion grad Elaine Fraser.
Now I’ll TELL:
Allusion is a rhetorical device. It’s a quick reference to a famous person or event that includes the trait.
BEWARE: Allusion comes with a warning.
Always consider your readership. Their age, their interests, their world.
If the reader doesn’t know the person or event referenced, it may pull them out of the story.
Will they know the famous person or event?
Does it date you? Date the book?
Did the reputation of the person you referenced change, and ruin your allusion?
Tiger Woods. Martha Stewart. Justin Bieber.
Even if they’re on the good list now, they’d jerk your reader out of the story.
Would it be smarter to skip the allusion?
But — remember that allusion includes the trait. If the reader doesn’t know the reference, they’d probably understand your message.
Check out this character description from Tana French.
The Likeness, Tana French, NYT Bestseller
I’d been expecting someone so nondescript he was practically invisible, maybe the Cancer Man from The X Files, but this guy had rough, blunt features and wide blue eyes, and the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.
Love the fresh writing too:
…and the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.
Wow. Smooth and powerful.
Check out this no-allusion version:
I’d been expecting someone so nondescript he was practically invisible, but this guy had rough, blunt features and wide blue eyes, and the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.
If the reader doesn’t know the Cancer Man from The X Files, they still get the point.
More examples of using allusion in character descriptions.
Bootleg Magik, Cathy Matuszak, 2-time Immersion Grad
Thin. In an Ichabod Crane awkward sort of way. Rangy and lean like the boys back in Ireland who were just starting to grow into their fast-sprouting bones.
Fresh writing. And the last part of the last sentence carries a universal truth. The reader nods and smiles and keeps reading.
Second Grave on the Left, Darynda Jones, NYT Bestseller, 2-time Immersion-Grad
She stormed back into the room, hands on hips, her cropped black hair sticking every direction but down, and then she glared at me, the same glare my stepmother used to give me when I gave her the Nazi salute. That woman was so touchy about her resemblance to Hitler.
Wow. Smart, fresh, funny, zany, powerful. Quintessential Darynda Jones.
No Second Chance, Harlan Coben, NYT Bestseller
His head was too big for his shoulders so that you feared his neck would collapse from the weight of it. His hair was crew cut all around, except in the front, where it hung down in a Caesar line above his eyes. A soul patch, an ugly smear of growth, sat on his chin like a burrowing insect. All in all, he looked like a member of a boy band gone to serious seed.
Allusion can also deepen characterization. Read the last sentence in the last two examples:
See how Darynda Jones and Harlan Coben went deeper? Smart, smart, smart.
The next allusion is embedded in another rhetorical device.
The End of the World, Amy Matayo, Margie Grad
That was before my father died and took my mother and sister with him. That was before I discovered Snow White was nothing but a fairy tale that would never come true for a girl like me. That was before I knew that sheds weren’t just used for creating beautiful things. That was before I knew they were also used to destroy.
Amy Mateo wrote an anaphora, using the same word or phrase to kick off three or more phrases, clauses, or sentences in a row. She slipped allusion in the second sentence of the anaphora.
The paragraph is beautifully cadenced — and she deepened characterization too.
A few more examples, analyzed.
Pursued, Megan Menard
Smart cadence in the whole paragraph. Those first two 2-word pairings give the sentence a cadence jump-start.
Plus, Megan Menard turned allusion, Jason Bourne, into a verb. That’s a rhetorical device called enallage. Not that you have to know the Greek words. Definitely smart writing!
Another wowzer! Megan Menard gave the reader a strong visual. She used a hyphenated-run-on, a frag, two allusions, and anchored it with a powerful thought. Compelling cadence too.
Long Lost, Harlan Coben, NYT Bestseller
“Listen to Mr. Billy Gates back there. Knows everything about the Internet all of a sudden.”
The POV character is being sarcastic about his dad. But Harlan Coben didn’t give the reader a clichéd, predictable, skimmable response. He gave the reader something fresh wrapped up in a Humor Hit.
The Sweet Spot, Laura Drake, 2-time Immersion Grad, Cruising Writers Grad
Love how Laura Drake compared physical traits and personalities.
She looks like Dolly Parton gone Goth.
Ha! Dolly Parton gone Goth? Awesome!
The Last True Cowboy, Laura Drake, 2-time Immersion Grad, Cruising Writers Grad
To Be Released December 4
Hello, Humor Hits!
Smart and fun to use Elmo, Lucy, Peanuts, and the Muppets.
Notice the amplified simile Laura Drake created in that last example.
…bouncing around like Red-Bull-charged Muppets on pogo sticks.
Not just — bouncing around like Muppets on pogo sticks.
But — bouncing around like Red-Bull-charged Muppets on pogo sticks.
Laura Drake upped the humor. Upped the power.
Remember — If you use allusion, always, always, always consider your readership.
Keep in mind this blog spotlighted one of the twenty-five rhetorical devices covered in-depth in my online class, Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More. That class will be taught in November.
The lecture packets for the Deep Editing course are always available through my website.
Kudos to all the Immersion grads who shared examples for this blog. Love, love, love their stories and their writing!
And – a lovely THANK YOU to the brilliant WITS gals for inviting me to guest blog.
Please post a comment or share a ‘Hi Margie!” and you’ll have two chances to be a winner.
If you POST an example of ALLUSION, I’ll put your name in the drawing twice! If you don’t have one, write one.
You could win a Lecture Packet from me, or an online class from Lawson Writer’s Academy.
Lawson Writer’s Academy – October Classes
I’ll draw names for the TWO WINNERS Thursday night, at 9PM, and post them in the comments section.
Thank you soooooo much for being here!
Like this blog? Give it a social media boost. Thank you.
P.S. – Check out my Immersion cruise for Cruising Writers, Dec. 2–9. Have fun in Montego Bay, Georgetown, and Cozumel. And learn how to add power to your WIP on the four days at sea.
* * * * *
Margie Lawson — editor and international presenter – teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners.
She’s presented over 120 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as taught multi-day intensives on cruises in the Caribbean.
To learn about Margie’s 5-day Immersion Master Classes (in 2018, in Phoenix, Denver, San Jose area, Dallas, Yosemite, Los Angeles (2), Atlanta, and in Sydney, Melbourne, and Coolangatta, Australia), Cruising Writers cruises, full day and weekend workshops, keynote speeches, online courses through Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit: www.margielawson.com
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Margie, your classes and posts inspire me to color my manuscript with rhetorical devices hoping to sculpture it into fine art like a Hemingway on a gallery wall. It's early here on the Pacific coast and the caffeine has yet to kick in so this all I got.
Hello M. Lee Scott --
Such a fun sentence! Thanks for kicking off the comments. Your brain was on!
I love all of these examples, Margie! Here's an allusion from my Margin of Safety manuscript that you may remember.
Not creepy. Not intimidating. Not like a backwoods character out of Deliverance. A small tension in Kat’s shoulders relaxed.
Hugs to Immersion Grad Rebecca Hodge!
Of course I remember Margin of Safety. I have the video of your compelling story locked in my mind.
Love your use of anaphora and the Deliverance reference. Kudos to you!
Margie, another great post with lots of helpful examples...but I can't take credit for that Beyoncé allusion. It must have been another Immersioner 😉
Hugs to 2-time WTWA Grad and Immersion Grad Vanessa --
I just checked, Elaine Fraser wrote the Beyonce line. But you could have written it! I'll email Julie and get it fixed. Thanks for letting me know.
Thanks for the concrete writing examples, Margie. Here is my try:
Her Chris Pine eyebrows needed immediate attention. 😉
Hello Jbugcreations --
Ha! I've got your visual!
Thanks for chiming in.
Thanks for including me, Margie! The entire Sweet on a Cowboy series is on sale for $1.99 each until Friday! (sorry, couldn't resist). CANNOT wait to see you in less than a month!
Hugs to Multi-Immersion Grad Laura!
The SWEET ON A COWBOY series on sale for $1.99 -- until Friday?
HELLO EVERYONE --
If you haven't read THE SWEET SPOT, NOTHING SWEETER, and SWEET ON YOU, here's your chance to get a steal of a deal!
You did notice that Laura is a mulit-Immersion grad. This gal can write!
And her stories? Her stories are emotion-driven. Gripping. Memorable. Live-in-your-heart stories.
Grab 'em now!
You always give awesome advice, Margie. And I loved the Rhetorical Devices workshop taught by Becky. This is from draft one of my WIP.
His condescending word was pure insult, an affront to her feminine strength. “If you want to continue speaking, tell Dirty Harry to leave. I only deal with Mr. Darcy.”
Adam stood and set his enormous hands on his hips. “Mr. Who—? Look, I’ll tell Dirty Harry to take a hike if you call off Sarah Conner. I’m not the Terminator sent back in time to harm you."
Hello Maggie Blackbird --
Wow! Powerful to contrast Dirty Harry with Mr. Darcy. And -- even better that you didn't use the word CONTRAST.
Kudos to you!
Great examples! I've been going back and forth on a line in a pulp story I'm currently writing. This is the original line in the first draft:
“Oh, yeah,” Paul chuckled. “We got him all right. You fell on the guy after he tried to hit a home run with your mug. The fool was still trying to roll you off when we got to him.”
I played with a few variations involving famous home run hitters, but was afraid people would't get the reference. I finally decided if I gave it some context it might work. This is how it sits in the current draft:
“Oh, yeah,” Paul chuckled. “We got him all right. You fell on the guy after he pulled a Hank Aaron on your mug and tried to hit one out of the park.The fool was still trying to roll you off when we got to him.”
Feels a little less flat and hopefully clears things up for the non-baseball crowd.
Hello Eldred Bird --
I think most adult readers would know of Hank Aaron. But the way you slipped in the trait is perfect.
KUDOS ON YOUR DIALOGUE USING ALLUSION!
Thanks so much for posting!
HI Margie, I sooooooo love your posts. And rhetorical devices are so cool. Here's an enallage from my middle grade in progress, Hertz Gets Fused.
". . .Even if we somehow Harry Pottered up the money for video camp, the camp is only one week.”
Hugs to Multi-Immersion Grad Suzanne Purvis!
Love Harry Pottered up! You did a RHETORICAL DEVICE COMBO! You used allusion (referenced a famous person or event) and enallage (used one part of speech as another) at the same time!
So glad you're writing the follow up to FUSED. Can't wait to read all the fun and power you'll put on every page!
From the artistic main character in SHARING HUNTER, my YA Golden Heart finalist that will be coming out in Summer 2019:
Before I knew what I was doing, I sank my lips into his. My boldness astonished me, but he wrapped his arms around me, pulled me tight, and returned the kiss.
It shifted from a pencil-sketch peck to a Rodin-sculpture French.
(It might be helpful to know they'd just toured a sculpture garden and talked about Rodin's work.)
Hugs to Multi-Immersion Grad Julie Glover!
Wow! NYT! NYT! NYT!
So smart to use allusion and make it setting themed. Fabulous!
I get all happy and tingly when I get an NYT from you! Hugs back to you, Margie! ♥
I love the alliteration of the "pencil-sketch peck." You're so amazeballs. And I am delighted that Sharing Hunter is coming out SOON. 🙂
Hi Margie! Does a reference to a movie count?
Buttery chipped paint and dark, outdated carpet gave the dreary hallway a creepy charm, à la The Shining.
Hello Loretta Chefchaouni --
Yes! A movie counts.
And THE SHINING always carries power!
Smart the way you balanced the descriptors: buttery chipped paint and dark, outdated carpet.
The whole sentence is a winner! Kudos to you!
Love these examples!
Hello Immersion Grad Laurie Edwards!
Impressive examples in the blog and in the comments too!
Oh I have one! From my WIP!
Heath threw around his old Hollywood charm. Cashing in that James Dean mystique to bring everyone to their knees.
People wanted to be him, save him, change him. Too bad by the time he walked in, they were the ones needing rescued.
<3 Another great blog post, thank you!!
Hugs to Mulit-Immersion Grad Jane Gray / Monica Corwin --
Ah -- James Dean mystique. Love it!
Lots of power words. Backloading. Compelling cadence. And two rhetorical devices--allusion and epistrophe.
Strong writing. I'm impressed, and not surprised. 🙂
Hi Margie. I have a shelf of highlighters and red pens all because of you!
Hello Ines --
Ha! I want to meet you. I trust that you're taking them off the shelf and EDITS System highlighting your scenes. Good for you!
Great examples. Just reading them made me eager to keep polishing my work in process. Thanks!!
Hugs to Immersion Grad Christie Craig!
I can't wait to read your next release. But I still have my mind video going with scenes from THIS HEART OF MINE.
Powerful story. Powerful writing. Both -- Award-Winning Impressive!
Hi Margie! Love all the examples. Smart writers!!! Here's my example:
I drag my fingers through my bedhead hair mess. No. Victoria's-Secret-model-just-rolled-out-of-a-hospital-bed-in-my-perfection tousled shiny locks here. Nope, my crazy cotton candy hair begged to hide under my White Sox baseball cap.
Hugs to Multi-Immersion Grad Robbin Luckett!
Love the visual.
Thanks for sharing your fun on the page!
Love those examples, Margie! And the ones shared in the comments. Such creativity.
Mine, from my WIP WF, Frankie Leans In.
Her eyes swept his form from his feet to the top of his head. Her gaze made his face hot. She'd always looked at him sort of like he was a softly lobbed tennis ball and she was Serena Williams.
Hello Immersion Grad Carrie P!
Love that fresh amplified simile anchored with allusion!
NYT! NYT! NYT!
The Immersion class you hosted in Yosemite National Park last spring was NYT level too!
I live in LaLaLand and am so not current on the young stars, movies and shows. Um, did you just give me permission to sit in front of the television?
Hugs to Multi-Immersion Grad Fae Rowen!
Sure -- if you've met your writing goals for the day.
You don't have to use current celebrities and events. Historical references work too. Darynda Jones used Hitler and Harlan Coben used Caesar.
Laura Drake went a fun direction -- with Elmo, The Muppets, Peanuts, and Lucy.
If your characters live in other worlds, allusion may be one of the rhetorical devices you skip. But there are lots of other cool rhetorical devices you can use to add interest and style and big time power.
Thanks for including me in your post, Margie! What fantastic examples. I'm trying to be hyperaware of how I date my books, but this example is one of the rare times that it will work for a very long time. Yay!
Hugs to Mulit-Immersion Grad Darynda Jones --
True! You and Harlan Coben used famous people in history. Timeless!
I can't wait to read SUMMONED TO THIRTEENTH GRAVE!
Oooh Margie...I love this post! Also a great reminder to think about our readers when injecting allusion into our stories. In one of my novels, I wove in what I thought was a clever reference to Jimmy Choo heels and had a male reader leave a confused review that zeroed in on it (let's just say, I didn't get five stars outta that one)! ;D
Anywhoo...my sleep-addled brain conjured this initial attempt:
Shaken and frustrated, I pummeled the steering wheel as my emotions stirred, like a Bond martini without the satisfaction of knowing that first heavenly sip was on the horizon.
Hello Harley --
Stirring emotions -- and a Bond martini. Fresh!
I love it!
Thanks for posting.
Isn’t it great dear WITS that we get a lesson on allusion and a better-than-steak-knives bonus hit on anaphorica, cadence, run-ons, frags, and amplified similes. My fingers have been itching to post a response, like Trump on a Twitter button, scratching like Nicki vs Taylor, and now Look What You Made Me Do Margie! I’m as happy as a Kardashian in front of a camera.
Oh Jay, you made me smile at 3 am! Nice!
You get up so crazy-smart early! Jay lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. You're 3 AM is something like her 8 PM.
Hello Soon-to-be-Immersion Grad Jay!
You're fun and funny on the page!
Love your multiple allusions. Well done!
Hahahaha - a Kardashian in front of a camera! You're right, it doesn't get much happier than that. I've never seen such an across-the-board self-absorbed family.
I had a little fun with your challenge, Margie. 🙂
The printer coughed out the last sheet of Julie’s first-draft manuscript with the kind of hairball-hacking that can be heard through closed doors. No, it wasn’t technically her first draft, but “second draft” was too lofty a title. It was more like a take-back. A do-over. A second time at bat.
There’d be no third tries – it was time to hit a home run.
Hit a home run? “Cliché alert.” She kept her voice low so her husband wouldn’t hear. She’d been blurting out odd writerly sh$t since returning from immersion class and her family was starting to share concerned glances. The kind you catch out of the corner of your eye.
Julie tapped the printed sheets into a neat block and placed the unopened pack of 12-count, chisel-tip, assorted-color highlighters on top of the stack. She was ready to nix her yammering-yellow and power-up her emotional hits using the Deep Editing techniques she’d learned. It was time to Margie Lawson the heck out of this manuscript.
Ooohhh, Julie, going for the brown (nose)! Damned fine writing! Kudos!
Laura, I'd love to tell you how much I enjoyed all the examples of your writing Margie shared in Immersion or that I just bought your Sweet on a Cowboy series so I can dive into more of your words, but I don't want brown-nose twice in once blog so . . . I'll just say "thank you!"
Smiling, Julie!!! Thank you so much for checking out the books - hope you like them. Yours was seriously clever!
WOW HUGS to recent Immersion-Grad Julie Findlow!
My only Julie-Jules. 🙂
Love your post so much, I'd like others to enjoy it too. On my website! I'll email you.
Thanks for sharing your brilliant brain and your Harlan-esque humor!
I used allusion. Ha!
Hahahaha! I have to work on the yellow-yammering myself. All. The. Time.
Getting in on the WITS blog late in the day. Having just finished n Immersion, my first one, I found myself nodding and laughing at the examples like kids music box that pops up with an evil clown laughing in that 'I'm gonna get you laugh'. No wonder my sons were afraid of the damn thing.
[…] […] Source link […]
A wonderful post, as always, Margie.
This is an example in my WIP that I worked during my last go-round of Deep Editing and Rhetorical Devices.
Mason turned and glanced over the railing. Jake strode towards the porch with a grin and John Wayne swagger. Thank God for small favors and pain-in-the-a** distractions.
Hello Erin --
Great to cyber-see you here!
Love that John Wayne swagger. I've got the visual!
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the crash course. Love the examples. So helpful. See you next week!
Hey Soon-to-be Immersion Grad Chris!
We're going to have THE BEST TIME immersioning in your Victorian Mansion!
Thanks in advance for hosting!
Awesome post and awesome examples. Here's my example of allusion:
I shove my phone in my pocket and slip out of the room like a spy in the White House. A bad spy.
"What the hell are you doing?"
I close my eyes. Come on God, do me a favour.
"Hey, loser? What are you doing?"
Lachie arches an eyebrow at me.
"Nothing. Heading over to Sonny's." My voice squeaks.
"So, what's with the Jason Borne act?" Lachie's eyes tighten into slits. He must know I'm up to something. How could he not.
Hello Little Miss W!
Jason Borne act. Well done!
Thanks for sharing your allusion.
Wow, thank you, Margie. This was a great challenge.
Here's my attempt.
A barrage balloon of a belly, a booming bellow of a voice, his words were clipped, his opinions sharp, giving him a Churchillian quality.
Hello Andrea --
Love the Churchillian quality!
Maybe too many alliterative words in a row? A little too visible. Could distract the reader.
It's clear you're big-time talented!
Margie, Your posts always educate, as erudite and enlightening as Sean Connery's writer in Finding Forrester.
Hello Cathryn --
And you get WOW points for using allusion in your thank you.
And double WOW points for using two allusions!
You DOUBLE WOWED me!
So many fabulous examples here! Love allusion. Here's mine from "Too Pretty", published back in 2014:
Ellie spun around and grinned at the vision in the doorway.
Once a grubby off-white, the garment her cousin Chloe wore was now lime green. Layers of pointy-ended tulle embellished the skirt attached to a bodice awash with dark green sequins. Combined with work boots, a short denim jacket, cropped magenta hair spiked and sprinkled with glitter, Chloe was Tinkerbell on steroids.
Hugs to Immersion Grad Andrea Grigg!
Can't wait to do Immersion on the Gold Coast, at your home!
I've got your full visual! Tinkerbell on steroids. LOVE IT!
Hi Margie, thanks for giving us great examples and a fun task. I’ve been thinking about the 150th anniversary of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I expected more from my best friend. She was the one with the looks, the one who escaped our small town, the one meant to marry a handsome, wealthy man and never return. But, she’s home and in love with some plump, nerdy computer type. I haven’t been so disappointed since Jo March hooked up with that Professor.
Hugs to Multi-Immersion Grad Allison --
Your allusion grabbed me.
Love that you used Jo March and THAT professor. Good onya!
Hi Margie, so glad to see Harlan Coben's work here. I've been on a bender lately reading his Myron Bolitar series.
Hugs to Immersion Grad Debra!
Ah... An immersion in Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar world. So smart!
Hi Maggie. Thanks for this insightful post.
Hello Rita --
Thank you for dropping by WITS!
Glad you enjoyed the blog.
Hi Margie! This is great information for a budding writer. :0)
And the excerpt from Darynda's book, made me laugh all over again.
I laugh every time I read that character description too!
Darynda's writing is so powerful. Glad you found her books!
Hi Margie! Thanks for this amazing post! <3 Here one from my dark paranormal novel, BLACK BULLET (w/a L.D. Rose):
Leaves and flowers shoved their way into Jon’s mouth, pushing down his throat, gagging him. A few aubergine berries popped into his trachea like marbles, and he retched.
“She’s a fighter, that one,” Taylon continued, as if Jon wasn’t being throttled by something out of Little Shop of Horrors. “Fought hard and fast, but you already know that, don’t you? And you just keep coming back for more, just like I did. Just like all of us did.”
*sigh* I'm way to tired, LOL.
See what I mean?!
L.D. Rose --
Sometimes fatigue wins. 🙂
Hello L.D. Rose --
Using Little Shop of Horrors always carries power. Good for you!
Thanks for sharing your work.
Hi Margie! Can't wait for the immersion goodness in a few weeks. Here's my attempt from my WIP Finding Solace:
I skip across the hall to my room in two and a half heartbeats.
My mirror reveals the final effect.
One of a wet Cavoodle sporting a tired thirty-year old woman’s face.
Great. I’ve Sex-and-the-city’d myself into a Sarah Jessica-Parker bad hair-flashback.
Hello Immersion Grad Catherine --
Can't wait to hug you at Andrea's house!
And it will be sooo fun to dive into your awesome writing again.
Love, love, love your oh-so-fresh-and-fun allusions. Brilliant!
HELLO EVERYONE --
We have TWO WINNERS!
The winner of a lecture packet is ......... JAY HICKS!
The winner of an online course from Lawson Writer's Academy is ......... INES JOHNSON!
CONGRATULATIONS! I'll Fb message you two.
A big lovey thank you to all the WITS gals. You know I love being here!
I'll be back on WITS on October 5th. See you all again SOON!
That IS better than steak knives. Thank you so much Margie - a perfect push for my pre-immersion homework. Brilliant. Rhetorical Devices here I come. (Oh, and I live in Victoria, 4 hours west of Melbourne). For Immersion I’m coming from bush to beach, Black cockatoo country to Gold Coast splendour. And right about now I’m so glad I chose the Gold Coast over Melbourne Immersion. Xxx thanks again.
I come late to this post but I wanted to share an allusion that had me laugh aloud in James Salter's novel, All That Is. I'll type it here and see if you find it as brilliant as I did: "Do you live in the city?"
"I have a house in Piermont," he said.
"At the foot of the Ngong HIlls."
"Not well-known," he remarked.
---I'm laughing again! I just love it!
Hello! I know I'm too late to the party, but I'll dance anyway. Going to party like it's 1999 with an allusion to Prince. It was a great year. With the Y2K scare--that got my now late FIL out of retirement. He was prepared to save the world from computers crashing...but nothing happened.
Loved the post!