Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Power of Allusion...Part Two

Allusion--Why you need it

          Back to Great-Aunt Maisie’s teeth. A funny story becomes a shared experience not only for everyone on the bus but also for the enlarged circle of family and friends allowed in on the joke. 

          By using allusion, writers need very few words to invite their readers in to share and expand on the experiences of their characters. It’s a shorthand code which boosts reader identification, allows your characters to become instant best friends.

          A book is more than just showing and telling, plot and characters. It is a mind map of interests and beliefs, hopes and hang-ups. Your readers are not just reading for story but to find you, the author. Your voice is your trademark. The allusions you make as author or as persona in the novel are a part of building a loyal fan base that thinks or wants to think of themselves as a reading family.

          In The Beginning, has several forms of family relationships, any one of which may strike a chord.  Richard and Eve both have dysfunctional blood-tie families, supportive but conflicting church and synagogue families. Richard has his academic family. He also has his literary circle which he visits with Eve after their marriage. 

At the end of the evening, Eve thinks, “It doesn’t come around twice, this is it, this is your moment with Debussy and Monet, Apollinaire, and Rimbaud. These are the faces and voices and arms of the immortals in their last moments of mortality before they pass into eternity.” 

For anyone with an interest in poets, painters, musicians and novelists this allusion says all that needs to be said about the greatness of Richard’s writer and artist friends. It also acts as a further pointer to one of the novel's themes: living in the face of death.

Where you need allusions

Well, anywhere, just not everywhere LOL. You can set up potential conflict signals between characters by showing the clashing contrast of titles on their bookshelves or music coming from their iPods.

Allusions calling on readers’ prior knowledge can set scenes from ultra-realistic to the spookiest of the spooky. A mention of Transylvania and we think we know what to expect. You could, of course, always use your allusion to confound expectations. A form of double bluff. Clever stuff.

Sex scenes can fade out to some haunting strain from classical music. Remember Aimez-vous Brahms? (Goodbye Again was the U.S. film title with Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Perkins) Just typing Anthony Perkins and my mind beams up Psycho.

Hmmm. Allusions can be dangerous things.

Research Your Allusions

The important thing is for your allusions to be matched to character and situation. They must fit the period in which your novel is set and fit the characters in the book. No use having a Regency heroine comparing her love interest to Rafa Nadal unless she’s time travelling.

Seems obvious put like that but even a slight time lapse in allusions or language throws a reader out of a story. 

  • Research by reading fact or fiction from the period in which you’re writing.
  • Treblecheck wiki references in three different places.
  • Use allusions to universal knowledge and themes if you hope to capture and keep a happy and healthy fast-growing family of fans.
Do you have favourite allusions you find yourself using again and again?
Mine is Bad Day at Black Rock and yep, this is one of them LOL
Annie (Anne Duguid)

Power of Allusion....3. Coming again in about three hours.

  Some right and not-so-right ways to incorporate allusion into your work


Lisa Blackwood said...

Good stuff about allusions and the importance of them being set in the correct time period.

I just read a book where one misused allusion tossed me out of the story for a few moments. I was actually laughing at the line so hard tears were running down my face.

It was epic fantasy, medival time period, and there was this one line: 'He blew through the intersection.'

Okay, so the character was running, but I vizualized a hot little red sports car running a redlight. The main character could shape shift, but I don't think that's what the author intended. LOL. Other than that little glitch, the book was great. Oh, and this wasn't a muse author.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Love those LOL moments, Lisa. Thanks for sharing.