33 Allusion Examples To Inspire Your Writing Today

Posted on Sep 22, 2023

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Written by Sarah Rexford

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Including occasional allusion examples are a must for authors, particularly authors who write to an audience with a specific knowledge base. While allusion examples vary in their use, purpose, and the audiences they aim to reach, no matter what you write, you can use them.

In this article, I provide you with a list of 33 allusion examples to help inspire your writing. Incorporating allusion is a great way to connect with your audience at a deeper level. For fiction, allusion examples can even broaden your story world by drawing correlations to other subjects your readers are versed in.

So, what exactly are allusion examples? 

Allusion Examples, Defined

Allusion examples are an implied or indirect reference to a person, event, or thing or to a part of another text. For instance, when was the last time you used a fictional character or historical event as an aid to describe something to a friend? Perhaps your conversation went something like this:

“I wish I could just click my heels and appear in the Bahamas.”
“You really need a vacation, don’t you? Workaholism is your Achilles heel.” 

The reference to The Wizard of Oz in the first sentence is an allusion, as is the reference to Achilles heel in the second sentence. These allusion examples both reference specific literary works. 

There are many literary devices you can use to aid your writing. Let’s focus on familiarizing you with this specific one.  

33 Allusion Examples

Here are 33 allusion examples you can add into your current genre conventions

1. You’re home so late. I thought your car turned into a pumpkin.

2. He’s my Romeo. 

3. If you pursue this, you’ll open Pandora’s box.

4. I ran into He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named at the coffee shop. 

5. Stealing from them doesn’t make you Robin Hood.  

6. Just because I camp doesn’t make me Robinson Crusoe. 

7. I feel like I just got my golden ticket. 

8. Take the road less traveled and you won’t regret it. 

9. Cupid hit me with his arrow today. 

10. You’re basically Einstein when it comes to doing taxes. 

11. Afraid to knock, I didn’t know if I’d meet a lady or a tiger.

12. She climbs trees like Tarzan. 

13. He carried my suitcase like he was Hercules. 

14. He’s a stand up, Good Samaritan type of guy. 

15. Your backyard is a secret garden. 

16. You don’t need to carry the weight of the world alone. 

17. Walking into the chaotic cafeteria feels like The Hunger Games

18. She’s Spock in how she handles her emotions. 

19. I want to find my Elizabeth Bennet. 

20. He survived so much and still comes out stronger than ever. He’s a phoenix at this point. 

21. Writing a book doesn’t need to be Noah’s Ark. Take it one line at a time. 

22. You’re a Scrooge about birthday parties. 

23. He seems like a Mr. Wickham to me. 

24. It’s an all-out war in their home right now. 

25. I assumed I’d lose. Nothing gold can stay. 

26. You’re such an Emma. 

27. Wedding planning is the best of times and the worst of times. 

28. His growth spurt made him a mini Goliath. 

29. Take that up with Uncle Sam.

30. You’re my Samwise Gamgee. 

31. She treated her engagement ring like it was the ring of power. 

32. I’m no Daniel but your dreams sound pretty exciting. 

33. I’m stuck in a Catch-22.

How To Use Allusion Examples In Writing

Below are two ways to use allusion examples in your next manuscript. 

Build Tension 

Allusion examples are one of many ways to build tension in writing. For instance, if you write fiction, consider using various allusion examples to foreshadow a character’s next step. Your protagonist could say, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think Mr. Wickam had just walked into my life.” 

For fans of Jane Austen, they know Mr. Wickam to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing (see the allusion I just used?). 

But your protagonist leads the scene and sets the tone. Your protagonist doesn’t believe they just met a Wickam-like character, but the allusion makes your readers wonder if they have. You can do the same for nonfiction by placing the allusion in a slightly different context.

Create dynamic characters 

A dynamic character puts a story at an entirely new level. Consider using allusion as you try out different sentences to start a story. When you do so, you can lay a good foundation for your main character.

For fiction, this could look like the following: The detective would have finished top of his class except for his Achilles heel—an obsession with being right. 

For nonfiction, use a different type of allusion: I’ll show you how working a day job and starting your business doesn’t need to be a Catch-22. 

In this example, the narrator establishes himself as a leader in business/entrepreneurship, while also relating to readers’ fears. This is a dynamic way to both introduce who you are and establish how you can help your reader. 

Mistakes To Avoid

Of course, allusion examples aren’t the best choice for every situation. No matter what type of literary technique you use, there should be a good reason behind your choice. Learn the following mistakes upfront so you can avoid making them yourself.

Don’t assume too much of your readers 

By definition, if you choose to use allusion examples in your writing, you have to make some assumptions concerning your audience. If you wonder if your readers will catch the allusion, you may be better off not using it. 

Layering in allusion like Easter eggs can work at times, but avoid using too much allusion. You don’t want to confuse your readers unnecessarily. 

Stay within your genre 

It’s important to stick to your genre when you incorporate allusion, specifically for fiction. If you write medieval fantasy, you can incorporate mythologies and tales that are centuries old. However, imagine if your medieval villain pops out with the following line of dialogue: 

“I will attack you, and when I do, you’ll see I don’t have kryptonite.” Referencing Superman in a medieval fantasy makes the dialogue ring false.    

Method write

Method acting refers to the practice of actors working to inhabit their character to deliver a better performance. When choosing whether or not to use allusion examples for your characters, try to get inside their head. 

If you write a well-educated reader who fills all their reading time with ancient literature, let them use allusion examples. If you write a character who dropped out of middle school and never reads, they likely wouldn’t use literary allusion in their dialogue.  

Your Next Step

Now that you know how to use allusion in your writing, it’s time to put it into practice. Use the resource below to learn about:

  • Characters and conflict
  • Voice and style
  • Dialogue tips

Then work to implement a few allusion examples into the above. The more you practice, the better you will get. Remember that some of your characters may use allusion frequently, while others may never use it. Take advantage of your unique writing voice and layer in allusion accordingly!

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