Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chekhov's Gun

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.  -Anton Chekhov

I learned about Chekhov's Gun as a freshman at Lansing Community College, so I believe it is known and practiced by all writers.

An important part of the craft of story telling is the economical use of fore-shadowing to create continuity.  The conventions are so much a part of the art of story telling that they are almost invisible.  "It was a dark and stormy night.  Suddenly...."  We are surprised if the story teller informs us that "...a kiss rang out!" even though our personal experience is that kisses are exchanged on such nights far more often than gunshots.

Since much of our perception is formed by what we see on TV (four hours a day, on average), it stands to reason that most people's opinions about guns are guided by the stories shown on TV.

If the director burns two seconds of screen time showing a character inserting a magazine into a pistol and holstering his/her weapon.  It is a cast-iron fact that somebody is about to be shot.

On TV, there are no guns that ride in their holsters, day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year; only pulled out to be cleaned and for marksmanship practice.  The cost of producing and air commercial programs simply cannot support showing that reality.

So many people have this subconscious belief that simply seeing a gun means that three or four people will be shot in the next five minutes (before the next commercial break).

Chekhov's gun formed their perception of reality.  In fact, it IS their reality.


  1. CHeckov is right. If it's not going to be used, it shouldn't be in the story.

  2. Agreed! But there ARE BBQ guns too... :-D