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Chekhov's Gun

 

Disciplines > StorytellingStory Devices > Chekhov's Gun

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

'Chekhov's Gun' is a device whereby something is introduced early in the story, but its significance does not become clear until later.

Example

The hero is given a mysterious jewel. Later, it is found to fit into a forehead receptacle to bring to life a statue which will answer critical questions.

A murder victim has a small needle puncture on her arm. Later, she turns out to have had a date with a drug addict whose needle scratched her, making her drowsy.

Discussion

The name comes from Russian playwright Anton Chekov (1860-1904), who said that one should not have a gun on display in a play unless it will at some time be used in the plot. The basic principle is one of economy: that everything that appears should have significance.

This can have two effects on an audience. If the device is noticed, then it keeps them guessing. If the device is not noticed, then they are surprised when it is used.

Chekhov's gun is a kind of reverse MacGuffin in its early insignificance and later significance.

See also

Red Herring, MacGuffin

 

 

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