Chekhov’s Gun

I sit on the floor in my room with my back to the wall. The weather is stinking hot, but it’s cooler down low. I type this on my antiquated laptop as my childhood teddy bear stares at me from atop my bookshelf. I ponder the musings of the great Anton Chekhov:

“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.” S. Shchukin, Memoirs (1911).

If you haven’t heard of Anton Chekhov, suffice to say he’s one of the world’s most renowned short-fiction writers and playwrights. He was a medical doctor and writer simultaneously, driven by the need to earn money. He eventually embraced his art and blazed a trail for modernist theatre, mastering short stories and plays.

His metaphorical musings on rifles were oft repeated during his lifetime and have come to be regarded amongst his most memorable aphorisms. Here’s another version:

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” Chekhov in letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev, 1 November 1889.

So, as I sit here thinking of the best way to tell my loyal readers about Anton Chekhov, I also wonder what surprise my teddy bear has for me. I mentioned him at the beginning of my story which must mean he has a part to play.

I save my work, I shut the dilapidated laptop and I watch with horror as my teddy jumps to his feet brandishing a rusty pocket knife! He goes to work on me and I scream with my last gurgling breath “I should have remembered Chekhov’s Gun!”

T

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5 thoughts on “Chekhov’s Gun

  1. I’ve used Chekhov’s rifle in critiquing anime that set up anticipation without doing anything with it. Maybe you could get away with it as an element of misdirection in a mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point. I don’t think it’s a rigid rule, more a rubbery guide. Like in the anime you described, Stephen King gets away with setting things up and not following through to build suspense. But, I’m not going to hold that against him – I think he knows what he’s doing.

      Thanks as always Fred.

      Like

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