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What Is Chekhov’s Gun? A Guide to Planting & Paying Off Details in Your Writing – Monday September 19, 2022

Writing a play or screenplay is a complex process that comes with a lot of rules of thumb—some more intuitive than others. One of the most important is Chekhov’s gun. Keep reading to learn about Anton Chekhov, his famed concept, and examples of the technique in film and television.

Anton Chekhov was a famed Russian playwright whose works include “The Seagull” (1895), “Uncle Vanya” (1898), “Three Sisters” (1900), and “The Cherry Orchard” (1903). After his death in 1904, Chekhov’s works went on to inspire countless movies and TV shows, and the concept of his “gun” has influenced screenwriting since the early days of cinema. 

Chekhov corresponded with many other playwrights, offering advice for their careers. One of his primary principles was that playwrights should avoid making false promises to the audience; if you set an early expectation, you must make sure it’s resolved. “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one, it should be fired,” Chekhov wrote. “Otherwise, don’t put it there.”

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