P. cannot believe I enjoy anything I read or watch. Books, movies, tv series – all is ruined, P. says, by my tendency to over-analyze. He told me so one night, as we ate a very late dinner and half-heartedly watched some procedural or other.
At one point someone, little more and an extra up until then, asked a question about the murder, and one of the main characters answered.“Hm…” I murmured, with a spoonful of soup stopped midair. “See that fellow? He’s got Chekhov’s Gun.”
“He’s got what?” asked P.
Now, Chekov’s Gun is anything that is introduced early in the narration, and in a casual manner – for its relevance to become apparent in the dénouement. When it is well done, the thing may lead to one of those happy moments when readers/viewers slap their foreheads and chuckle to themselves, amused at how well they’ve been led around.
In this specific case, it was done a tad conspicuously – or so it seemed to me…
“Chekhov’s Gun,” I explained. “Well, Chekhov’s Question, but still. Want to wager he’s the culprit?”
And in the end, the murderer turned out to be Chekhov’s Gunman indeed.“See?” I gloated shamelessly.P. was not pleased.“Had you seen it before?” he asked.“Of course not, but you could tell. He had too much dialogue for the sort of character he was… It’s like… You know, in the book you borrowed, when the heroine meets Tr… ”And here P. told me to shut my mouth. He didn’t want to know. He was still reading the book, and I had already spoiled the procedural for him…“Tell me this, though: the heroine meets Tr. on… what? Page 12? Does this mean that at page 12 you already knew how it would end?”“Well… no. But I knew whodunit. He had Chekhov’s Gun, you see…”Which is why, according to P., I cannot possibly enjoy what I read and watch. Too bloody busy prodding and poking structure, and writing, and characterization, and historical accuracy… How can I read, with all the din of my cogs and wheels turning?Trouble is, P. is simultaneously right and wrong. Because I enjoy immensely taking apart my toys to see how they work – but I must must must remember that not everybody does.Not everybody reads – or watches – the way a writer does.
- Self-Editing Tip #19 – Chekhov’s Gun (marsicowritesite.wordpress.com)
- Utilize Chekhov’s gun to make plot work (inventingrealityeditingservice.typepad.com)