Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov’s gun

Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov’s gun

If you think that a writer uses only his imagination to write a novel, without rules, you are wrong. With this post, we open a long series on narrative techniques used by writers and screenwriters of films. Let us begin this narrative techniques series with the first one: Chekhov’s gun.

What are narrative and expressive techniques?

They are pillars that give structure to the story, the characters created, and the dialogues. A writer must know how to master these dramaturgical tools in order to create a solid and compelling narrative.

All these elements must be skillfully correlated with each other in order to build the structure of the narrative. We will discover together that the elements inserted in a story are never random. On the contrary, they often have a dramaturgical function, and that they belong to a defined narrative technique.

What is the narrative technique of Chekhov’s gun?

Chekhov’s gun is a fundamental dramatic principle in a story. It is an element that initially seems negligible and insignificant. This one, only in the course of the narration turns out to be very important. This element can take any form. It can be an object, a phrase, a character, or an image.

Very often it is something you can see only for a few seconds, without too much importance. The reader or viewer is aware of the existence of that element but does not know that it is fundamental. Try to think of a thriller movie. You may notice, just for a few seconds, inside an open drawer and then immediately closed, a gun. That gun could be the decisive object of the story.

The Chekhov’s gun: the Anticipation technique

«If a gun appears in a novel, it must shoot”

Anton Ĉechov

This narrative technique is also called “Anticipation” thanks to its function. In fact, it anticipates how a story will turn out. Chekhov’s gun creates a final twist, also called “Overturn“. This moment in addition to leaving the reader stunned will lead him to investigate the unsuspected nature of the culprit. Because where there is a Chekhov gun there is always a culprit.

The dramaturgical principle of Chekhov’s pistol serves to remind the writer of two important rules. The first concerns the need to insert something at the beginning of the story, useful in concluding it. The second, in the same way, reminds the writer not to insert superfluous elements.

They could confuse the ideas of the reader/viewer too much. If an element is not necessary for the story, you can easily delete it. But be careful not to confuse it with the fake superfluous element.

You can also insert this element precisely with the aim of misleading the reader or viewer. Often this narrative technique is found in thriller and detective novels. One of the first writers to appreciate this misdirection technique was Murakami. He explained that not all the elements introduced at the beginning had to find a role at the end. On the contrary, you can simply insert them on purpose to mislead the reader’s assumptions.

Use bibisco to create your novel by introducing Chekhov’s gun

Writing indeed means to owe a lot of creativity as much as technique. Thanks to bibisco and its novel planning software, you can create a structure for your story. Here you can find a whole section dedicated to creating objects like guns, magic wands, treasure maps, and much more else.

Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov's gun - 
bibisco's objects section - 
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s objects section
Narrative Techniques Series: #1 Chekhov's gun - 
bibisco's object image -
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco’s object image

With the novel writing software, you will be able to dedicate yourself to the creation of elements. For instance, you can create dialogues and characters, always having in mind the track to keep.

Conclusions

The writing of a novel or a screenplay involves creative skills. It consists largely of the writer’s imagination and very specific writing techniques. The key element is experience.

In this long new journey together we will analyze narrative techniques. Therefore, we will learn how to write and also to read a story between the lines.

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