There’s a whole bunch of concepts out there named after dead people: Schrodinger's Cat, Occam’s Razor, Cole’s Law, and so on. Chekhov’s Gun comes into play in a lot of literary works, and understanding its function can turn it into a useful tool for your own writing.
Anton Chekhov, an author and playwright from the late 19th century, published hundreds of short stories and penned 17 different plays. With theatrical works such as The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, and The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov helped define the modernist movement. His plays often don’t focus on complicated plot lines – normally, the characters just try their best to figure out life. They’re grounded in realism, yet still come to life on the stage, and theaters continue putting on his plays over a century later.
The term “Chekhov’s Gun” comes from a piece of writing advice from the playwright himself. The rule states: “If in Act One you hang a pistol on the wall, then the pistol must fire in the final act.” It’s a tool for suspense – if you set up a potential catalyst, use that catalyst to escalate (or even resolve) the conflict.
Secrets, secrets are no fun… unless they're in a book. Character secrets keep things interesting – they can motivate your character, inspire their villains, and generally impact their relationships. However, as fun as they may be, overusing them can confuse your reader or make them lose interest in the story. Here’s a few things to keep in mind regarding your characters and their secrets.
*The end of this article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home. I will be mapping out the three-act structure of the movie. There will be a definitive warning before any spoilers are revealed.*
I first learned about three-act structure back in high school. During a creative writing class, our teacher drew an arc on the whiteboard, broke it down into segments, and labeled them: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action. It was taught to me as a basic outline for plot, but I recently learned that the three-act structure maps character instead.
I’ve been taking an online master class, and the instructor dedicated a whole lesson breaking down how the three-act structure model works in terms of characters. Thinking of the structure in terms of character instead of plot can give you a new way to look at your story.
Many stories and movies utilize this structure, and you can identify the points of three-act structure within each one. Let’s break it down, act-by-act and point-by-point.
When we are bored, a few hours seem like a week. When we have fun, we feel like suddenly we have blinked, and an hour has gone by. Just the way your mind does, books trick people into thinking time is passing by at different rhythms. In a certain number of pages, readers can understand events that took place during hours, days, months, and even centuries (yes, I’m looking at you 100 Days of Solitude). But to create this illusion correctly, the way writers manage time during each scene is essential.
First things first, what is pacing? Pacing is the speed at which your story moves forward. It uses every action and interaction of your characters to generate the perspective of time moving quickly or slowly. Every scene must move the plot forward, regardless of its pacing, to keep your writing fluid and the reader interested.
— Contains spoiler of a character arc in The Way of Kings
Fear has kept us alive since we’ve existed. The feelings of fight or flight are great motivators when faced with a large predator or the final exam next week. But how does this apply to your characters? Here’s how fear can make your characters stronger and your plot more satisfying.