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[[quoteright:350:[[Film/ShaunOfTheDead http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/chekhovs_gun.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:There's a rifle above the bar because the name of the place is "The Winchester".]]

->''"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."''
-->-- {{Trope Namer|s}} '''Creator/AntonChekhov''' (From S. Shchukin, Memoirs. 1911.)
%% One quote is sufficient -- please place additional entries on the quotes page.

Chekhov, master of the short story, gave this advice: [[LawOfConservationOfDetail If it's not essential, don't include it in the story]].

The term has come to mean "an insignificant object that later turns out to be important." For example, a character may find a mysterious necklace that turns out to be the power source to the DoomsdayDevice, but at the time of finding the object it does not seem important. The necklace was essential to the story, but its introduction downplayed its importance. Chekhov's advice was not necessarily to conceal importance, but to just not spend time on things that are not important.

A lot of people consider the phrase "Chekhov's gun" synonymous with {{foreshadowing}}. They are related; a gun that goes off in the third act that hasn't been in the play at all before then is going to feel like a real AssPull, but that's not key to the meaning of the phrase.

As a result of the success of franchises like ''Series/{{Lost}}'' or ''Literature/HarryPotter'', viewers and fans of MythArc-laden and/or carefully written shows and books have become accustomed to obsessing over minuscule details and looking out for Chekhov's Guns everywhere and anywhere... whether they actually exist or not. We call these EpilepticTrees and WildMassGuessing.

!![[SuperTrope Chekhov's Gun Depot also stocks:]]

* ChekhovsArmoury: A whole stash of Chekhov's Guns.
* ChekhovsArmy: A whole stash of Chekhov's Gunmen.
* ChekhovsBoomerang: Chekhov's Gun has already been used once, then unexpectedly turns up again.
* ChekhovsClassroom: [[Series/{{Scrubs}} Remember what you heard, when you weren't even listening?]]
* ChekhovsExhibit: Chekhov's Gun will be put on display for the general public to gawk at. Before it's stolen, of course.
* ChekhovsGag: You thought Chekhov's Gun was only introduced for the RuleOfFunny, but later it [[PlayedForDrama goes off dramatically.]]
* ChekhovsGift: Happy birthday! Here, have a Chekhov's Gun.
* ChekhovsGunman: When a character seems to be there for no reason, they must be important. In other words, the Chekhov's Gun is a character rather than an object.
** KingIncognito: When Chekhov's Gunman is a famous/important person in disguise.
* ChekhovsHobby: Like ChekhovsSkill, but it is merely established that the character has the skill rather than showing them using or learning it beforehand.
* ChekhovMIA: Remember that missing character? It's actually a ChekhovsGunman.
* ChekhovsNews: When a news report mentions something that will be important later.
* ChekhovsSkill: What you learn along the way can be a Chekhov's Gun.
** WorkplaceAcquiredAbilities: When the abilities obtained in one's professional career come in handy.
* ChekhovsVolcano: If it wasn't going to erupt, it would have just been a mountain.
* ConspicuouslyLightPatch: The Chekhov's Gun of old, traditional animation, where anything obviously not part of the static (and often painted) background layer will be put to use by a character.
* ConspicuousCG: The analogue for CGI, newer cartoons, and more video games.
* EmptyRoomPsych: In a video game, all places ''must'' have a purpose.
* ForbiddenChekhovsGun: Never do this. ''Ever.'' (Unless you've crossed the GodzillaThreshold or something...)
* IncurableCoughOfDeath: The medical Chekhov's Gun. If you coughed in the first act, you can bet that you'll be dead by the third. Same for unexplained itches, unless they lead to something more... [[LovecraftianSuperpower interesting]].
* InfallibleBabble: If {{prophecies are always right}}, then nonsense, hearsay and barely comprehensible rumours are even moreso.
* IronicEcho: A line of dialogue early on is repeated in an ironic context, showing a change in meaning or of heart.
* ItMayHelpYouOnYourQuest: Take this dull, seemingly-useless (or even mostly-useless) item. Go on, take it! You will be most definitely needing it.
* TheLegendOfChekhov: If someone tells a fairy tale or legend, it'll turn out to be true. And, outright disbelieving it only ups the uncomfortable nature of the truth when it hits.
* MeaningfulEcho: A line of idle dialogue is later repeated in a context that gives it additional significance.
* MeaningfulName: A character's name turns out to have important meaning.
* NotSoSmallRole: Character #23 is played by ''whom?'' [[NarrowedItDownToTheGuyIRecognize They'd never have signed on for so small a role!]]
* NoticeThis: It must be important to the plot -- look where it's positioned and lighted.
* PlotDeviceAllAlong: Something mundane that the character uses regularly and constantly turns out to have been a highly important artifact.
* ThePromise: A verbal, visual or conceptual Chekhov's Gun where a promise is made and later comes up. Whereupon the promiser will be required to act; or, in unlucky cases, the promisee.
* You ''know'' what will invariably happen when you see any of these in a scene....
** AshesToCrashes
** CarryingACake
** DoomedSupermarketDisplay
** [[ExplodingFishTanks Fish Tank]]
** FruitCart
** PricelessMingVase
** RopeBridge
** RuleOfPool
** SheetOfGlass
* SomedayThisWillComeInHandy: Useless knowledge is always important. Compare Classroom, Skill.
* YouWillKnowWhatToDo: You are told it will be important, but you aren't told when, where, how, or why. And, you'll be lucky if you know exactly what it does before the consequences hit, too.

Compare SchrodingersGun for a competing dramatic weapons dealer. Contrast to a RedHerring, where something shown early appears to be significant but was planted there just to throw you off. If there are a whole bunch of Red Herrings you might be looking at TheWalrusWasPaul, where a writer wants to mock fans of Chekhov's Guns by repeatedly messing with them. If there is a very long delay between the introduction of the element and its use in the story, to the point where most of the audience has long forgotten about it, you're looking at a BrickJoke. The MacGuffin is significant for some (possibly even plot-relevant) reason, but we never find out just what it is. If the Chekhov's Gun was hiding on the other side of the FourthWall, you have a NinjaProp. If a Chekhov's gun is set up but dropped (but was neither intended to distract as a RedHerring nor to be brought up later, as a BrickJoke), you have either an AbortedArc or WhatHappenedToTheMouse, depending on the importance of the gun to the overall plot.

The MagneticPlotDevice can be a standing Chekhov's Gun to blame the plot on. The ImpossibleTask may require one. Also see {{Asspull}}, which is what the viewer can sometimes confuse this with if they miss the gun the first time (or if the gun was [[EditedForSyndication edited out]] in an adaptation).

A reverse Chekhov's Gun is also common. Explicitly showing a normally armed character forgetting his gun when leaving the house for example. The experienced troper knows that this will become the day he needs it the most.

Also referred to as "the Indiana Jones principle" in Thomas C. Foster's ''How to Read Literature Like a Professor,'' named after [[Franchise/IndianaJones Indy's]] early encounter with a snake at the beginning of ''Film/RaidersOfTheLostArk'' and how it set up his much [[BerserkButton larger encounter with them]] later on. Another term for this is [[http://backtothefuture.wikia.com/wiki/Setup_and_payoff "setup and payoff"]], a technique used by Creator/RobertZemeckis and Bob Gale for the ''Film/BackToTheFuture'' trilogy and regularly taught to scriptwriters nowadays.

Not to be confused with ChekovsGun (or [[{{Snowclones}} Chekhov's Pun]], for that matter). See also CallBack, BrickJoke, and RunningGag.

'''This trope contains spoilers by necessity. Read at your own risk.'''

* ChekhovsGun/AnimeAndManga
* ChekhovsGun/ComicBooks
* ChekhovsGun/FanWorks
* ChekhovsGun/{{Film}}
* ChekhovsGun/{{Literature}}
** ChekhovsGun/HarryPotter
* ChekhovsGun/LiveActionTV
* ChekhovsGun/{{Mythology}}
* ChekhovsGun/ProfessionalWrestling
* ChekhovsGun/{{Radio}}
* ChekhovsGun/{{Roleplay}}
* ChekhovsGun/TableTopGaming
* ChekhovsGun/{{Theatre}}
* ChekhovsGun/VideoGames
* ChekhovsGun/WebAnimation
* ChekhovsGun/WebComics
* ChekhovsGun/WebOriginal
* ChekhovsGun/WesternAnimation

[[quoteright:300:[[Film/ShaunOfTheDead http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ShaunWinchesterBright2_6507.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:300:That's not the ''only'' reason, though... ]]

->"[[Podcast/{{Rifftrax}} As Chekhov said, if you show condiments on the table in the first act, they must slathered on chips in the third.]]"