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."
Chekhov, master of the short story, gave this advice: 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 Doomsday Device
, 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 Ass Pull
, but that's not key to the meaning of the phrase.
As a result of the success of franchises like LOST
or Harry Potter
, viewers and fans of Myth Arc
-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 Epileptic Trees
and Wild Mass Guessing
- Chekhov's Armoury: A whole stash of Chekhov's Guns.
- Chekhov's Army: A whole stash of Chekhov's Gunmen.
- Chekhov's Boomerang: Chekhov's Gun has already been used once, then unexpectedly turns up again.
- Chekhov's Classroom: Remember what you heard, when you weren't even listening?
- Chekhov's Exhibit: Chekhov's Gun will be put on display for the general public to gawk at. Before it's stolen, of course.
- Chekhov's Gag: You thought Chekhov's Gun was only introduced for the Rule of Funny, but later it goes off dramatically.
- Chekhov's Gift: Happy birthday! Here, have a Chekhov's Gun.
- Chekhov's Gunman: 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.
- Chekhov's Hobby: Like Chekhov's Skill, but it is merely established that the character has the skill rather than showing them using or learning it beforehand.
- Chekhov M.I.A.: Remember that missing character? It's actually a Chekhov's Gunman.
- Chekhov's News: When a news report mentions something that will be important later.
- Chekhov's Skill: What you learn along the way can be a Chekhov's Gun.
- Chekhov's Volcano: How could a volcano be a Chekhov's Gun? Sooner or later, it's going to be of importance when it erupts, as volcanoes do.
- Conspicuously Light Patch: The Chekhov's Gun of old, traditional Western Animation, where anything obviously not part of the static (and often painted) background layer will be put to use by a character.
- Conspicuous CG: The analogue for CGI, newer cartoons, and more video games.
- Empty Room Psych: In a video game, all places must have a purpose.
- Forbidden Chekhov's Gun: Never do this. Ever. (Unless you've crossed the Godzilla Threshold...)
- Incurable Cough of Death: The medical Chekhov's Gun. If you coughed in the first act, you can bet that you'll be dead by third.
- Infallible Babble: If prophecies are always right, then nonsense and hearsay is even moreso.
- Ironic Echo
- It May Help You on Your Quest: Take this seemingly-useless item. Go on, take it! You may need it.
- The Legend of Chekhov: If someone tells a fairy tale or legend, it'll turn out to be true.
- Meaningful Echo: A line of idle dialogue is later repeated in a context that gives it additional significance.
- Not-So-Small Role: Character #23 is played by who? They'd never have signed on for so small a role!
- Notice This: It must be important to the plot — look where it's positioned and lighted.
- Plot Device All Along: Something mundane that the character uses regularly and constantly turns out to have been a highly important artifact.
- The Promise: A verbal Chekhov's Gun where a promise is made and later comes up whereupon the promiser will be required to act.
- Rule of Pool: You know what will invariably happen when you see any of these in a scene....
- Someday This Will Come in Handy: Useless knowledge is always important. Compare Lecture, Skill.
- You Will Know What to Do: You are told it will be important, but you aren't told when, how, or why.
Compare Schrödinger's Gun
for a competing dramatic weapons dealer. Contrast to a Red Herring
, 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 The Walrus Was Paul
, 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 Brick Joke
. 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 Fourth Wall
, you have a Ninja Prop
. If a Chekhov's gun is set up but dropped (but was neither intended to distract as a Red Herring
nor to be brought up later, as a Brick Joke
), you have either an Aborted Arc
or What Happened to the Mouse?
, depending on the importance of the gun to the overall plot.
The Magnetic Plot Device
can be a standing Chekhov's Gun to blame the plot on. The Impossible Task
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 edited out
in the TV version).
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 Indy's
early encounter with a snake at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark
and how it set up his much larger encounter with them
Not to be confused with Chekov's Gun
(or Chekhov's Pun
, for that matter). See also Call Back
, Brick Joke
, and Running Gag
This trope contains spoilers by necessity. Read at your own risk.
That's not the only reason, though...