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Chekhov's Gun

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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 Anton Chekhov (From S. Shchukin, Memoirs. 1911.)

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 Gun Depot also stocks:

Part A: General cases

Part B: You know what will invariably happen when you see any of these in a scene....

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. If something looks like a Chekhov's Gun but is really just a piece of Narrative Filigree then that's a Cow Tool.

The Magnetic Plot Device can be a standing Chekhov's Gun to blame the plot on. The Impossible Task may require one. Also see Ass Pull, 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 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 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 later on. Another term for this is "setup and payoff", a technique used by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale for the Back to the Future trilogy and regularly taught to scriptwriters nowadays.

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.


     Visual Novels 
  • Katawa Shoujo does this in Lilly's Good Ending. Lilly heads to the airport to leave for Scotland, never to return, a Race for Your Love scene ensues, but Hisao has a heart attack mere meters away from her. He comes to 2 days later in a hospital bed. He's laying there resenting himself for not being able to stop Lilly leaving and listening to the EKG speaker, when he notices a second sound in the room. He turns his head to the side and notices the music box he bought for Lilly back in Act 2. A few seconds later, Lilly herself comes into the room, having never left Japan.
That's not the only reason, though...

Alternative Title(s): This Will Be A Plot Point Later