Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Chekhov's Bursting Armory


Even though I studied English Lit in university and have taught it at the high school level for years, I really hadn't heard of (I am ashamed to admit) Chekhov's Gun until I started listening to podcasts - specifically, the Story Break and Dungeons & Daddies podcasts (largely the same people involved).  Not knowing what these folks were talking about eventually stuck in my craw enough that I looked it up.

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed. Elements should not appear to make "false promises" by never coming into play.  If there's a gun hanging on the wall in act 1, someone should fire the gun in act 2.

Huh.  How did I not know this term already?  It's kind of right in my wheelhouse.  Well, it got me thinking about how badly I abuse this rule of writing.  I leave these open plot devices everywhere in TOTM, on purpose.  I'm breaking the rule multiple times in every episode so that I will have plot opportunities present down the line, depending on how things play out.  In doing so, I leave masses of Chekhov's Guns in my wake.  Most recently (spoiler ahead) the party saves themselves from dying of thirst by drinking the holy water from the convent.  Symbolically, they were consuming 'hope'.  Well it worked out great for the story, but when Umura first found the holy water and filled a couple of vials, I had no idea if they would ever come into play.  I certainly didn't think the party would drink them.

In a way, I like that I am violating this rule again and again - it reminds me that I am not writing a novel, that the game element is a major factor & that, ultimately, chaos rules.

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