Chekhov’s gun

a.k.a. applying the Russian method to scientific writing

About 150 years ago, there lived a man in Russia, whose name was Anton Chekhov. He was a doctor by training, but also happened to write some really amazing fiction (and also non-fiction, actually). Furthermore, he formulated a dramatic principle called Chekhov’s gun, which states: “remove everything that has no relevance to the story. 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.”

According to the principle of Checkov's gun you should not introduce an element into a narrative, unless it is necessary for the story to proceed.

According to the principle of Checkov’s gun you should not introduce an element into a narrative, unless it is necessary for the story to proceed. Picture courtesy of luckyfish @ flickr.

The last few weeks I have been thinking about this principle a lot, while I’ve been rewriting a paper for review. Continue reading

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