Sow Your Characters’ Emotions in Early

Josh Weil

In a thought-provoking post over at Glimmer Train, Josh Weil talks about Chekhov’s rule: If you bring a gun into the story, then it must fire by the end.

Weil reverses it to produce a new insight: “If you’re going to fire a gun at the end, you’d better bring it in near the beginning.” He goes on to discuss how the emotions that will drive action need to be seeded early:

When a character does something (say, suddenly draws a gun out of his pants waist), that action must be supported by actions that have come before; the mentality that causes it needs to be developed before the action happens. Long before. 

Go read the full post.

Also this month at Glimmer Train:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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4 Comments on "Sow Your Characters’ Emotions in Early"

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carol schlanger

I think the quote comes from Chekhov not Nabokov…then again.

Marcy Mason McKay

You’re so right that symbols SHOULD take on double-duty to have more impact on our readers. Thanks for the reminder.

Alexander Limberg
I actually find Weil’s rule more imperative than Chekhov’s: Firing out of every gun or cylinder that has been introduced also becomes very predictable. This advice was more useful during Chekhov’s time, when it might not have felt like every story had been told a billion times before. It’s a bit outdated today. However, bringing an item or a notion in without “seeding” it first is a big no-no. It will throw your readers off, because they will feel manipulated. After all, the items and actions of fiction should derive from that very same fiction, and not from the author… Read more »
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