Anton Chekhov, the Russian playwright, said, “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.”
The shooting will be a reaction to something in the action or dialogue that causes such a violent response. And when the rifle goes off, that will stimulate another plot action. You must have a stimulus before a response, or your reader will feel set up and ask, “Where did that come from?”
Play fair with your reader
When we write novels, we don’t include every word of dialogue, every action, every plan. We include only elements that move the plot.
By introducing an element that flags the reader’s attention (Chekhov’s rifle), we insinuate it is significant, in essence promising a response.
Learn to make good use of stimulus and response, and your readers will never ask, “Where did that come from?”
Among Sandra’s more than three dozen books are the 2008 Christy Award finalist, Let Them Eat Cake, and its sequels, Bon Appétit and Piece de Résistance. Her young adult book series include Secret Sisters and Girls Like You, Friends for a Season, and The Hidden Diary.