Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Chekhov’s Six Principles for Story Writing

Anton Chekhov’s six principles for story writing, as articulated in a letter to his brother Alexander dated May 10, 1886:

1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature;
2. total objectivity;
3. truthful descriptions of persons and objects;
4. extreme brevity;
5. audacity and originality: flee the stereotype;
6. compassion.

Quoted in Richard Pevear’s introduction to Anton Chekhov, Stories (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, 2000).


jdoublep said...

brevity, fo' sho'.

AmyC said...

I imagine it would be a daunting challenge for a writer to try and follow all six ... I find that most contemporary work can't stay away from number one.

LK said...

Thank tou for this. Kate, do you write (or know anything about) flash fiction? I've been asked by editor to submit something, and I'm not sure of this genre...

Razovsky said...

He forgot:

7. Hamburgers.

Christopher Willard author of Garbage Head said...

I recently read a book quoting Chekhov and his ideas. Much of what he said is true, for example brevity in the short story. On the other hand I find him to be a bit wallowing in that old saw-modernist-trapping of saying things like 'Oh my work is so bad I should destroy it all. How can I write.' (those are not quotes by the way) Then he turns right around to criticize other writers in severe but vague terms -- the feeling isn't quite there, or it's not true. Not much a writer can do with this type of generality. And I find him like Nabokov who hated Don Quixote -- able to appreciate writing that only conforms to his way of doing things. He'd probably make a terrible writing teacher. But that's minor. His work is terrific.

Timon said...

It's important to bear in mind that Chekhov's principles come in reaction against the legacy of the classic 19th century novel, especially Tolstoy. L.N. Tolstoy transgressed the first five rules. As far as compassion is concerned, I think T is just as compassionate as Chekhov, if not more.