F187. Chekhov’s Gun: How to Make Surprise Suspenseful

Room M100 F&G, Mezzanine Level
Friday, April 10, 2015
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm


The Russian author’s principle—that if a gun is seen in the first act it’d better go off by the third—famously speaks to the idea that every narrative element should be there for a purpose, but also to the necessity for surprise. So why is surprise such a challenge to employ effectively? Writers working in different narrative forms—novel, short story, play, memoir—consider the definition of surprise, how to incorporate it into your work, and how to approach the subject in the classroom.



John Fried’s fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including the Gettysburg Review, Minnesota Review, and North American Review. He teaches creative writing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Karen Dwyer teaches fiction and nonfiction writing at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. Her short stories and essays have appeared in BrainChild, Gettysburg Review, Arts & Letters, Red Mountain Review, Jet Fuel Review, and Other Voices.

Irina Reyn is the author of the novel, What Happened to Anna K and the anthology, Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State. She teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Ivan Rodden (aka Ivan Faute) is a lecturer at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. His creative work includes short fiction, drama, and novels.


March 8–11, 2023
Seattle, Washington

Washington State Convention Center