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I believe there is an expression to refer to a part or an act of a story/movie that is not used for anything later, that does only exist and not used to built anything else on it. It's something like "lost unit/part". Is that it?

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In a movie case, I'm talking about scenes that ARE in the final product but adds nothing to the plot, as @RogerSinasohn said in their comment. For example, when a character steals a pen or something from a meeting table, you know that this will be used to develop other events on it. But what if no further events are even related to it, what would that scene be called?

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    Are you talking about "lost on the cutting room floor"? – Cascabel Jul 4 '17 at 15:14
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    I presume you aren't looking for deleted scenes?! – Steve Lovell Jul 4 '17 at 15:16
  • 'Scenes that didn't make the [final] cut' is another way of expressing @Cascabel's point. Often shown in the credits (e.g. when actors laugh/fall over/forget lines etc) – marcellothearcane Jul 4 '17 at 16:57
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    @marcellothearcane Otherwise known as outtakes....but I am not sure if this applies to a "story" as mentioned in the OP. – Cascabel Jul 4 '17 at 17:09
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    Also, please include a sentence showing how the word or phrase would be used (put an X or ___ where the word would go.) – Roger Sinasohn Jul 4 '17 at 17:14
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In a movie case, I'm talking about scenes that ARE in the final product but adds nothing to the plot, as @RogerSinasohn said in their comment.

I'm sticking to a movie context for the purposes of this answer.

There are only four* options here, I'll list all of them.

*Five, if you include bad cinematography as an option.


The person is shown stealing a pen, and this stolen pen is relevant to the plot later on.

That is an example of Chekhov's gun:

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed.


The person is shown stealing a pen, and this stolen pen is irrelevant to the plot later on.

If it is intended to mislead the viewer (they are supposed to expect this stolen pen to be relevant), then it is a Red Herring:

A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences towards a false conclusion.

However, if misleading the viewer was not intentional, then I do not think there is a name for this (other than calling it bad cinematography). It would be correct to call this a violation of Chekhov's gun.


The person is NOT shown stealing a pen, and this stolen pen is relevant to the plot later on.

It would be correct to call this a violation of Chekhov's gun, since everything relevant to the plot must be foreshadowed (so that it is not an unexpected solution to the problem that is the plot).

This particular stolen pen was not foreshadowed, but it was important, and that violates the principle.


The person is NOT shown stealing a pen, and this stolen pen is irrelevant to the plot later on.

This is a correct application of Chekhov's gun:

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed.

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  • Thank you for your answer. My question fits in the second case. – mockingjay Jul 5 '17 at 23:19
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Possible terms (not specific to films) are: irrelevant, misdirection, and red herring, although the latter two indicate an attempt to mislead.

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I'm thinking you are talking about "exposition" in movie making and storytelling.

But typically it does have to do with moving the plot forward, however it can also just be there to enhance detail, add richness to scenes, etc...

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    Why would someone downvote this? Do you need a link actually describing it? It's not just an essential literary element. It's also movie making jargon for potentially nonessential elements in a scene. I just cant see why it would be downvoted. Maybe I just don't fully get the upvoting and downvoting practices here? – Kace36 Jul 5 '17 at 18:48
  • I think this is a word that comes close to the question. It gives a purpose for types of scenes that may not be directly related to the plot and explains other conventions used to avoid such types of scenes .. elementsofcinema.com/screenwriting/exposition.html – Tom22 Jul 5 '17 at 20:35
  • One type of exposition is backstory. Scenes not related to the plot can show the nature of the character to build empathy and make a character less flat. Doing a bit of googling and looking at one of the other answers here, it seems like seems that exist only for exposition break a rule of story telling, but of course some great artists can challenge the rules at times and make it work. Here is the wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_(narrative) – Tom22 Jul 5 '17 at 20:58
  • Interesting critique of Manchester By the Sea use of backstory (spoilers within the article) indiewire.com/2017/02/… that touches on taboos about exposition. – Tom22 Jul 5 '17 at 21:01
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Maybe "extraneous":

not forming an essential or vital part

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