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Hermeneutic Code

 

Disciplines > StorytellingStory Devices > Hermeneutic Code

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

A Hermeneutic Code is something that is unexplained and which creates an unanswered question, often appearing at the beginning of the story, thus creating a tension that engages the audience.

Hermeneutic codes are at the root of all mysteries.

A coherent story will eventually explain and hence tie up all these loose ends.

Example

A person vanishes into thin air for no apparent reason.

A hero appears to be killed.

Most detectives stories are built almost entirely on hermeneutic codes.

Discussion

When something unexpected happens we are engaged as we try to explain why this has happened. We then watch intently to find out whether our explanation is true. If we have not made any prediction, we attend carefully so we will be able to explain.

This term was introduced by Roland Barthes to distinguish it from the Proairetic Code.

See also

Twist ending, The need to predict

 

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