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Inner Monologue
aka: Streamof Consciousness

Wolverine: I'm the best there is at what I do, including inner monologues.
Rorschach: Challenge accepted. Rorschach's journal, March 6, 1985. Found myself in room with cheap white background, a clean white mask for the greed of two giant corporations.
Wolverine: This is what I'm up against? A reject from "I Love The Eighties"?
—Wolverine and Rorschach talking during this segment of I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC

The character's thoughts are dubbed into the soundtrack, often with a slight reverb.

One frequently used subversion is when other characters hear what is said and respond in their own thoughts. It's mostly used when two characters use this device in the same scene. This can be milked for comedy if the character switches from inner to outer monologue accidentally. Also known as a Stream of Consciousness. In literature, of course, including an inner monologue is essentially the default state in a way that isn't the case in TV, movies, or other media. When a monologue is being emphasised in printed media for whatever reason, you'll often find the use of Think in Text to make it distinctive.

If the character intentionally says this "out loud" to an empty room (the audience), then it is a simple Soliloquy. If another character responds or reacts, even though they shouldn't be able to, that's Inner Monologue Conversation.

Compare with Narrator, Captain's Log, and Sounding It Out. A specific example is the Private Eye Monologue. Contrast Surrogate Soliloquy, when the thoughts are forced out at an inanimate or nonsentient target to avoid voiceover. A closely related Video Game trope is I Can't Use These Things Together.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Just about everyone gets a few in Death Note, though Light and L come out on top by a substantial margin.
  • Kyon of Suzumiya Haruhi, is this trope in human form. He acts as the narrator, has moments of Did I Just Say That Out Loud? and comments on everything with a mix of Unreliable Narrator and Lemony Narrator. The problem is that the main character, Haruhi is extremely Genre Savvy, and a God, according to some of Itsuki's superiors. The others just see her as a ridiculously powerful Reality Warper.
    • In the novels, Kyon's dialogue is often not put in quotation marks, which means it can be very difficult to determine whether he is narrating or talking aloud until someone responds to him. The anime will often not show Kyon's mouth during these scenes, leaving the ambiguity intact.
  • Code Geass: Lelouch in particular does this. It comes back to bite him in Episodes 14-16 of the first season.
  • Yuuichi of Kanon, who, like Kyon, was the narrator of his respective work (putting aside Kyo Ani's adaption which lead to the characters' similar appearance and same voice actor).
  • Sora, the protagonist from Sketchbook, is extremely shy and doesn't say much, but the viewer gets deep insights into her mind through her extensive inner monologues. And what a special and observant mind it is.
  • In D.N.Angel, Daisuke and Dark sometimes have conversations together through a dual inner monologue, since they share the same body. (Other times, however, it's implied that one doesn't know what the other is thinking, so they must have to actively want to do this for it to happen.)
  • This is used often in Princess Tutu. Ahiru (which means "Duck", as she's called in the dub), the emotional lead character, has a tendency to cut off her inner monologues by shouting her next thought out loud, much to the confusion of those around her. It's also used for comedic effect in one scene, when she's having an inner monologue about how she's "only a duck" while her teacher is calling out her name. It ends up with her looking up and shouting at him "Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm a duck!" only to be berated by her teacher for her outburst.
  • Kanako from Maria†Holic has a very chatty Inner Monologue. Unusually, Mariya can enter into her monologues and correct her.
  • Gantz was 80% inner dialog, used not for exposition or analysis, but overwrought, confused, repetitive, self-absorbed internalizing. Every actual hazard to life hung, while designated heroes stood stock still in shock as one character hammered the obvious personal emotional crises, interspersed with other characters brief reflection on the danger they or another were in. Audience with the patience to sit through that would be rewarded with one onscreen action followed by another extended tour of everyone's sparse inner thoughts.
  • Heavily used in GSD: The Edge, as the manga series focuses heavily on the thoughts and intentions of the cast.
  • Most of the finale to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • Kanamemo has this with Kana, done Once an Episode.
  • Used humorously in One Piece Skypiea arc, Gedatsu often confuses his inner and outer monologues, often having to be reminded that he has to use his voice to be heard.
  • Kaze to Ki no Uta has a lot of these.
  • Comically played with in Zettai Karen Children where in some scenes the author makes the readers believe that Minamoto is having an internal monologue, and then suddenly he gets angry at the nearby standing Fujiko who, as we suddenly discover, was actually the one who voiced a fake Minamoto's internal monologue that she invented on spot.
  • Hidenori in Daily Lives of High School Boys has extensive internal monologues in skits focusing him.
  • In Saint Beast, Judas is very prone to this, as a lot of what he is thinking about is treason.
  • Makoto in Nicoichi is extremely fond of inner monologues, which even manifests as an internal conversation (complete with occasional arguments) between his male and female personae!
  • Roger Smith of The Big O is prone to occasional fits of introspection that more or less serve as narration and/or plot notes for the audience.

    Audio Play 
  • Parodied by The Firesign Theatre, in their sketch, "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger". Nick's internal monologue ends with: "How do I make my voice do this?"

    Comic Books 
  • Cerebus the Aardvark:
    • There was a very long inner dialogue between Cerebus and "Dave". Since this all takes place in Cerebus's head it looks like an Inner Monologue - there's nothing to indicate which thoughts are Cerebus's and which are Dave's except the context. Of course Cerebus is never sure if Dave is for real anyway.
    • Cerebus also has regular inner monologues, getting more frequent as the series progresses - reflecting either Sim's storytelling getting more experimental, or Cerebus himself growing more introspective. Earlier, the Cockroach had a tendency to narrate his situation, either aloud or in his head.
  • Deadpool: Who can forget his yellow boxes? He loves his yellow boxes!
    • Deadpool sometimes goes as far as to CONVERSE with his inner monologue as though it is another personality.
    • Subverted at one point, where someone tells him he is actually talking out loud.
  • Comics as a whole used thought balloons (compared with smoother speech bubbles) to show characters' thoughts. Their use has declined in the superhero genre in the last decade and a half, as characters narrating in coloured boxes has become more common (this sort of character narration has also almost entirely replaced the older convention of third-person narrative captions).
  • Spider-Man does this a lot, at least when he's not talking to himself.
  • In the Bronze Age, Superman used a lot of thought bubbles, too. It gave him a rather introspective air. The real reason for this is the same reason Spider-Man uses them—Superman had no regular partners to banter Expo Speak with. Now that Supes is married to Lois, he can Expo Speak with her, and the thought bubbles are less necessary. Oddly, the current title that has Supes do the most inner monologuing is the team-up book he shares with Batman—because he and Bats are the narrators.
  • The title character of The Maxx often has these. Like Deadpool above, he sometimes accidentally talks aloud when having them.

     Fan Works 
  • Present as Cloud's "conscience" in the Final Fantasy VII fanfic My Disjointed Life. It never misses an opportunity to hilariously humiliate Cloud. Made even funnier in that multiple characters regularly comment on Cloud's zoning out in the midst of things around him.
  • Used in Kira Is Justice (since this is based on Death Note) in Chapter Two and Three the most, and in other places too.
  • In ''Zenith, Darkness, Reverie'', if you consider Kali and Kira to be the same person, the entirety of the story, with the exception of Cyardas's and Kali's family's infrequent dialogue, is a lengthy, artistically incoherent internal monologue about morality, insanity, and the nature of reality.
  • Turnabout Storm has both characters that take the point of view, Phoenix Wright and Twilight Sparkle, use internal monologue in typical Ace Attorney fashion. This means lots of snarking to themself as the Only Sane Man/Mare in a world of crazies.

    Film 
  • Parodied in Airplane! when Robert Hayes begins an inner monologue with an echoed recollection, then notices the echo and gets distracted by pretending to be a baseball announcer inside his head.
  • Parodied again in Airplane II: The Sequel:
    • A young boy ponders his father's behavior.
    Jimmy: Dad never slaps me around at home. It must be his coffee.
    Jimmy's Mom: No. I've been serving him decaf. Maybe he's just an asshole.
    • When someone asks "What do your people (the flight controllers) think?"
    Flight Controller #1: They're screwed.
    Flight Controller #2: They're dead.
    Johnny: Did I leave the iron on?
  • In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, one of the songs Belle and Beast has them apparently singing in their minds. In an interesting use of the trope, this is the first time we hear the Beast's human voice, undistorted by his monstrous form.
  • A variation: child actor Peter Billingsly spends most of A Christmas Story creating/reacting to Jean Shepard's reminiscing.
  • Another variation/parody occurs in Finding Nemo: When they're plunged into darkness, Dory assumes Marlin to be her conscience having an Inner Monologue with her.
    Marlin:Yes, I am your conscience. Now, tell me Dory, what do you see?
    Dory: I see a light. Conscience, am I dead?
    • Wouldn't that be an inner dialogue?
      • It's her conscience, so...possibly? Not really? Gah!
  • Spoofed in Austin Powers where, after being unfrozen, Austin meets his new female partner. However, as an unusual side effect of the unfreezing process, Austin is incapable of having an inner monologue and unknowingly says "I bet she shags like a minx." aloud and right in front of her.
  • Used extensively in The Thin Red Line (1998), to the point of the voiceovers outnumbering the dialogues.
  • Used quite a bit (and then lampshaded) in Adaptation.
  • Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has some truly epic inner moments:
    Duke: How long could we maintain? I wondered. How long until one of us starts raving and jabbering at this boy? What will he think then? This same lonely desert was the last known home of the Manson Family; will he make that grim connection when my attorney starts screaming about bats and huge manta rays coming down on the car? If so, well, we'll just have to cut his head off and bury him somewhere, 'cause it goes without saying that we can't turn him loose. He'd report us at once to some kind of outback Nazi law enforcement agency and they'll run us down like dogs. Jesus, did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did they hear me?
  • The inner monologue in David Lynch's adaptation of Dune is infamous. While in most examples the audience is only privy to the inner monologue of the main protagonist, in Dune we are treated to the inner thoughts of every. single. character. The film is almost nothing but inner monologue.
  • Abused horribly in the Miramax cut of The Thief and the Cobbler. The film was originally meant to have little-to-no dialogue at all from the titular characters and their stories were meant to be told through the animation. In the Miramax version the two characters have inner monologue throughout the whole film, and combined with the animation it leads to many Captain Obvious statements.
  • Ferris Buellers Day Off records some of Jeannie's thoughts this way.

    Live Action TV 
  • Constantly used on Scrubs, specifically the inner monologue of the main character JD, and occasionally other characters.
    JD:...and no matter how much I try, I can't stop constantly narrating my own life. (thinking) At that very moment, I feared I had divulged too much.
  • George from Dead Like Me has one, slightly louder and clearer than her voice on the actual soundtrack. She's a combination of Inner Monologue and the Narrator.
  • In the Sitcom Peep Show, we see everything from the point of view of one of the characters. Mark and Jeremy's points of view are often accompanied by their Inner Monologues.
  • In an episode of The Prisoner filmed when Patrick McGoohan was busy on a movie, Number 6's mind is put into another man's body. This leads to the somewhat odd sight of another actor walking around trying to look like he's having the thoughts we hear in McGoohan's voice.
  • Dark Angel does this for season 1 and a few episodes of season two. Albaeit in a lesser manner.
  • Burn Notice has Michael often explaining how spies operate in certain situations, and explaining deadpan-manner the stupidities of Hollywood Science.
    • Not entirely played straight in that the character's thoughts are not being played out. It's more like a subtle shift to an instructional video rather than demonstrating the character's thought process. Most notably, Michael will always do the narration even if the events in question are miles away from his character.
  • Dexter uses this a lot. It helps highlight the difference between the socially acceptable role he plays and his true (sociopathic) thoughts and responses.
  • The Young Ones, when Rick's conscience has a go at him for inhuming Neil.
    Vyvyan: Rick! Will you tell your conscience to keep it's voice down!
  • This is done on the show Parker Lewis Can't Lose only when Parker is thinking. Nobody else's voice is heard, much like in Scrubs.
  • In Seventeen Moments of Spring, Russian TV series from early 70's, internal monologues of main protagonist, colonel Isayev are presented through voice-overs. And as they often consist of solemn but rather obvious statements, their parodies created a sub-genre of jokes immediately recognisable in Russia and several other post-Soviet coutries.
  • Played with on Titus, where the "neutral space" Titus narrates each episode from could be considered his internal monologue. In one episode, he is going on a rant about a judge in the neutral space... cut to the courtroom he is sitting in in real life, where he is saying this rant in front of said judge.
  • Rui and Vani, the protagonists of Brazilian sitcom Os Normais were prone to this - and most frequently speaking out loud instead of voice-overs. It is further stated that's inner/ No Fourth Wall monologuing because either of the couple did breaks during conversations to address the audience - and the other person in the dialogue never noticed.
  • Used frequently in The War At Home, along with a special white background and (sometimes) imaginary objects.
  • Each episode of Earth 2 was narrated by a different member of the crew. At the start of the episode the narrration was general; during the episode they were talking about specific things that were happening, and at the end they talked about what they'd learned or how they'd changed as a result.
  • The 10th Kingdom briefly depicts some of Wolf's thoughts this way while he's in the casino.
  • The Cougar Town episode "The Criminal Mind", as part of a The Breakfast Club homage. Typical of the show, it gets Lampshaded early on; Travis talks about the use of voice-over for expositon and characterization. Then Jules' first monologue starts with "That is so stupid."
  • Sometimes used on Star Trek: The Original Series in place of a Captain's Log.

    Theater 
  • This is a staple of film portrayals of William Shakespeare soliloquies; probably the most famous example is Olivier's version of the "To be or not to be" monologue.
    • Parodied in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, in which Hamlet (who looks a bit like Olivier, come to think of it), is clearly doing the soliloquy in his head, but the audience doesn't hear his Inner Monologue. Part of the whole point of the play/film was that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are given no explanations, so have no idea what's going on.
  • Unlike traditional musicals, every song in Spring Awakening has been described as functioning like inner monologue for the characters. Lyrics reflect the feelings they don't or can't express to the outside world at that moment, and often at the end of the song characters will return to exactly how they were when the song began, as in the "real world" nothing happened.

    Video Games 
  • The two Touch Detective games make excellent use of this as the titular detective, MacKenzie, runs commentary on the chaos around her. This, like most uses of Inner Monologue, cements her as the Deadpan Snarker and the only sane girl of the cast.
    • Even more interestingly, it's often done simultaneously on the top screen of the DS while the normal conversation is on the bottom screen (or vice versa, can't remember).
  • Garrett from Thief plays this trope to a "T". Everything he does that's related to the plot of the game, is usually followed by either a snide or casual remark. Except, of course, in... ugh, The Shalebridge Cradle... then they're either disgusted or disturbed remarks. See the mission briefing for said level, and the below quote as an example
    Garrett: This must be her blood. It's still warm... great.
  • Squall Leonhart in Final Fantasy VIII monologues internally much more than he actually speaks aloud. His Inner Monologues provide so much of his characterization that they are retained for his appearance in Dissidia: Final Fantasy.
    • Kefka, being the crossover's Meta Guy, calls him out on this in the prequel. "You sure are talkative - in your head!"
  • While not voiced, Ace Attorney has a TON of inner monologues, most of them being of sarcastic comments on a person or situation. This is parodied in some parts when other characters can almost read what Phoenix is thinking. In the third game, Edgeworth actually thinks "Thank God for inner monologue" to himself after a snarky internal comment.
  • Samus occasionally has these. She has one after her ship crashes and she loses her suit in Zero Mission, and she has a ton in Fusion.
    • And again in Other M, with an actual voice this time.
  • In City of Heroes, one of your tour guides in the Architect Building has a broken inner monologue.
  • Edwin Odesseiron could be seen as parodying this; he does the same thing out loud, but doesn't seem to be aware that others can hear him.
  • Exit Fate protagonist Daniel Vinyard often has these in situations of moral conflict, though mostly just in form of a few sentences to himself after his dialogue partner has left.
  • This is the only way Jake from Dogs Life talks, as he is a (realistic) dog. He's the only dog to talk in this game, as all the other ones you control just bark (as Jake does under most circumstances). Jake's a Deadpan Snarker, who often make comments in his head about his surroundings or the NPCs.
  • In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, the hero does this very often, but has almost nothing to offer in the way of actual speech.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Boys Will Be Eds", where most of the guys in the cul-de-sac find themselves infatuated with girl-next-door Nazz, and we hear their internal monologues during a pickup game of baseball:
    Kevin: She's so radical.
    Eddy: She can't take her eyes off me!
    Edd: Her hair is so clean, and not fly-away at all.
    Ed: Hello? Echo! My name is Ed!
  • In The Simpsons, Homer can be often seen engaging in an inner monologue that sometimes becomes an inner conversation between him and his brain:
    Homer: Aw, twenty dollars?! I wanted a peanut!
    Homer's Brain: Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts!
    Homer: Explain how!
    Homer's Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services!
    Homer: Woo-hoo!
    • In one episode, Marge is driving along and appears to be hearing Homer's voice in her head, until it's revealed that Homer is in the back seat of the car speaking through a cardboard tube.
    • In another episode, Homer actually loses track of which is his inner monologue and what he's saying out loud. Unfortunately, this "thoughts" freak Marge out (justifiably).
  • This is used for comedic effect in WordGirl. In one episode, the titular superhero was having an inner monologue about the situation, and the Narrator chimed in to comment. WordGirl asked him how he could hear what she was thinking, and the Narrator merely reminded her of his role.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, beyond the occasional banter, Batman's dialogue is often largely serious. This is contrast with his various bits we hear of his Inner Monologue, where he is frequently a smart-ass Meta Guy.
  • Spider-Man the Animated Series uses this extensively.
  • Used on occasion by Tako of Sushi Pack, usually accompanied by a small representation of his own head for each line in his train of thought (which can be seen in action starting at 0:30 here.
    • In one episode, Maguro uses her mind-reading powers to join him in his inner monologue, which he does not appreciate.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, Big Pink Loser, Patrick starts copying everything that Spongebob does. Spongebob thinks to himself, "At least I'm safe inside my mind" only for Patrick to copy his Inner Monologue as well.
  • The titular heroine's inner monologue is an actual character in Lizzie McGuire.
  • Parodied in Family Guy, Stewie thinks "This is fantastic! Nobody suspects a thing! Ooh, listen to my voice, that sounds cool! Helloooo! Piiigs in Spaaaaace!"
    • At the beginning of "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.", Peter and Joe each have an inner monologue when Quagmire doesn't show up on their fishing trip.

    Real Life 
  • One common form of voice that people with schizophrenia hear is a narrator voice who describes everything they do. Many of these narrators insult the person a lot as well.
  • Most people probably do this.
  • One has to wonder whether this was a natural tendency before it was dramatized in media, or if it's come about as a result of being informed by media.

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alternative title(s): Stream Of Consciousness; Internal Monologue
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