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Inner Monologue Conversation

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Turk: [thinking] (Make me a grilled cheese sandwich, woman!)
Carla: Make it yourself!
Turk: [screams]
Scrubs, "His Story"

You have a character who's thinking. Not Thinking Out Loud, actually thinking inside their own head. And yet, another, non-psychic character can still hear them. And starts talking back—mentally or aloud. The first character's lips didn't move, and no one has any means of telepathy or Applied Phlebotinum.


If characters weren't aware this was even possible, this is an Unexpected Gameplay Change of sorts applied to the rules of communication. Expect many a Flat "What" in response.

In some instances, this is because the characters know each other well enough. Not that that makes any more sense. In this case, if a character actually acts to react to the other character's thought process, then it could be a Preemptive "Shut Up" or The Tape Knew You Would Say That. All three of these are meant to automatically fall under Rule of Funny.

Because thought will happen in any quote used in an example, please use (parentheses) to indicate thought speak, and "quotation marks" to indicate normal speech, as in the quote above.

Compare Imagine Spotting.



    open/close all folders 

  • In an ad for AT&T U-Verse (satillite TV service), a female customer thinks about the service and a male sales rep responds. At one point she thinks (Is this guy reading my mind?) and he responds, "No, ma'am."

     Anime and Manga 
  • During the Desperate Fight of Disciples in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, The Elder reads Niijima's mind while he's going over his strategy to use a weaker member of the Shinpaku Alliance as a Sacrificial Lamb.
  • Happens multiple times in Death Note. Between Light and L. Happens once more in the Grand Finale between Light and Mikami in which both sides are somehow conversing in thought, with Mikami mentally asking Light how he could move freely while Light mentally replies back calling him an idiot and what he's done wrong.
  • During the Arlong Park battles in One Piece, Nojiko & Genzou have such a conversation while underwater and trying to rescue Luffy. One Piece is generally confusing in that it uses thought bubbles as both thought bubbles and whisper bubbles, making it seem like the characters are thinking when they're really whispering to each other.
  • The characters of Beelzebub often start doing this in funny situations. At first it was just a one-off the two main characters did (described as telepathy), but after that everyone started joining in.
  • In Masaya Hokazono's Inugami, all animals, including the Inugami (wolves with various powers commanded by an unknown voice to leave the forest and spy on humans), speak by some form of thought speech to each other unheard by humans. One of the wolves, 23 (because of the of the number tattooed to his ear) learns to speak English with assistance from his human companion, Fumiki. When 23 encounter Zero, another Inugami, the latter is enraged partly because of cruelty at the hands of humans, and what he thinks are crude noises coming from 23's mouth. Zero later learns English himself when captured by the head of an unscrupulous pharmaceutical corporation, yet his hatred of humans remains until the very end of the series.
  • All of Elgala's Inner Monologues in Excel Saga turn into this, thanks to everyone being able to inexplicably hear them.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya's anime adaptation hints at this at times. It can be hard to tell whether Kyon is talking to himself or having an internal monologue, particularly when his mouth is hidden, so its ambiguous whether Haruhi responding to him is a case of Did I Just Say That Out Loud? or this trope.



  • In Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, a group of passengers on a train keep speaking in chorus and commenting that X is worth a thousand pounds a Y, but no one's really listening. The passengers hear Alice's thoughts, and she hears theirs, too.
    Alice: (There's no use in speaking.)
    Passengers, in chorus:note  (Better say nothing at all. Language is worth a thousand pounds a word!)
  • Edgar Allan Poe story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" starring C. Auguste Dupin is probably a Trope Maker. In the story Dupin is walking silently with his friend who is also silent, and then says something apropos to what the friend is thinking. Dupin explains that he followed his friend's thoughts based on body and eye cues, and jumped in at an appropriate time.
  • Poe's version is also referenced by Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson on a couple of occasions, to prove to Watson he's as good as the fictional Dupin, even though Holmes thinks doing it is "showy and superficial." The idea is taken even further when Holmes meets Professor Moriarty and their conversation starts with "You already know what I'm going say," "You know what I'm going to answer to that." (Then they have the conversation out loud anyway for the reader's benefit.)
  • In On Stranger Tides, the vodun magician called Woefully Fat is deaf, and never responds to anything spoken to him — but several times he gives an answer to what the protagonist had just thought.

     Live Action TV  
  • One episode of Kenan & Kel begins with the titular characters prepping the audience, then thinking to themselves about each other and the audience. Inexplicably, halfway through the intro, Kenan is able to hear Kel's thoughts and proceeds to tell him what to do while in Kel's head. Kel is left wondering why he can't actually talk back, then opens the episode anyway.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Ted and Marshall are in some tense situation together. Marshall stares intently at Ted, and you can hear his thoughts in voiceover: (Ted, we've been friends so long that I know you can read my thoughts by now. Go get Lily). Ted, staring back, nods and leaves. Subverted in that he comes back with something else completely, as he thought Marshall wanted something else.
    • Marshall and Lily have "telepathic" conversations many times, Ted and Barney do at least once (which is rather hilarious, in that all Barney's thinking is the Beach Boy's "Kokomo"), and in one notable instance, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney all have one around Ted, where they coordinate a verbal attack to trick Ted into dyeing his hair blond.
    • Ted and his fiance Stella has one after Stella's sister told them her fiance left her and she can't get a refund but it leads to a Nonverbal Miscommunication. Ted thought it was about paying for lunch. Stella thought it was about taking the wedding. It was foreshadowing that they don't get together and they don't.
  • This happens several times on Spaced. It is also subverted in Spaced when they're forced to come up with a lie:
    Daisy (thinking): (It's times like this I wish I was telepathic. Don't you, Tim?)
    Tim: ...
    Daisy (thinking): (Damn!)
  • In iParty With Victorious (an iCarly/Victorious crossover), Carly, Sam and Freddie use this to figure out how to get revenge on a cheating boyfriend. Tori lampshades this by asking to be included.
  • An episode of Friends opens with the characters minds wandering when Ross is explaining something. Joey's internal monologue is just a random (doo doo-doo doo). Phoebe's is (Who's singing?)
  • In the "His Story" episode of Scrubs, Turk's internal monologue includes the fact that the hot girl who's seated at the main table at their wedding isn't really his cousin. Carla immediately tells him that the girl's being reseated. Turk then decides to experiment:
    Turk: (Make me a grilled cheese sandwich, woman!)
    Carla: "Make it yourself!"
    Turk: (screams)
  • This is the way how dogs talk to each other in the Married... with Children universe. There's also an episode with Al, Peg, Marcy and Jefferson singing "The Way We Were" in their respective heads and they all start crying at the same time.
  • Played with in an episode of Charmed (1998), where Piper, after leaving the room, responds to Phoebe's internal monologue, which had been implied to be more of a narration than an actual thought process. Particularly strange, seeing as the series deals with the supernatural, so mind-reading is entirely possible, but since Magic A Is (usually) Magic A, Phoebe should have had more of a reaction than mild surprise.
    Phoebe: (But it can be hard to know where to start.)
    Piper: *calling from upstairs* "Start with Dex!"
  • In The Olden Days, Governor Frontbottom is thinking to himself about how to deal with the mud-diggers, when an unnamed sergeant walks out of a tent and asks him to keep his thinking down because he can't sleep, "not with you walking around wrestling with inner demons."

     Newspaper Comics  
  • A Running Gag in Sally Forth (Howard) is that Hilary's friend Nona can somehow read her thought bubbles, which freaks her out.
  • Beetle Bailey
    • General Halftrack is freaked out when he notices his wife can effectively read his thoughts. She also reacts to that thought.
    • One time, Beetle keeps his mouth shut at Sarge, but gets beaten up anyway for obviously thinking something bad. He complains that he has a sergeant that's both psychopathic and telepathic.
  • Garfield has this, by way of Thought Bubble Speech, in the strips he shares with Jon, who answers to his thoughts either verbally or through Aside Glances and similar reactions. His interactions with other animals, except for Odie, have them thinking back and forth.

  • In the play Interiors by Dean Barrett, each character is accompanied by a second actor representing the character's inner monologue. Partway through the play, the inner monologues realise they can hear each other, and start holding their own conversation independent of the external conversation taking place at the same time.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney games make liberal use of internal monologue, but every so often Phoenix's assistant (or opponent, or witness) will react to what he's thinking... sometimes angrily. He lampshades it at one point, complaining that he didn't say anything out loud!
  • Sayaka Maizono from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc does this frequently. Jokingly claiming that she is psychic is pretty much her Catchphrase.

    Web Animation 
  • This quote from Girlchan in Paradise!! features both a mental and a verbal response in the conversation:
    Kenstar: (internally) I sure hope we don't have to face another Bushido Blaster. I aaaaaaam tired.
    Kotobaru-san-sama: (also internally) Me too.
    Kenstar: (aloud) Wait...

    Web Original 
  • I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC used this in a competition between Wolverine and Rorschach. As the characters' mouths never move, this is only noted by stating it occuring and a slight change in inflection.
  • One of the Pokémon Movie Review Crossovers being done by Suède, Linkara, and Jew Wario starts off with the first two having deep internal monologues, about errors and their hatred of overblown narration respectively, when Jew Wario just stares at the camera for a moment thinking "....cats are funny....". A second round of internal monologues begin, this time about how much fun reviewing the movies was and their goal of getting the (fictional) Pokémon MMO released by reviewing all the movies. Except that Jew Wario starts to mentally sing his superhero theme, interrupting Linkara who notes it as "rude". Suède than asks them if "as long as we're breaking at least seven laws of physics" they want to review the next movie. They agree, and enter the game world.
  • Dad: Dad, Mom, and Daughter all speak to each-other without using their mouths; why this happens isn't explained, but Neighbor, despite speaking like a normal person, can hear and respond to Dad's inner-monologue anyway and the conversation carries on like normal. Notably, in "Dad Is Out", Dad is outside the usual set and learns to speak with his mouth, making it clear he and his family have always communicated mentally before this.

     Western Animation  
  • Most of the Big City Greens episode "Quiet Please" becomes this when the Greens are warned by the Scary Librarian she will ban them for good if they make even one sound, even talking and whispering; to get around this, Tilly suggests they use sign language and charades whenever they need to talk. From this point, there is mostly no spoken dialogue, with most of it played out through their thoughts usually translating their sign language.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Three Men and a Comic Book", Lisa tells Bart he'll have to get a job to pay for the rare comic book he wants, and Bart starts having an internal monologue a la The Wonder Years (complete with voice-over by Daniel Stern). Then Homer yells at Bart to stop staring off into space monologuing.
    • An interesting example from "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", where both Principal Skinner & Homer think at Bart; it's not clear that Bart can hear them but it is implied that Homer can hear Skinner.
      Skinner: (I know you can read my thoughts, Bart. Just a little reminder: if I found out you cut class, your ass is mine. Yes, you heard me. I think words I would never say.)
      Homer: (I know you can read my thoughts, boy. ]sings the "Meow Mix" song in his head])
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Big Pink Loser", Patrick is imitating everything Spongebob says and does. Spongebob thinks "(At least I'm safe inside my mind)", then hears Patrick thinking the same thing!
  • This is how every non-human character talks in Garfield and Friends, carrying over a tradition from the comics. However they move their mouths in The Garfield Show.
  • In American Dad!, Klaus and Haley consider using their telepathy to screw with Steve, but decide on a different plan instead.
  • Played with on the season one finale on Drawn Together, when the cast is aboard a helicopter fleeing a missile attack. Clara asks Wooldoor, who is the pilot, what is he doing. Everyone looks at each other and nods their heads. Clara responds with "Why are you all nodding?" Wooldoor then flies the heli through their house to evade the missile.


Video Example(s):


The Case of the Bedazzled Boot

With Rarity calling on Trixie for interrogation, both of them ended up engaging in an Inner Monologue Conversation.

How well does it match the trope?

2.33 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / InnerMonologueConversation

Media sources:

Main / InnerMonologueConversation