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Inner Thoughts, Outsider Puzzlement

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https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/kronk_dramatic_1.png
Above is what Kronk sees; a dramatic inner conflict between good and evil.
Below is what everyone else sees; some musclebound idiot talking to himself.

Nale: [Thinking] My machiavellian plan is beginning to come together. Now that I have secured the aid of these gullible saps, the Talisman shall soon be mine! Indeed, I have worked for years for this very day. It seems like just yesterday when my father took me aside and told me—
[beat panel showing Nale, Haley, and Roy standing around]
Haley: [whispering] Why is he just standing there?
Roy: [whispering back] Internal monologue. Give him a minute.
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The Inner Monologue, Flashback, Imagine Spot, and other such tropes are great ways of illustrating character, showing inner conflict, etc. Normally these tropes are shown taking place almost instantly with other characters around either not noticing or barely noticing that the character temporarily zoned out, so it's pretty rare for Alice to end an internal monologue, flashback, or Aside Comment to the audience only to see Bob standing there staring at her and wondering what the heck Alice was doing and why her mind was off in another world.

In this trope, however, the other characters around do notice. While Alice is mentally taking a time out, everyone else can see the prolonged silence, distraction, or strange behavior, (especially if Alice is in the middle of talking to people who aren't there, like an Imaginary Friend, the Good Angel, Bad Angel, or figures from her past) and then they react or comment to the situation.

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Often played as a form of Bathos, especially if Alice was thinking about something serious and it draws a comedic reaction.

Often revealed via Cutting Back to Reality. Compare and contrast Not So Dire, (where an audience is misled by serious-sounding dialogue into believing that a situation is critically important when it's actually over a much more trivial matter) Anti Climax Cut, and Acting Out a Daydream. Compare the various "x is a free action" tropes, Plot Time, Imagine Spotting, and Caught Monologuing. Can overlap with, or be a sort of meta Failed Attempt at Drama.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Just before the final fight of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Dio drains the blood of Joseph right in front of Jotaro. In the midst of Dio's Evil Gloating, Jotaro has a vision of Joseph's spirit leaving his body, giving some last minute advice. Dio eventually notices Jotaro staring up at nothing and asks what he's looking at.
  • Rebuild World:
    • Since Akira’s Virtual Sidekick Alpha is Invisible to Normals, and the two communicate via Telepathy, multiple times people around him react to his looking at her or reacting to her, which helps Shizuka figure out Akira's a Differently Powered Individual. Interestingly this becomes a bit of an Exploited Trope: When someone is interrogating Akira about a higher power backing him, Alpha does an Indy Ploy by making him react taken aback to her, in order to make it look like the interrogators guess that it's a foreign Mega-Corp who’s backing him was correct. She does this by instantly changing her avatar’s clothes and then popping in front of Akira to lean in as if to kiss him. She went through all the trouble hiding her existence because Akira is a Bad Liar.
    • At one point Sheryl is changing her clothes in front of Akira and disappointed at his lack of reaction. So she thinks to herself that he would react differently if he was the one taking off her clothes, making her imagine Akira blushing while doing so… only for Akira to loudly tell her that she’s keeping a customer waiting, making her blush.
  • For drama effect in School-Live!, Yuki views her time as school as the happiest she's ever been. The real matter at hand is the city is in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse, and Yuki is psychologically damaged. Her friends try to let Yuki live close to a school life as they could manage, and through these efforts find it within themselves to survive the zombies.

    Comedy 

    Fan Works 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • In the third "Cell vs." video, (where Big Bad Cell takes on the stars of various other series/franchises in the week before the heroes will formally face him in his tournament) as Cell fights Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, Ryu has to suddenly wrestle with the Dark Hadou. From Ryu's point of view, we see a dark, evil energy enveloping him and trying to take control of his body. As he tries to avoid being taken over, we switch to Cell's point of view and see the scene as he does: Ryu (who came off as a Cloudcuckoolander spouting Ice Cream Koans during the pre-fight banter) on his knees for no reason while twitching and mumbling to himself.
      Ryu: Th-the Dark Hadou! It's coming out! I... can't control it... it's going to overtake me!
      Cell: [staring at Ryu in confusion] ... have you tried praying it away?
    • In both the series proper along with Dragon ShortZ, fans have pointed out the fact that Piccolo talking in his head or aloud to Nail and Kami results in this, though only the latter outright lampshaded it.
    • In Episode 57, Goku introduces himself to Android 16 who, before he grew beyond his programming, had killing Goku as his sole purpose in life. 16 gets so caught up in thinking about how long he's waited to face Goku that Goku gives up going for a handshake and makes a puzzled comment on the silent intense look 16 is giving him. 16 doesn't snap out of his inner thoughts until after the episode ends!
    • In part 3 of Episode 60, Goku uses King Kai's telepathic abilities to contact Gohan from the afterlife and Gohan sees a vision of his father's face in the sky, smiling down at him. Gohan smiles back, and while he's doing so Krillin notices Gohan smiling at nothing. Not being privy to the communication Gohan and Goku are sharing, Krillin looks around in confusion trying to figure out why Gohan is smiling.
  • In Friendship Is for Adults Episode 5, Rainbow Dash faces a moral dilemma and consults her conscience (represented by the gang from Scooby-Doo) about it. In the middle of the lengthy conversation, the scene cuts back to the rest of the cast, who are beginning to wonder why Rainbow's been silently staring into space for so long.
  • Humorously referenced in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series during the dual between Yami and Marik. Kaiba starts to give an dramatic inner monologue about the situation, only to get interrupted by Yami's inner monologue, and somehow they have a conversation. Yami is surprised that Kaiba also monologues, to which an irritated Kaiba asks what he thought was happening whenever he would "stare off into space not talking for like ten minutes". Yami just assumed that he was being really slow. Their conversation is then interrupted by Tristan's inner monologue, and it turns out he thought both of them were really slow.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku meets Jirou at the U.A. Entrance Exam and begins looking off into the distance while having an internal monologue about how he was going to pass and make Peter proud. Jirou sees this and waves her hand in front of his face.
    Jirou: Hey, dude. [waving her hand in front of his face] You kind of zoned out there for a second. [gives a coy smile] You having a dramatic inner monologue or something?
    Izuku: [shaking his head in a panic] W-What!? No... no. Just pre-test jitters! [laughing nervously and thinking] Please buy that.
    Jirou: Riiiight.
  • In Half Past Adventure, this sometimes happens to OC protagonist Macy during her frequent Imagine Spots.
  • In Cat-Ra, throughout the first season, the Sword of Protection would regularly force Catra to relive a pivotal childhood memory, no matter where she is or what she may be doing. While this is happening, she's simply standing completely still and staring off into space for minutes at a time, to the concern or confusion of everyone around her. Catra even uses this to her advantage in the season finale, pretending to do this while fighting Adora so she can sneak in a free hit.
  • Ma'at: From Chapter 2, after Dani's finished talking to the spirit she's hosting:
    "My name is Nebka. Were you lost in thought, or were you praying to the Goddess?"
  • Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily: Specter is forced to share space with a living lightning bolt who starts talking to him via his reflection or somehow appearing for him, while everyone else is confused/terrified that he's essentially losing his mind. Only Aaron Horner is nonplussed about it, mostly because he's thinking it's another DID case.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Green Hornet: As the bad guy is explaining how and why he's going to kill him, our protagonist Britt Reid experiences a kaleidoscope of memories that helps him deduce the chain of conspiracy the film's plot is built on. When we cut back to the real world, the villain deadpans to Britt: "I can tell by the dumb look you've had on your face for the past five minutes that you're just starting to figure all this out."

    Literature 
  • The first book of The Kane Chronicles has Sadie and Carter act as hosts to the gods Horus and Isis. This lets them hear the voice of the god they're hosting.
    Horus: You're forgetting something [...] It's my birthday! Wish me Happy Birthday!
    Carter: (trying to get away from the Egyptian god of violence) Happy Birthday! Now, shut up!
    Sadie: Carter, what are you on about?
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: When Catarina learns that Sophia is actually Nicol's little sister, she goes Oh, Crap! and desperately tries to recall what she knows about the Nicol in Fortune Lover, even convening a Council of Catarinas in the anime adaptation. The Ascart siblings are puzzled as to why Catarina gets a Stunned Silence when Nicol introduces himself.
  • Played for drama in The Wheel of Time: Rand is the reincarnation of a man called Lews Therin, and at one point starts hearing the previous persona's voice in his head, and responding in kind. Chapters written from other characters' points of view show that he clearly seems to be listening to someone during these moments, and eventually starts unconsciously responding out loud. Naturally, the other characters take this as a sign that he's losing his mind.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • Inverted when Jake is in prison and accidentally gets high on meth while trying to infiltrate a criminal gang. Jake tries to act normal in front of them and he has an inner monologue where he tells himself to stay cool, but it turns out he's talking out loud, and the gang heard him repeatedly telling himself to be cool. On the bright side, his behavior convinces the gang that he really isn't a cop, since they can tell he's extremely high and reason that no cop would have done that.
    • Played straight in the same arc with Rosa. While Rosa is in prison, she has Lieutenant Hawkins, the Dirty Cop who framed both Rosa and Jake, come in to talk so the rest of the squad can act while Hawkins is distracted. Rosa knows that she has to keep Hawkins distracted for a certain amount of time, however she's so enraged due to being so close to her former idol who betrayed her and having to endure taunts and humiliation from Hawkins that Rosa begins fantasizing about smashing the protective glass between them and beating Hawkins all around the room before violently murdering the other woman. Hawkins gets bored when she notices that Rosa is zoned out and not even listening to her taunting anymore, and leaves after snapping Rosa back to reality.
  • On Married... with Children Kelly goes out on a date with Vinny, after Al threatened to kill him if he touched Kelly. He spends the entire night talking to the angel and devil on his shoulders about what to do. Kelly notices.
    Kelly: If your shoulders are talking about me, I have a right to know.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide has Ned develop hallucinations of Abraham Lincoln and Benedict Arnold in one episode after several hits to his head. In a later episode, these hallucinations return when Ned feels conflicted, which his friends inform the confused onlookers watching him talk to himself that this is normal for Ned now whenever he has a conflict between good and bad.
  • The Cloudcuckoolander main character of Scrubs, J.D., is horribly prone to going off into Imagine Spots at the drop of a dime when his friends say something that his imagination can seize a hold of. As time goes by, the other characters realize this and increasingly are shown reacting in various ways to J.D. getting lost in his own imagination, such as trying to snap him out of it, making themselves comfortable until his imagine spot is over so they can pick the conversation up again, or even invoking an Imagine Spot and then standing around and watching him in amusement. Later it is also deconstructed and Played for Drama when we find out that J.D. has hurt himself due to how abrupt these Imagine Spots are, and he does not keep note of his surroundings when they happen, making him trip, crash or mishandle stuff and his friends have tried to make him stop.
  • In season three of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus intentionally triggers Kimmy into a "bunker flashback," saying he'll have enough time to get some cheese. He successfully triggers a flashback and when we return to the present, he's unwrapping a slice of cheese. Apparently, Kimmy always zones out when we see a flashback.

    Roleplay 
  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Daigo is with half of his gang and is asked by one if he wants to call the rest of them over. This prompts him to enter an Inner Monologue where he plans out their immediate future and contemplates their options from there on out. Meanwhile, his gang is still sitting around him, awkwardly waiting for a response to their question.

    Video Games 
  • In Pillars of Eternity, the Watcher is able to communicate with the dead and see visions of the past that involve either a past life or someone else's death. Every time they do, however, it's in real-time, so everyone else in the party has to just stand around while they experience it.
  • The Reveal in Mark of the Ninja is that Ora isn't real and is only a hallucination caused by The Ninja's mark.
    Azai: Who are you listening to?
  • At several points during The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Link has flashbacks where he begins to recover his memories while others are around. Every time there are others around they notice that he has zoned out for these flashbacks and comment on it when he snaps back to the present.
  • The final story of Sonic Adventure has a scene where Tikal contacts Sonic to show him one last vision of the Big Bad's past and the ultimate fate of the ancient Echidna Tribe. Tails comments on how Sonic just sort of conked out there by the time the vision ends.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: During one late-game battle, Rex sees Pyra and Mythra appear before him, and has a conversation with them as he fights. Thing is, the visions of Pyra and Mythra don't appear to anyone else, and several characters express confusion as Rex just seems to be talking to himself.
    Malos: What the hell? Has he finally cracked?

    Web Comics 
  • One strip of Between Failures has Brooksie contemplating her attractions to the rest of the cast, with Jess and Ed watching her. Apparently she does this enough for Ed to no longer be fazed by it.
    Ed: Yeah, my theory is that this is what happens as her software updates.
  • El Goonish Shive references Scrubs tendency to use this trope.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • When the heroes first meet Nale and company, Nale goes into an Internal Monologue that makes clear that he's up to no good. However he's lost in his own thoughts long enough for the others to notice, and the scene cuts from a closeup of Nale's face as he monologues to a shot of everyone standing around staring at him until Haley finally asks Roy what the hell Nale is doing.
    • Much later in the comic's run, the vampire spirit possessing Durkon's body thinks that Durkon is trying to invoke this so that Durkon's friends will notice the odd behavior and realize that Durkon is Not Himself. It's then defied in that the interactions are happening at the speed of thought, so only a split second is passing no matter how long the in-head discussion seems. Eventually this goes from being defied to played straight; Durkon shows the vampire spirit a memory of such emotional weight and which is so antithetical to everything the vampire thinks and believes about mortals that it does, in fact get distracted long enough for others to notice. Long enough for all his followers to be killed off and lose a battle that the vampire's side appeared to have already won, in fact.
  • In Rain, after being asked for her thoughts, Rain goes through a variety of facial expressions while thinking but says nothing. This weirds out Emily and makes Kylie think she's holding in a sneeze.
  • In Part 3 of the Team Fortress 2 comic, the Soldier is offered a bowl of soup by the Heavy's mother. He refuses the offer, solely on the grounds of being from America, but starts to reconsider. He then imagines the ghost of George Washington attempting to dissuade him further, while the ghosts of Benedict Arnold and a big hot dog try to convince him to eat the soup. Meanwhile, in reality:
    Heavy's mother: Son, I offered your friend soup and he has been screaming for five minutes.

    Web Animation 
  • Bravest Warriors: In the mini-short "Terrabeth Bytes", as Beth prepares to wrestle with Wallow, there is an Art Shift to a manga style as Beth dramatically thinks to herself. The scene then cuts back to reality, where Wallow is watching Beth stare into blank space like a weirdo.
  • In the third episode of Epithet Erased, Sylvie's thoughts on how to get past Indus get derailed by thoughts about sheep and Dr. Beefton, leading to him repeating the words "Sheep" and "Beef" in his head as he goes cross-eyed. Cut to everyone else staring at him and wondering if he's okay.
    Molly: Um... Is he... dead?
    Giovanni: He's just been standing there not blinking for 40 seconds.
  • The first seconds of the original first episode of Fist Master starts with Kid Hero Akio monologuing about his goal to be a legendary martial artist known as a "Fist Master", when all of a sudden his silent internal monologue gets interrupted when his sensei Panchi punches him. Turns out Akio was in the middle of a sparring session when his Inner Monologue started, which is a bad idea when sparring with a Sadist Teacher like Panchi.
    Panchi: Oh, I'm sorry, did I interrupt your daydreaming? Try actually paying attention to your surroundings, idiot!
  • In a rare moment of serious contemplation, the Emperor in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device recalls the last moments of his old friend Malcador, one of the few people he will not see insulted, in complete silence. Cue the Custodian poking him with his spear to see if he's still alive. The worry's understandable, given that he's an immobile skeleton whose only signs of life are the text-to-speech device and psychic outbursts.

    Web Videos 
  • The Nostalgia Critic: In his review of Doug's 1st Movie, Critic wonders what happens in reality while Doug has one of his Quailman fantasies, leading to a cutaway showing Skeeter being concerned about his friend as he stares into space.
    Critic-as-Skeeter: Why do you go where I can't follow?
  • In the ProZD sketch When your friend doesn't know a character dies but you do, two friends are playing a video game, (The King Dragon Canon that ProZD has done a number of skits about) with one having already played before and one who hasn't. The friend who hasn't played the game begins gushing about a character who is going to die before long, and the friend who has already played does an internal reaction that includes Evil Laughter, then crying internally and mourning over the character's fate and begging to have them back. This goes on for a solid 15 seconds (with things like him blinking being sign that real time is actually passing) before the friend who has played the game finally manages a response. Something of a variant, since the video never shows his friend's reaction, it's more for the benefit of the audience.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia:
    • In "Anne Hunter", the Plantars get taken by some dangerous wildlife, causing Anne to have a stress-induced hallucination of Sprig for the remainder of the episode as she attempts to rescue them from being eaten. Interestingly enough, Anne is fully aware that she's just hallucinating, but thanks the hallucination for their guidance and help anyway, while the actual Sprig questions what she's doing.
    • At the end of "Little Frogtown", Hop Pop gets "stuck" in Private Eye Monologue mode, much to the confusion of the kids.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
    • In one episode, Carl sees Bart Oates appear in front of him and asks him to do favors, except nobody can see Bart and turned out to have been caused by a B.B. that was lodged in Carl's head.
    • In another, Shake is continually punished by the spirit of a man he advertly killed, and apart of Frylock who can also see it, nobody else does.
  • Big City Greens: In "Trivia Night", Cricket seems to transport himself into his own mind to find the facts of his life in order to help his family answer trivia questions. In real life, he is just sitting in his seat dazed out, as if he's not paying attention.
  • Kelsey from Craig of the Creek is prone to doing Inner Monologues while striking a heroic pose under an imaginary spotlight. In at least one episode, the other characters watch bemusedly as she poses silently.
  • Family Guy: In "Back to the Pilot", Brian and Stewie are unnerved by how the pilot episode Griffins seem to stand still after delivering lines. It takes a moment, but Stewie quickly realizes that they're setting up cutaway gags and just waiting for the joke to finish so they can continue the rest of the scene.
  • The Loud House: In the Musical Episode "Really Loud Music", Luna is torn between what she should write her song about so the whole world will adore it; it is that point she begins hearing and witnessing her family randomly bursting into musical numbers suiting their respective images (Lana singing a toilet jam, Lola singing a show tune, Lisa rapping, Lori and Leni doing a silly love ballad, and so forth). When she questions them about each song, they claim they weren't singing. Lisa points out Luna is actually hallucinating her family singing as a result of her uncertainty and her brain trying to find the right sound for her song.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In Part 2 of "The Crystal Empire", Twilight enters a door enchanted by King Sombra which causes her to see her worst fear. In reality, she's just staring at a wall.
  • Combined with Medium Awareness in an episode of Phineas and Ferb set in ancient China. Phineas and the others have sought out Old Master Perry for training so they can save Princess Isabella from Doofus Khan, and ask about Perry's backstory. While they (and the audience) don't see Perry's flashback, they do see a ripple effect spontaneously appear around him. Ferb states that this means that Perry must be having a flashback, while Phineas wonders if they should give him some privacy. When the ripple stops, they know Perry's flashback is done, and comment that it must’ve been pretty intense given how long he was staring into space.
  • In the fifth season of Samurai Jack, Jack has been wandering for fifty years, unable to return to the past due to Aku destroying all the time portals, and has constantly been under attack by Aku's minions and been witness to the devastation those minions cause. This has all taken a toll on Jack's mind, and he's become prone to having visions of people he couldn't help, including his parents and Aku's victims. When Jack starts talking to one of these visions in the middle of his duel with Scaramouche, we briefly see the scene from Scaramouche's point of view, who sees Jack talking to nobody. Scaramouche promptly decides that Jack has gone nuts.
    Child in Jack's Vision: Jack. Help us Jack!
    Other Children: Help us, help us! Jack, help us!
    Jack: Please, no! You must understand!
    Scaramouche: [stops playing his magic flute, stares at Jack] That samurai has gone beaucoup cuckoo.
  • South Park: In "Cartman Finds Love", Cartman plays with an imaginary cupid version of himself called "Cupid-Me", but all his mother sees is him spinning around giggling to himself.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In a scene parodying The Wonder Years, as the narrator is talking, Homer gets creeped out by Bart staring blankly into space and asks him to stop.
    • In "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II", when Homer confronts Marge about her Compressed Vice, Marge reflects on why this particular behavior started. When the flashback ends, Marge claims that's why she is the way she is, only for Homer to ask her why she thought he'd be able to see it. Apparently, she had the flashback, but just stopped talking.
    • Bart and Milhouse go to the mall because Bart considered a glowing summary of the mall Homer once told him. But Homer's summary only appears to Bart and the audience in a thought bubble, completely confusing Milhouse.
    • In "$pringfield", when Henry Kissinger was just about to leave while visiting Mr. Burns' nuclear plant, he thinks to himself how no one must know that he accidentally dropped his glasses in the toilet; while he is blankly starring into space in front of Burns and Smithers for about five seconds, the two of them just walk away from him.
  • An episode of Pepper Ann has the title character and her visiting father in a taxi. As Pepper Ann daydreams, as she frequently does throughout the series, she also tends to act them out. Her father is the same, resulting in them both zoning out during the ride and acting out their respective daydreams, causing the taxi driver to wonder what's in the water.

 
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Amphibia: Thanks hallucination

Anne thanks her hallucination of Spring for the help... weirdly confusing the others.

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