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Mental Story

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A story where what's going on in someone's head - be it their Dream Land, Mental World, imagination, inner struggles, conversations with their Imaginary Friend, or power fantasies - is the main attraction, with not much happening in "reality."

Sometimes, the focus will be on mundane events in Real Life represented as all kinds of metaphorical weirdness playing out in the characters' minds.

A Mr. Imagination will usually be the protagonist, unless the story revolves around seeing or entering other peoples' dreams, which is a major Sub-Trope, although one we don't have yet.


All Just a Dream and Dying Dream are Sub Tropes, but they are not this trope. Do not list examples that belong under those two tropes on this page. They have their own examples sections.


Anime & Manga





  • In Calvin and Hobbes, even leaving aside the question of whether or not Hobbes is real, a lot of stories take place in Calvin's imagination.
  • "The Tick vs Proto-clown"

Fan Works

Live-Action TV

  • Herman's Head
  • Nearly all the events of the Scrubs episode "My Life In Four Cameras" take place in JD's head. Only the Bookends are real.
  • Roseanne's final season turned out to be a book that Roseanne was writing.
  • Stargate SG-1 - "Avatar" takes place in a virtual-reality scenario that's effectively going on inside Teal'c's head.
  • Stargate Universe - "Seizure"
  • Stargate Atlantis - In "Home", the main characters apparently manage to return to Earth, but it's actually an illusion of Earth fabricated from the memories in their heads.
    • "The Real World" combines this trope with Cuckoo Nest for Dr. Weir.
  • Fringe - "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide"
  • Farscape has a few episodes like this.
    • "Revenging Angel" is a Two Lines, No Waiting episode. One plot is about D'Argo, Chiana, and Jool trying to stop D'Argo's ship from self-destructing, while the other plot takes place inside Crichton's head as he's lying in a coma (and is a Looney Tunes pastiche).
    • "John Quixote" takes place in a virtual-reality game based on Crichton's memories.
  • Much of The Singing Detective involves Philip Marlow playing out one of his detective novels in his head with himself as the protagonist, as well as flashbacks to his childhood.
  • Samurai Gourmet is Mental Story in two senses. There's the obvious gimmick of the Once per Episode Indulgent Fantasy Segue where a samurai shows Kasumi how his social dilemma might be solved, but those are relatively brief. The broader sense is that the show is very much about Kasumi's introspection and reflection. If you took away the samurai sequences, Kasumi's Inner Monologue, and reminiscent flashbacks, the show would be little more than an old guy wandering around wondering where to have lunch.


  • James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is about a man who escapes from his humdrum life into a series of daydreams about heroic adventures.
  • Arguably the philosophical book Sophie's World, with the mains realizing that they are only fictional characters within a book (within another book) and undergoing an existential crisis because of it.
  • The Philip K. Dick novel "Eye in the Sky" takes place in a sort of shared mental world, with the current most-dominant personality warping it to their prejudices and worldview.
  • The Pilgrim's Progress takes place entirely in two dreams (one for each part) by the narrator.
    • On a similar note (due to it being essentially fan-fiction of the previous example), the short story "The Celestial Railroad" was a dream, but I can't remember whether it was only revealed at the end or not.
  • Perhaps the most famous book of this sort is Catcher In The Rye. The plot of the book is a boy taking the train home from prep school and meeting up with his little sister. The book is about the boy's descent into paranoia. His descriptions of places and people become progressively more strange and twisted, showing his deteriorating mental state. He also fantasizes about doing strange things to and with geese.


Video Games

  • Braid
  • The Company of Myself
  • Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice: Senua is a Celtic warrior who suffers from sever psychosis on a quest to rescue the soul of her lover from the Norse underworld.
  • Hitman: Contracts, until the final mission.
  • OMORI has a good chunk of its plot occur in the real world, but an equally sized chunk occurs in the subconscious of a young boy.
  • Psychonauts, though its a case where there are many different minds instead of just one.
  • American McGee's Alice and, to a slightly lesser extent, Alice: Madness Returns both take place largely in Wonderland - in this case, the corrupted Happy Place of a catatonic girl who blames herself for the death of her parents.
  • Yume Nikki is about a hikikomori lucid dreamer, whose primary interaction with the products of her subconscious is to stab them with knives.


  • The plot-driving half of Yume Hime takes place within the protagonist's dreams and day dreams, with the other half being a quiet Slice of Life.