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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.


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    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 


  • Perhaps the most famous book of this sort is The 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.
  • 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.
  • Paprika
  • The Pilgrim's Progress takes place entirely in two dreams (one for each part) by the narrator.
  • "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is about a man who escapes from his humdrum life into a series of daydreams about heroic adventures.
  • 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.
  • Welcome to the NHK is mostly about the main character's inner strife, and no decisions are reached even in the end.
  • The fifteenth book of Wings of Fire, The Flames of Hope, mostly centers around the visions protagonist Luna gets from Cottonmouth and Lizard about their backstory and later her use of the two's mind-sharing to show Lizard the empathy and kindness of dragons.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Roseanne's final season turns out to be a book that Roseanne is writing.
  • 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.
  • 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.


    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • The Binding of Isaac is revealed to be this and not a literal or even exaggerated series of events starting about halfway into the progression of a save file.
  • 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 it's a case where there are many different minds instead of just one.
  • Yume Nikki is about a hikikomori lucid dreamer, whose primary interaction with the products of her subconscious is to stab them with knives.

    Visual Novels 
  • Umineko: When They Cry combines this with Nested Story Reveal in Episode 8 — most of the plot is Toya Hachijo attempting to recreate the events of Rokkenjima 1986 as mystery novels in order to speculate on what happened on the island.

    Web Animation 
  • The most commonly agreed interpretation of the series Boisvert is that every video in the series represents some manifestation of social anxiety and/or depression (or perhaps the things in life that lead to both) within the headspace of an unidentified individual.

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