|Trope · Genre|
|Synonyms:||Soulmarks, Soul Marks, Soulmate-identifying Marks, Soulmates AU|
|Related:||Bondmate, Soulbond, Soulmates, Mates, Red Thread of Fate, Alternate Universe|
|See Also:||Mates (trope)|
|Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Soulmate Marks, also called Soulmarks, developed as a subtrope of Soulmates, commonly referred to as Soulmates AU. It takes the idea of people who are fated to be together further, imagining there is physical proof to identify this connection. Soulmarks are often explored through how this mark affects one's approach to relationships and the certainty of a destined relationship.
Characteristics of Marks
The most common types of soulmarks are Names, First Words, and Symbols.
Soulmarks are often identical or complementary. The mark may appear at a set time in the characters' lives – this time is often the eighteenth birthday or when a person goes through puberty. Sometimes the mark appears when the soulmate is born. So the younger of the pair is born with a soulmark, but the older character receives their mark when their soulmate is born.
Marks may also appear when the soulmates first touch each other. These marks sometimes appear on a character's body where their soulmate first touches them. In other cases, a dark soulmark may become colorful at first touch, or soulmates may share a deep emotional (almost telepathic) bond at first touch. First Words marks may appear as they are spoken.
Early in the trope's evolution, soulmarks were almost always on the wrist or hand and on the same place on every individual. With the advent of First Words or marks that vary greatly in size and appearance, soulmarks may appear anywhere on the skin. Sometimes soulmate pairs will still have their marks located in the same spot.
The mark of a soulmate that has died is imagined in various ways. It may fade and become fainter, disappear completely, turn black, or take on the appearance of a scar.
From the glossary of An All Too Jagged Snowflake:
Mark / SoulMark / Marked (noun, adjective) – The unique symbol that appears in the same location on both (+) bodies of Soulmates. Marks are typically white but may appear as a light shade of most primary colors, and turn black upon the death of one’s Soulmate. Marks are unique to a Pair of Soulmates and may vary in placement on the body size, shape, geometry, intricacy, and every other dimension. It is believed that a Mark persists across the different lifetimes of a Pair during each reincarnation. Any individual with a Mark is considered Marked.
History & Evolution
Amateur and professional authors have written of such a "mark" for centuries without referring to it specifically as a "soulmark".
TiMER, a 2009 sci-fi romantic comedy movie, is likely a cause of the rise of soulmate-identifying marks in fanfiction. In the film individuals are able to get a TiMER, a wrist implant that counts down to the day when the user will meet their soulmate. There is a significant number of works that are a direct fusion with this movie and feature TiMERS. Timers that count down to a soulmate meeting have remained a consistent subtype of soulmate-identifying marks.
From soulmate timers, the trope evolved into Soulmate Names, a tattoo-like mark showing the name of one's soulmate, usually on the hand or wrist and in the soulmate's handwriting. In fan fiction, stories with this concept are documented as appearing in about 2011. The existence of a work inverting this trope in November 2011[note 1]  makes it likely that the trope was already established even earlier.
There seems have been a surge of Soulmate and Soulmate mark works in 2012/2013. The Soulmate-Identifying Marks tag on AO3 was created on January 11 2013, after the "Soulmate AU" tag was created on September 18 2012. Searches for "Soulmark" or "soul mark" on Fanfiction.netand Wattpad also show results for works in 2013. There are references to the trope as early as July 22, 2012 on LiveJournal.
The next evolution of the trope was First Words. This subtrope may have started with a viral Tumblr post by kenzie-no-mc (kenezbian) in April 2014. As ofJuly 2017, the tumblr post had over 730k notes.
soulmate AU where you wake up on your 18th birthday with the first words your soulmate will say to you tattooed on your body so you’ll know them when you meet them
Popular writer amusewithaview reblogged the post on May 22 and published her fic Words on my skin, love in my heart on 2014-06-09. Unlike kenzie-no-mc's original post, which said the marks would appear on the person's 18th birthday, amusewithaview's stories had the marks appearing when the person was born. ‘’Words on my skin, love in my heart’’ inspired 42 fanworks according to the AO3 inspired-by feature. leading some on FFA to think that amusewithaview had started the trend
Soulmark has different types of identification marks for the soulmate characters involved. Some receive proper names that are easily identified by fans, while others, even older, have not yet reached a consensus on how to name them. Below is a list in alphabetical order:
On her birthday some kind of soulmark appears connecting the soul mates. In some works this happens at age 6, in others on 12/11 and some on 16/18. The trope has some peculiarities where someone has never received its mark for some reason that makes it different and unique.
When they touch/meet with their soulmate, a bright light -- sometimes pulsating -- will appear over their hearts causing their other half to also glow/pulse too. Also known as Glowing Heart.[note 2]
A character's vision changes once they meet their soulmate, the most common being they go from seeing in black and white to full color. The trope became more popular when it was used in a television series.
For some time periods, soulmates share their visions being able to see what their counterpart sees. Used by penumbria in his slash crossover pairing between Anthony DiNozzo and Jack O'Neill from NCIS and SG-1.
Unnatural colour appears in the place where the soulmates touched: for example, one character sports a blue handprint on their shoulder, the palm of their soulmate's hand is coloured blue etc.
"First Words" marks are typically the first words that one's soulmate speaks to them. The words are usually written in the soulmate's handwriting. Various authors have these words appearing at birth, or on one's 18th birthday, etc. A later development was the words appearing only as the soulmate said them. First Words are rarely casual greetings. Instead the words encompass everything from compliments and bickering comments in fluffier works, to ominous threats in enemies to lovers fics. Sometimes these works are humorous, and focus on characters dealing with unfortunate or inappropriate words, or extremely generic words. In canon AU fics, dialogue from the source material can be used as inspiration for First Words.
Any injury to either soulmate has an effect on the other, e.g. by a scar appearing as an exact match, by a bone breaking in the same place, etc. For obvious reasons this works best in genres where characters are likely to have scars or suffer repeated injuries.
An inversion of the previous trope, when what appears on your skin are the last words of your soulmate, which leads to a lot of angst works, as you will only know who your other half is at the end of your life. But there are also many less sad plots, where people live passionately without worrying about the last words until they come and everyone leaves happy for the time they spent together, whether your spouse is your soulmate or not.
Multiple Marks for Different Loves
- Tally marks that appear for each person you love. Based on a tumblr post
When your soul mate's name appears on your skin - at any point in your life - mostly in the native language of your other half, or written in typography that the person signs their own name. Sometimes the real name also appears -- when the person does not identify with the one given at birth -- or an intimate nickname that very few know.
Your soulmate's deepest thoughts begin to mark your skin, and in a two-way street your anxieties figure in your other half's skin.
A common trope is for the soulmates to bear matching markings, similar to birthmarks, or matching brands or symbols. These can be situated on the same part of their bodies, or appear in different areas. In other fanworks, the mark may be unique and represent the soulmate in some way.
This trope is sometimes linked to tattoos, which some characters might use to hide their marks and thus preserve their soulmate.
Clock-like counters appear almost exclusively on the characters' wrists containing the estimated time left to find their soulmate.
Writing on Skin
It may also be called an Writing Soulmate AU, Skinwrite, or Skinmarking. Where when one character writes on their skin, and what they wrote appears on their soulmate's skin.
- Norm of wristbands worn over mark
- Norm of not covering a mark vs norm of hiding mark
- Norm of being intentional about first words to another person
- Official database of marks, often collected by government
- Soulmarks telling the future
- Finding soulmate through online communities
- Taboos against tattoos mimicking or obscuring marks
- Timeline of marks appearing: at birth, birth of the soulmate, specific age, rite of passage, first physical contact, first realization of love...
When it comes to soulmates, trope subversions often explore missing, inaccurate, or confusing soulmarks. Like in other Soulmates AUs, some fanworks featuring soulmarks explore the themes of marginalisation, asexuality, polyamory and free will vs predetermination.
In worlds where people are not born with their soulmarks, a person may worry about how long it is taking for it to appear. If there is a set time when the mark is supposed to appear, the mark might appear at the wrong time. This often involves concerns over being "broken" and without a soulmate, or having to wait an extended time. In fics with a substantial age difference, this can result in character who believed they would never have a soulmate dealing with the sudden appearance of a mark after a long time. It can also lead to angst, as the younger character will not be aware of the age difference until they meet their soulmate.
In First Words works, a person's Words may be extremely mundane and common, such as "Hello" or "Excuse me." This leads to confusion and anxiety. A person will experience false hope each time a person says those words. If both soulmates have simple words, it make be hard to confirm that they are soulmates. A person's Words can also be embarrassing or inappropriate.
The possibility of removing one's soulmark also appears in a number of fanworks.
- Soul's Fate Comic: part I -- part II by zuko_art
- It doesn’t happen when there are other people around to see it. by elasticpoodle
- you're ripped at every edge but you're a masterpiece by Klavier, a Raven Cycle AU where colours appear on people's skin when they touch their soulmate(s).
- The Prelude (Roswell) by rosweldrmr, As far as Michael was concerned, aliens didn’t have soulmates. (Soulmate AU where where you don’t know your soulmate until you touch them & where color appears on your body wherever your soulmate first touches you)
- the relative height of a man in space as compared to his height on earth (The Martian) by bee_kind, A Rich Purnell x Mark Watney fic exploring Mark's relationship with his soulmark over the course of his life.
- Soulmate Shorts by ozhawk, various AOS pairings crossed over with other MCU and Marvel characters. It has so far has over 100 (and growing) ficlets of Soulmate AUs where the first words spoken is on your soulmates body.
- write love on my skin by amusewithaview, Soulmates Darcy could have had and the ways they could have met.
- ink my skin with your name by bee_kind, an anthology of reader/mcu characters one-shots featuring everyone's favorite soulmark trope.
- (podfic) in the dark (i can hear your heartbeat) by kalakirya and reena_jenkins (Star Wars): Things get complicated when a stormtrooper says the words written on Poe's thigh.
- Wake Me From The Dark by parkrstark, Javier Esposito never expected much out of life. Which explains why he never gave the words on his wrist much thought. His soulmate's last words, his mother said they were. It was easier to ignore it, than get his heart broken.
- Soul Scars by Rtnwriter, What's a girl to do when somewhere out there, there's a boy and every scar he gets appears on her body? When he's being abused? Hermione Granger, for one, is determined to find him and save him. Harry Potter/Hermione Granger/Susan Bones/Daphne Greengrass (2017-WIP)
- Burn and Breathe, Archived version by PitViperOfDoom, Soulmates are connected through pain, and some bonds have more to share than others. Todoroki Shouto wishes he could reject his soulmate. Midoriya wants nothing more than to protect his own. Tododeku, 2017
- hold onto your heart (you’ll keep it safe) (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones) by aceofdiamonds, a Sansa/Jon fic, When Sansa turns eleven her wrist burns. She excitedly unwraps the cloth guarding her skin, waiting eagerly for the name to finish forming. The dark letters stop after only three and when Sansa leans in closer she realizes that she knows that name and she knows that handwriting already. Where almost everything is the same but people have soulmates on their wrists and Sansa can't believe hers is her half-brother.
- Devil In The Details (Daredevil) by ChuckleVoodoos, a Matt/Foggy fic with fluff, angst, mutual pining, and secret identity shenanigans: "Franklin Philip Nelson is born with a bright smile and the word Devil burned over his heart."
- Gentle Antidote (Lord Peter Wimsey) by x_los (2014) has lots of interesting worldbuilding in the background, including the effect of soulmate Name marks on World War I.
- it's you i find like a ghost in my mind by magneticwave, locked to AO3 users, a One Direction story where characters defy their marks to chose someone else.
- (Podfic) Slipping off the Page into your Hands by RsCreighton (MCU): Steve wakes up in the 21st century with Iron Man's name on his wrist.
- (Podfic) Love Is Touching Souls by RsCreighton (Les Miserables): "Enjolras has worn a cuff to keep from finding out who his soulmate is for years, even though he knows there's a name under there."
- Love Worth Waiting For by BooklandReeve (Frozen/Mulan crossover): Every child is born with the name of their true love in the palm of their hand, but the marks on the palm of Elsa's hand are broken and meaningless, and it must be kept secret. (2014) Elsa/Fa Mulan, in which Elsa's Name mark is thought to be "broken" because it appears in Chinese characters.
- for love is always with you by cordeliawrites, a fem!Harry/Tom Riddle soulmate AU In the Wizarding World soulmates exist. And you carry your soulmate's thoughts about you in ink on the inside of your wrist. Tom Riddle grows up alone in an orphanage with empty wrists. Tom Riddle dies thinking too late. Harri Potter grows up alone in Little Whinging with wrists that never change. Harri Potter lives and everything falls in place. Harri Potter lives, therefore Tom Riddle lives also. "My dear, this ink started with you, and it will end in you."
- Love as You Are by thisgirlsays22 (The Witcher, Geralt/Jaskier), angst with a happy ending: Jaskier's mark for Geralt appears as soon as Jaskier lays eyes on him, but Geralt bears no such mark for Jaskier.
- Branded with your mark (I wear it proudly on my chest above my heart) by ohmypreciousgirl, a Oliver/Felicity fic, It was common knowledge that everyone had a soul mate. A soul mate was someone who was supposed to be the right fit for you, the person that made you a complete being. It could take years sometimes, but soul mates were always bound to meet. It took Felicity twenty-five years to find Oliver.
- An All Too Jagged Snowflake (The Flash) by RedHead, a ColdFlash story in which Barry and Len struggle with the issues their soulbond brings.
- Neon Pink Motorcycle by goldheart, an Otabek Altin/Yuri Plisetsky fic where soulmarks change colour to reflect the mood of the person's soulmate, and Yuri's soulmark is covered completely by a scar.
- Bent and Bruised (But Not Broken) by flipflop_diva and knight_tracer (text + podfic): an MCU story in which Natasha wants to get rid of her soulmark.
- The Deoxygenated series (Sherlock) by lbmisscharlie, four Sherlock/John and Mycroft/Lestrade fics set in a magical realist AU in which humans are born with a network of specialized blood vessels in one wrist that display a digital watch-like countdown to the moment they meet their soulmate.
- finger tap pulses by twentytwosevens (Marvel comics). "The first time Peter’s timer stops he is eleven years old. It times out in the middle of the night and wakes him up like an electric shock. The blank timer stares at him from his wrist as he yells and screams for his aunt and uncle." Spideypool AU with timers where Wade keeps getting killed and making Peter's timer go blank. By the time they meet he's pretty pissed off.
Writing on Skin
- Redamancy by opalescentgold, a 00Q reincarnation soulmate AU If you write something on your skin, then it will show up on your soulmate's skin as well. James doesn't quite fall in love over physics discussions and cheeky book quotes scrawled over his heart, coding and riddles inked onto his skin, but he comes close. He does. And then he actually meets Q.
- Thinking of You by XxXxDarkVampirexXxX, For years, Marvolo, working hard to create change, forgot about the existence of soulmates, until one day, decades later, a purple flower appears on his hand. Fem!Harry. Professor!Voldemort AU! Warnings inside!
Links & Resources
- Soulmate-Identifying Marks tag on Archive of Our Own
- Master List of Soulmate AUs (updated Aug 2017)
- Recs tagged Soulmate-Identifying Marks at Fancake
- Face prompt: Kurt doesn't have a name on his hand, archive link, October 13 2011. filled the prompt with This is a Gift by colteyes, November 2011
- The subtrope Bright/Pulsing Heart also known as Glowing Heart started on Tumblr, when artist Emmy Cicierega published in Aug 6th, 2012 an art of a bright and beating heart, later user lost-moonlight and satinhands republished with an anecdote bringing light to the soulmate trope and zuko_art in Feb 2014 created the comic Soul's Fate (formerly called juxtapose) inspired by subsequent text about this art
- Similar prompt on 30 December 2011 by "anonymous comment on prompting part XXIII - Sherlock BBC Prompting Meme — LiveJournal". 2021-09-02. Archived from the original on 2021-09-02.
- Example work: The King and the Hobbit
- Example work: Lipstick Traces, Pt. 2 (RPF)
- Example work:A Little Thing Called Happiness.
- soulmate AU by kenzie-no-mc, 22 April 2014.
- it sure left its mark on us by - ohmytheon, Archived version
- SOMEONE GIFTED ME A WORK ON AO3 BASED ON MY SOULMATE AU POST, Archived version, 7 May 2014.
- reblog by amusewithaview, Archived version, 22 May 2014
- chapter_4_endnotes (Accessed 8 July 2017.)
- Re: Ask meme: Soul Marks 2016-06-18,
- soulmate au where you wake up on your 18th on kenzie-no-mc Tumblr
- "Soulmates AU List". Archived from the original on 2021-09-01.
- "SF Comic - part I". 2021-09-02. Archived from the original on 2021-09-02.
- ""Reality dawned upon me since that time…and…since... - art twitter @z…". 2021-09-02. Archived from the original on 2021-09-02.
- "Of Shits And Giggles". 2021-09-02. Archived from the original on 2021-09-02.