Soulmate Marks

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Soulmarks, Soul Marks, Soulmate-identifying Marks, Soulmates AU
Related: Soulbond, Mates, Alternate Universe
See Also: Mates (trope)
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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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.

Fan Definitions

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 his or her 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] [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.net[2]and Wattpad also show results for works in 2013. There are references to the trope as early as July 22, 2012 on LiveJournal.[3][4]

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[5]

By May 7, people had started writing fic based on the idea[6], which Kenzie reacted positively to.[7]

Popular writer amusewithaview reblogged the post on May 22[8] 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.[9] leading some on FFA to think that amusewithaview had started the trend[10]

Types

Name

First Words

"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. In canon AU fics, dialogue from the source material can be used as inspiration for First Words.

Soulmate Shorts by ozhawk, posted to the AO3 between November 2014 and June 2015, is a series of MCU-related drabbles/ficlets showcasing this version of the Soulmate AU.

Unique Symbols

Both soulmates may have the same mark, or the mark may be unique and represent the soulmate in some way

Birthday

Matching Injuries

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.

Multiple Marks for Different Loves

This article or section needs expansion.

  • Tally marks that appear for each person you love. Based on a tumblr post

Worldbuilding

This article or section needs expansion.

  • 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

Trope Subversion

When it comes to soulmates, trope subversions often explore missing, inaccurate, or confusing soulmarks.

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 unexpectedly appearing 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 works 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.

Soulhate is the concept of a fated nemesis. This is often related to the Enemies to Lovers trope.

Platonic soulmates have long been explored through the general Soulmates trope. Being rejected by one's soulmate is also a concern.

Example Fanworks

Names

  • 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.

First Words

  • 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.

Matching Injuries

Symbols/Abstract

Arrow

  • 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)

Links & Resources

Notes

  1. 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

References

  1. Similar prompt on 30 December 2011: "Everyone is born with the name of their soulmate on their hand", was posted to sherlockbbc-fic, a Sherlock kink meme.
  2. Example work: The King and the Hobbit
  3. Example work: Lipstick Traces, Pt. 2 (RPF)
  4. Example work:A Little Thing Called Happiness.
  5. soulmate AU by kenzie-no-mc, 22 April 2014.
  6. it sure left its mark on us by - ohmytheon, Archived version
  7. SOMEONE GIFTED ME A WORK ON AO3 BASED ON MY SOULMATE AU POST, Archived version, 7 May 2014.
  8. reblog by amusewithaview, Archived version, 22 May 2014
  9. chapter_4_endnotes (Accessed 8 July 2017.)
  10. Re: Ask meme: Soul Marks 2016-06-18,