I've made another question which is an attempt to make all the characters be chameleons. What chameleons are?, in case you dont know, chameleons are characters that the main character / reader is not 100% sure of their intentions, thoughts and motivations. You don't know if he is the good guy or the bad one. Of course, a character may not be a chameleon all the time, but there could be moments we doubt of his/her intentions.

(If you want more about what a chameleon character is, I suggest you search for it on Vogler's writings about the Hero's Journey.)

So what I'm trying to do? In short:

  • A third-person oniscient narrator which is also an entity that cannot read what is inside the characters mind.
  • There are multiple MC's, not only one.

  • The characters may share his thoughts with him but they may also lie (which I think it is not a very good idea)

But I dont have enough reading baggage with this kind of narrator in order to make the characters be chameleons. In fact, I've never heard of a story with similar idea before. I'm not an experienced writer as well and I'm afraid this is too much for me. But the idea looks to good to be thrown away.

Is there another way I can make all the characters be chameleons?

Yes, the question looks too broad and it maybe does not even have an answer. I want to know if this kind of thing is possible, and if it is possible, how could it be done?

3 Answers 3



This style is called "Third Person Objective" and is indicative of a story where the narrator only describes the actions of the characters in the scene, but is otherwise barred from knowing the inner thoughts of the character. While you probably haven't read any of these things, you may likely know of some famous works that employ them.

This style is often refereed to as "Third Person Dramatic" or "Third Person Roving Camera" as the narrator is simply describing the actions of the characters as would be seen if it was a play before an audience or a show on a television or movie screen. This isn't to say all plays and TV shows are, as there are dramatic devices to cue in the audience as to what the character is thinking (Using a voice over of a character's thoughts on TV or a debatable Shakespearean style mono-log where the character tells the audience his emotions directly and is not prone to talking out loud).

As you will need a protagonist, you will need to make sure that any habits or ticks this character uses are cued by a character in a story ("You always twist your hair when you're thinking") as opposed to the narrator (Sam always twisted his hair when he was thinking) who learns this with the audience. The trick is to never use any thought or reasoning which cannot be attributed to a line of dialog and never describe a physical detail of an object that the read will not be able to see or hear (dialog must describe the taste, touch, or smell of an object or any memories that are associated with it).


Every time someone here asks "can this be done", the answer is yes.

The real question is should this be done?

Making the characters chameleons does not seem overly hard. As you said it, yourself, the chameleon's defining trait is that we don't really know what's going on on his mind. Most stories with third person limited have this trait. It could be argued that in EVERY third person limited story all characters are chameleons.

The only troubling aspect of your question is that, since the narrator is himself an entity, he also has thoughts and (unless you pull some weird amnesia/double personality trick) obviously has access to them. This puts the narrator as the only non-chameleon character in the story and, under this point of view, it is impossible to write a story with only chameleons.

  • 1
    The narrator would be the only exception. Or else, the story would be very boring (at my opinion) But why EVERY third person limited story all characters are chameleons? Sometimes the narrator uses indirect speech to speak and detail the characters impressions he is following. So again, why third person limited pov's has the potential to be chameleons? How could it be done?
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 15:10
  • You defined a chameleon as "a character we're not sure is lying or telling the truth", a description that can be applied to every character (but the narrator) in a third person limited story. The defining trait of limited storytelling is that we don't know what's going on on everyone else's mind, meaning they could be lying. If your narrator is capable of "entering" the character's minds and describing their thoughts, it's not limited anymore.
    – FFN
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 15:16
  • But he cannot. I said that above. "In short, it is a third-person oniscient narrator which is also a entity that cannot read what is inside the characters mind."
    – Hanilucas
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 15:18
  • 1
    Please join this room so we can discuss it better chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/69746/…
    – FFN
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 15:29

I think the risk you run is that the characters will not be memorable, and the reader will have trouble telling them apart, or caring. Chameleon characters are usually most effective when there is only one of them. (Even in Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, where there are several, only one is ever "on stage" at a time.)

Consider Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. All the characters are lying about something, or misrepresenting themselves in some way. But they are essentially pieces in a chess match, or a jigsaw puzzle. They have interesting backstories, but ultimately they are just stock characters placed there to advance the murder-mystery plot. It works for this story, and this type of story, where the characters are disposable and interchangeable. But it's not as good for a more modern, more psychological story, where we need to actually care about the characters and have them come alive for us.

Also, even Christie's work has at least one stable, non-chameleon character --the detective, the firm foundation around which the rest of the plot can revolve.

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