While sitting in a café reading a novel, I stopped to consider this line: "People look more like who they really are from the back."
A choreographer recently helped me with some pages I wrote, and she pointed out that I mostly describe my characters from the front--which doesn't work in dance. She prompted me to be more aware of a 360 degree perception.
This man is carrying his cane along with his groceries. Made me wonder why he had a cane if he could walk so well without it. Although that was something best seen from the front, so this isn't a case where the back view reveals more.
There's no reason for this woman to look so impatient and tight-kneed. She's already being served. In fact, why hasn't she reached into her purse to get out her wallet since she's going to have to pay any instant?
I stood behind this woman for a very long time because the pharmacist was explaining in minute detail how she was supposed to administer the medication for her child. She didn't once move or shift as she listened, though it looked to me like one foot was about to slip off her shoe. This last observation is more a reflection on myself than her. I would fall. She didn't. She finally asked the pharmacist if all that he was telling her was on the piece of paper in the bag. Yes. Well, then, she said. Her tone was as patient with him as he'd been with her.
It occurred to me--being the kind of writer I am, interested in "story"--that I could imagine more when I see two people rather than a solitary person. Immediately there's dynamic.
This couple, for example. Quite apart from their age, I would still guess that they've been together for a couple of decades at least. They're comfortable together. Maybe even take each others' presence for granted? I'm looking at his hands. She might seem to be the in-charge person since she's doing the carrying. Though you never know. She might pass him the knapsack once it's loaded up. Real-life people--and fictional characters--can surprise you with their inconsistencies.
This is the back shot I like best. Her solitary quietness and elegance. The bicycle. This is a story I could write. I like to "place" my characters.
In some cases, I only saw the person from the back. There were times, too, when I turned around to take a pic. I'd already seen the person from the front. And... yeah, I perceived more from the front view. I wouldn't agree the line in the novel.
It's still a good pointer to pay more attention to what we can read from behind.