I’m shortsighted. I first donned glasses in third grade and they’ve only been getting thicker since. The glasses work pretty well, but at a certain distance away, things start to get fuzzy. That’s when I can’t identify people by their faces anymore.
When I’m walking across campus between classes, I start to rely more on other recognizable features to identify people I know. Gait. Hair color. Body size. Clothes. Any defining feature that’s more visible than those subtle facial details we’re all so miraculously talented at recognizing.
I have to pay a bit more attention to these non-facial attributes than most folks, because of my short eyesight. It’s really very interesting, the differences I get to see in people. What does a gait mean? There’s the basics of walking faster or slower depending on your rush, but everyone has a different default speed and style. Bouncy, twitchy, wobbly, solid, labored or energetic . . . a gait is just one aspect of a person’s style of movement. What does the body language mean? A storyteller (or anyone, actually) could go wild imagining interpretations of these everyday clues.
“…I could tell from the way his fingers moved that his favorite color was green.” –Siri Keeton (Peter Watts), Blindsight
How do you tell who someone is from a distance? You’re only seeing an abstracted version of who they are—a simplified, distilled version, still filled with evidence of personality. Think on this, all you storytellers out there, as you get to know your character. Take 5 minutes now, and find out how your character walks, moves, and the meaning underneath. Draw on your life experience interpreting body language. Show me your character from a distance, in the comments section below!