character sketch, Writing

Chasing down Cholas-A Writing Exercise

A comment about my lead character dogged me at my writer’s group last night. The group had a good idea about her personality, height, body shape, and hair color but couldn’t ‘see’ her face.
I thought about that while I drove home. It’s true; even I don’t see Lili’s face. Maybe it’s her personality that overtakes everything—nonetheless, we have to have a face to go with that character. 
I thought about her some more while I changed into my pj’s and checked in with the kids. Maybe if I reread a paragraph, Lili’s face will pop up, and I can describe it.
A picture popped into my mind like a cartoon bubble.
Lili could have been a chola ‘back in the day.’ But her face was still out of focus, and I needed to see a face. Thus began two hours of chasing chola’s through the internet.
The chase led me to cholas with guns, bandanas, pit bulls, and really big Sharpies. Young cholas, senior citizen chola’s, chola’s in jail, chola’s coming out of jail, chola’s flacas, chola’s gorda’s, chola’s in drag. Japanese cholas’s, Anglo chola’s, black, Filipino, all mixed together chola’s. East Coast chola’s, West Coast chola’s, Midwest chola’s. Chola’s giving makeup lessons.
Low-rider chola’s, pin-up chola’s, animé chola’s. Model pretty Chola’s and scary fugly Chola’s. Real Chola’s, wannabe chola’s, and original 1940’s Pachuca cholas’s. Sandra Bullock, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, and a Frida Kahlo chola. (I remember wearing letter belts).
McDonald’s arches black eyebrows, lined lips, and three eyes shadowed cat eyes cholas.
Yes, Lili had the look back in the day. But now it was in a toned-down version. Her face came into view: heart-shaped face, full lips, a cleft in her chin, copper brown eyes, her smooth skin a lighter shade of brown. Her face and eyes softened when she smiled, her laugh loud and hearty.
And in a flash, it could all disappear. Brows arched, mouth fixed, and eyes that pierced through the heart, still giving chola attitude, the sullen gaze that threw a chain link fence around her body, like a force field. 
Now, I know her well. 


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