character sketch, chola's, Writing, Writing groups

Chasing down Cholas

At my writer’s group last night a comment about my lead character dogged me. 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, bandana’s, pit bulls, and really big Sharpie’s. 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.
Model pretty chola’s and scary fugly chola’s. Real chola’s, wannabe chola’s, and original 1940’s Pachuca cholas’s. Low-rider chola’s, pin-up chola’s, animé chola’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 eye 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. 


character sketch, Revision

Manuscript Revisions

     It’s been a hard week of conflicting events in my life made a little worse by a flu that has drained me of energy for a few days. Today, though, I pick up the pen and continue with revisions.

     If you’ve ever had a manuscript (MS) returned to you which has more red than black type, more squiggle lines than a snake on crack, and more POV (Point of View) slashes in the column than you can tolerate, then you know–you better know–that you have a long row to hoe. This has been the case for me in earlier drafts of my first manuscript. I’m not ashamed to tell you this, because at least I picked up the hoe. Now I can go two or three pages with any red type and just a couple of “POV” markings in a chapter. Sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but the hard stuff is yet to come. The preceding is just the ‘clean up’ work. I think I’m done with that for half of the MS. I’ll get to the other half when it’s returned to me.

     The real work is in developing “intimacy.” You want readers to care about your characters and understand how they view the world. I’ve heard instructors say you have to be an actor and temporarily be the character in order to understand her/him. One of the best devices I’ve come across, to achieve this, is the character sketch. Here’s one from Writer’s Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/upload/images/PDF/worksheets.pdf
There are several pages of worksheets to help you develop the characters. After you fill in the blanks you are more ready to ‘be’ the character and act out the scenes.  
A shorter version of the character sketch is here:http://www.writersdigest.com/upload/images/PDF/30Days-Character-Sketch.pdf 
I like this version because it is succinct and can easily be retrieved;everything is on 2 pages. You can whip it out of your folder (you are keeping a folder or binder to keep your notes in, right?-ok, a blog post for another time) and re-read the sketch to determine if the actions are true to character.  
     So this is where I’m at with the MS, in the throes of revision xx (I’m not telling you), with the goal of developing interior monologue to achieve a more intimate relationship between character and reader. I don’t really feel like tackling this right now, since the flu is still hanging on, but I think I’ve achieved something for myself and that is to write everyday and share information. 
    And now is a good time to get my folder out and organize it. When I pulled it out, for character sketch reference above, I found that I titled it “Book Notes.” Too general. So now I must go and dig up another folder for MS 1 and MS 2 or go hijack my kid’s old binders, but before that I need more diet 7up and flu tablets.