Standing weakly on the beach, Billy was soaked, shivering and scared for his life. Being a runty nine-year-old, the current situation only added to his reputation as being ‘all skin and bones’. His ribs – along with his knees, collarbones and cheekbones – seemed to pop out of his pasty-white skin. Some nicknamed him ‘skeleton’, much to his dismay. Others, who enjoyed joining his freckles together with pen, called him ‘freckle-fart from K-Mart’, on account of the sun spots that covered his face, neck, lower arms and legs. Deep blue eyes squinted from his face and a wild mop of bleach-white hair hung down from crown to shoulder blades. To top it all off, he was the shortest boy in his year at school, and the year below. A handsome boy, no doubt. But none could ignore his scrawny build.
This is the first description of Billy’s physical features, introduced on the very first page of my manuscript. This is also my first attempt at editing / re-writing my story.
The passage doesn’t intend to accurately depict his appearance. Instead, it captures Billy’s negative self-concept and highlights the self-esteem issues that contribute to his social anxieties.
In an effort to reinforce his issues of body dis-morphia, I have listed some typically envied features, such as bleached hair and blue eyes, as a prelude to the phrase, ‘To top it all off’. This oxymoron adds strength to the defeatist mood of the paragraph and entire first chapter.
As if to almost confirm his fears, the last sentence summarises how others perceive him in blatantly, and almost certainly self-exaggerated, terms.
Many of Billy’s self-perceived flaws are influenced by my own personal experiences of bullying. Both nicknames above haunted me during primary and high school respectively. It always amazes me how long negative comments like that can stick. Sometimes you don’t realise how deep some of those words cut, until you find yourself cutting others in self-defense, as they poke at old wounds that never healed.
Peace, love and joy to you all,