Penguinology. Part 2

This is my third creative writing assignment where I had to write an opening to my Penguinologist story idea from a first and third person view point. Each opening could only be a maximum of 300 words.

First person style:

It’s about time! I thought to myself. It was a Sunday morning; I’d just sat down in my office chair with a black coffee and opened up my emails. I always work on Sundays. I have an email from Dr Andrew Moore at Natural Environment Research Council. He’s a bit of an asshole but I’m glad to get this email from him as he’s finally informed me that I get to go back to the Antarctica research base at the Brunt Ice Shelf in July to do my field work. I’ve done field work there before but I was always there as part of someone else’s research, and it was only ever been for a maximum of three weeks. Now I have been awarded funding to do six weeks purely in my own field of research, bliss! Hopefully, the other scientists who are at the base will stay out of my way and leave me alone to do my important work observing the Male Emperor Penguins.

I’ve been a Penguinlogist for over nine years now. Most of my academic career has been in Oxbridge; PhD in Biology at Cambridge University and a two-year Post Doc at the Department of Zoology at Oxbridge, but now, disappointedly, I’m based at the University of Southampton. This city has about as much culture as a nat! The National Oceanography Centre has a good reputation, but not for Penguins. So, this has meant it’s been harder these last two years in Southampton for me to get my research funded. At least I have Matt, he was at Oxbridge too, but is now stuck in this dump with me, begging for scraps from the British Antarctic Survey. He’s going to be so jealous when I tell him I’m going to Antarctica; bet he would have loved six weeks away from his boring wife Julia.

Third person style:

Dr Tom Hodges is at his happiest when he is observing penguins. Some say he’s obsessed with them; he’s regularly in his office hyper focused on trying to understand their behaviour. As Tom sits on a small prop plane, destination Antarctica, his mind wanders thinking about the male emperor penguin; he’s specifically interested in doing more work on his hypothesis that the males exhibit psychopathic tendencies. He’s observed that some of the penguins suddenly kill their own babies and eat them; and others seem to kill fellow penguins without being provoked. Tom is eager to collect more evidence of the penguin’s behaviour on this expedition.

Tom doesn’t want to wrongly diagnose these penguins as ‘psychopaths’, he actually hates the term ‘psychopath’, especially after several unqualified people throughout his life have told him that he, Tom is a psychopath. He, of course, disagrees.

Tom’s father left when he was just 10 years old, Tom’s mother Sandra took out her heartbreak on Tom. By the time Tom was 11 he was obsessed with the idea that his mother wished he was dead, and he thought she would try to poison his meals. She wouldn’t let him go out after school and play with children of his age, this resulted in Tom inventing an imaginary friend. Only it wasn’t a human friend that he had ‘imaginary’ conversations with, it was a Penguin called Jonny. Soon Tom and Jonny were getting into a lot of trouble in school. Tom was often accused of biting other children or hitting them with a ruler if he didn’t get his way, and he would just blame Jonny, the Penguin. One of Tom’s teachers suggested he be referred to a psychiatrist. Sandra hated Doctors of any kind, especially because her lying, cheating ex- husband had been a Doctor (not a medical Doctor, but still!); but the sessions were offered for free and the clinic was in walking distance from her house so she let Tom go. After having three, hour long sessions with Tom, Dr Lisa James diagnosed him with Autism and a suspected borderline personality disorder. Dr James then met with Sandra alone to explain to her diagnosis. She made the suggestion of medication and told Sandra that he should be placed in a school for children with special needs. While in the office, Sandra nodded and said all the right things to the Dr, she even took the prescription off her. But as soon as she was out in the street Sandra ripped up the script and exclaimed ‘What a load of rubbish! I hate Doctors!’. Tom never did find out his diagnosis.

Which opening do you prefer?


For my second creative writing module assessment I had to write a character summary for a story idea, followed by additional notes on the character and finally two passages in the third person/narrated style of writing including some ‘show and tell’.

Initially I was really excited about writing this up as an actual book, I was really excited to discover a Penguinologist was a thing. And also I wanted to explore how Penguins could have sociopathic tendencies…but I think writing about a sociopathic male academic has taken me to a dark place so now I don’t really want to write this up as an actual book haha.

Also, I have recently read an amazing book called ‘Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior’ which is a lovely piece of fiction heavily featuring Penguinologists – so yes, I got my Penguinlogist fix from that 😀

Create an in-depth character profile

Name: Dr Tom Hodges

Age: 37

Height: 5ft 11

Nationality: White British – English

Appearance: Brown hair, un-styled, about 2 inches long (he just brushes it once in the morning and that’s it). Has an unkempt beard, not overweight per se; but definitely not toned or muscular. Grey eyes. Average looking. Usually only wears jeans/dark trousers and a grey or black T-shirt.

Personality: Narcissistic, Antisocial, Talkative when it comes to his research but see’s little point in making small talk etc. Spends a lot of time on his own. Has been known to have angry outbursts in the past but the most extreme thing he has done is throw a fellow student’s phone at a wall.

Lives: in Southampton, in a two-bed flat which he owns. No pets.

Health: Tom drinks more alcohol than the average person and he never works out but he does walk to work each day which is a 5k round trip, he has no health concerns.

Occupation: Currently Penguinologist at University of Southampton, based at the National Oceanography Centre. Post Doc completed in Department of Zoology at Oxford University and Undergraduate studies and PhD in Biology completed at Cambridge University.

Habits: Tom doesn’t have any real hobbies, he certainly doesn’t play any sports. When he is not working at the University doing his research, he enjoys playing PlayStation Games like Call of Duty and PC games like The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. But he sporadically deletes Morrowind off his computer as he gets too involved in it and then forgets to eat and go to work. Tom is currently on a sabbatical so he doesn’t have any teaching duties at the moment or tutorials with students, so he isn’t really missed by his colleagues if he doesn’t go into work. He doesn’t have any real friends apart from a colleague in Oceanography called Matt (36) who also completed his Zoology work at Oxbridge. But Matt has a wife (Julia, 35) and he’s definitely ‘under the thumb’, so Tom and Matt never hang out outside work.

Family: Mother is Sandra Hodges (65 years old) they had a very close relationship as a child but not particularly healthy one. Sandra has mousy blonde hair and glasses and doesn’t really look after her appearance. She is overweight and very bitter and never got a new partner after Tom’s father left. Sandra lives in Surrey in England with her blonde Labrador, Duke. Sandra is a retired dinner lady, she worked in the same secondary school that Tom attended as a child.

Father is John Hodges (66 year’s old) cheated on Tom’s mother Sandra when Tom was 10 years old. John has a similar appearance to Tom, brown hair and grey eyes and his personality is also very similar to his son, narcissistic and selfish.  John was also an academic, he worked in the Chemistry department at University of Kent up until his retirement.  John lives with his second wife (the one he cheated on Sandra with) in Canterbury. His wife is called Lucia and she was a PhD student when they met, John was a Postdoc at the time. Lucia (44 years old) is originally from Spain and has very dark brown hair. John and Lucia have a son who is 27, he’s called James and he’s an Engineer for AIRBUS.

Additional Notes on character:

Tom was diagnosed as having autism when he was 17 and after having a breakdown during his PhD an NHS counsellor suggested he should ‘go private’ and see a Psychiatrist as they suspected that he is likely to have Borderline personality disorder (BPD) but Tom never did arrange this appointment and he never told anyone about this potential diagnosis, he has looked into BPD a lot online and he goes between being sure he has it to being appalled that it was even suggested by the NHS Doctor. Tom has a had a few girlfriends through his PhD and Postdoc, his only serious girlfriend was Sally who was a Biology Undergraduate when he had just started his PhD, they were together for 1 year and then she cheated on him with a guy she met in a club on a night out…he never really got over this rejection and all the girlfriends thereafter he got very jealous and pushed them away after only a few months because he feared they would leave him too. He once had a drunken fumble with a male Post Doc, Jerry, from the US following a Conference Dinner where a lot of wine was involved. Tom has never really dealt with the fact he may actually be bisexual and every time he thinks about Jerry he feels very panicked and usually starts drinking something alcoholic. But he does think about Jerry quite a lot and check’s Jerry’s social media posts daily. Jerry is currently in an open relationship with a man named Gareth, who he lives with and he now works for a Data Science company in Michigan. Tom is currently on at the moment and is talking with three different women on and off he is yet to arrange a date with any of them.

2 passages in narrated style of writing and then a show and tell:

For the last fifteen years Tom has dedicated his life to researching the social habits of the male Emperor penguins of Antarctica. His role involves regular field work, where he is away from his home in the South of England for months at a time. Tom regularly goes to one of the most isolating and extreme places on the Earth. This trip will be the longest he has even spent there, however, Tom has no one in England who will miss him. He has no time for other people’s feelings and opinions, and definitely no time for listening to their research ideas or their theories about penguin’s behaviour. As Tom sits on the third flight of five to his destination in Antarctica all he can think about is his getting started with his important research. He’s so tired and he really should get some sleep so he is well rested to start his research straight away tomorrow morning.

Dr Tom Hart is at his happiest when he is observing penguins. Now, a lot of people like penguins, sure, but penguins are Tom’s life work. Some might say he’s obsessed with them; he’s regularly in his office till late into the night, hyper focused on trying to understand their behaviour. He definitely finds penguins more interesting than humans. As Tom sits on a small prop plane, destination Antarctica, his mind wanders thinking about the sociopathic tendencies of the male emperor penguin; he’s hoping to collect more evidence of these tendencies on this very expedition. A nurse once suggested to him that he too might have sociopathic tendencies; but what did she know. Most women were sluts, even the ones who worked at the University; they couldn’t be trusted with a man’s heart or with serious academic research.

Would you read this book?

What if?

I started a Creative Writing course online in the first lockdown, and I haven’t really worked on the modules in a few months but I thought uploading some of my assessments here as individual blog posts may hopefully spur me on to finish it the course and then start on my first novel… I still can’t decide if I want to write children’s fiction or adult fiction…hmmm 🙂

Below is the final part of the first assignment where you had to write three story summaries inspired by the image below:

Summary 1

Sarah has just escaped from a religious cult and this road is significant because it is a road to a world that she was led to believe did not even exist; she thought the only world was in the confines of the gated community where she has lived all her life. The cult leader who is also her father is very unhappy that she has escaped and he has sent seven of his disciples to find her. Sarah ends up walking through the forest where this path ends and comes out into a village. In the village Sarah is panicked and very overwhelmed by her sudden change in surroundings; all the cars and all the people walking around who appear to be looking down at small metal mirrored objects, totally oblivious of her.

Summary 2

Sandra is in an abusive relationship and the only joy in her life is walking her dog on the gravel path which is just 100m from her house. Her abusive husband Paul permits her to walk outside without him each day for 10 minutes but she must stay to the path, because he can see most of it from their upstairs window. However, there is a blind spot on this path behind a tree, with a bench underneath it and unknown to Paul, Sandra sits there every day and chats to an old man, who recently lost his wife to cancer. Every day the unlikely pair tell their sad life stories to each other. After a year of Sandra and the old man meeting secretly the old man finally reveals to Sandra that he is an ex mafia boss and his wife was actually killed as a result of his dodgy dealings in Italy. It was all his fault, her death and the deaths of many others and he came to Wales to start a new life but he still has his mafia contacts and they can help her get away from her husband and get her a new identity and new life in Southern Italy or they could simply have him killed and make it look like an accident.

Summary 3

Julia has been blind all her life; but she has been part of a drug trial for the past 3 months. As she walks along this path with her guide dog, a path she walks along every day, she suddenly starts to realise that her vision is coming back. First it is very blurry but as she continues to walk she starts to distinguish some colours. She thinks she can see the outline of the path and the green of the grass on either side. She returns to the research centre that day where they give her some eye tests and confirm that the drug is indeed working. Julia returns to her home where she lives with her girlfriend Fiona, she is understandably extremely excited and so is Fiona, especially when Julia declares she can see the blue of Fiona’s eyes. As the days go on Julia is able to see more and more and her vision is becoming clearer each day. The only puzzling thing for Julia and the scientists is that as well as being able to see the real colours, outlines and shapes of people and items in this world Julia also seems to be able to see brightly coloured glowing white figures. No one else can see them, but Julia insists that they are there, and they are real. They seem to follow around the real people; at least the blurry outlines of those people. She doesn’t feel scared of the glowing figures that she sees, but what is disturbing her is that the figure that seems to follow Fiona around, it doesn’t glow white like all the others, it’s very grey in colour and it seems more menacing somehow. Julia doesn’t know how to tell Fiona about the figures she sees, and she’s especially worried because her guide dog never seemed to like Fiona, it’s always barked at her for no apparent reason, maybe this is the reason. She hopes the drug will continue to improve her eyesight, and she hopes she will understand what these figures are. Julia starts to research the drug company who run the trial and realises that this drug isn’t just for helping people with vision impairments, and she sets off to try find anyone else that might be taking part in the trial to find out what they are experiencing.

Which of my story ideas is your favourite?