Alternate history stories can be super popular, and you’ve got plenty of options to go off of, if you’re feeling like writing in this genre.
What makes a book alternate history?
Well, before we dive in, let me warn you and say that alternate history is a very different thing that historical fiction. While both are based in fact, alternate history takes a lot more liberties. From this speculative genre, you get genres like steampunk, dieselpunk, and atompunk.
But, those aren’t the only prerequisites of alternate history, the main difference that makes something alternate history is that one (or maybe multiple) key differences are made between what actually happened, and what could have happened.
So, here’s a list of alternate history prompts to get you writing!
- The Crusades never ended. To this day, there’s a constant struggle between Christian Europe and the Islamic Middle East. You’re a knight, and you’ve got one job: Defend Jerusalem. Problem is, there are a thousand of you and at least twenty thousand Muslims. You can’t help but wish that you were defending Constantinople, you would have stood a chance there.
- The “Great Recession” wasn’t cut short by government money printing. It snowballed into an event worse than the Great Depression. That’s right, we’re in for a real doozy.
- Cuba never went Communist, nor did any other nation. The Cold War never happened as a result. Where would we be today?
- Nikola Tesla, the famed inventor, never had the government, nor anyone else, prevent his many inventions from getting to market. Many of these inventions we don’t know today because of the government, as such, you’ve got some great leeway to attribute some awesome tech to him!
- We never discovered the power of fossil fuels, so the world is still disconnected, people are still riding on horseback, whales are still being hunted to make oil, and more wood is being burned daily than could ever be grown in an attempt to keep people warm through the winters. You’re someone who pushes the limits, and you’re sure that there’s a better way.
- We never harnessed electricity. You’re in the American West and there’s no telegraph to warn the East Coast about an invasion from the West Coast. As such, you’re on your own, at least until your messenger reaches somebody who can send in the calvary.
- The Roman Empire never fell. One day, somebody happens across the Americas and now it’s Rome who has to navigate what ensues. Is there mass colonization? War? Do they ignore it and pretend there is no land across the vast ocean?
- World War One never started because the European powers of the day figured out that it was in their best interest to defend their allies from would-be assassins. Despite this, Japan still invades China. What would a unified Europe do against Imperial Japan as they tore across China?
- The American Civil War never ended. In fact, it only got worse. Abraham Lincoln, along with many Union upper brass, are assassinated, ruining any chance of a swift victory after Gettysburg. Over a hundred years have passed, and there are still constant skirmishes along the border. One day, you’re conscripted to defend the border from the Democrat Southern Confederacy.
- The US Never nuked Japan and World War Two never ended because of this. Instead, Japan remains, as does its holdings, primarily in China, is separate from the world. One day, they launch several new fleets of ships and aircraft carriers. They aren’t about to make the same mistakes as they did at the outset of the war.
- The Western Church never turned its back on those in the East and they showed up in force to defend Constantinople from the Ottomans in 1453. The war that ensures after the failed Ottoman siege spills more blood than any other war prior to or after it.
- The Wright Brothers never invented an aircraft, but Hitler still rose to power. How would World War Two have gone if there were no planes? As a soldier on the front lines, you’re about to find out.
- Christianity never became the official religion of Rome. To this day, Christians are persecuted and martyred worldwide by the powers that be. Only a handful of nations declare themselves as Christians, and they’re constantly at war to remain.
- The US never made it to the moon. Nor did the Russians. In fact, the Space Race is still ongoing, but both nations bankrupted themselves in their efforts to win early on. Now their space programs are forging ahead with a minuscule fraction of the funding. You’re a spy in the Russian space program and you just found out a secret that might just get the US to the moon all these years later.
- Rockefeller, Carnegie, and JP Morgan never achieved widespread success. The oil, money, and rail that connected and built the US never happened, at least not at the scale that we know today. You’re a poor kid who works on a small railroad in Texas and you’ve got a plan to succeed everywhere that Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan failed all those years before.