Best Ancient Rome Books (fiction and nonfiction)

Pollice Verso *oil on canvas *97,4 x 146,6 cm *1872

Welcome to a list of the best books about Ancient Rome. This comprises two lists: fiction and nonfiction.

Best Ancient Rome Fiction

5. Under the Eagle (Eagles of the Empire #1)

Under the eagle

Under The Eagle (part of Simon Scarrow’s bestselling Eagles of the Empire series) is a double-time march in the footsteps of the Ancient Roman legions. What I like to categorise as sword-and-shield historical fiction, expect plenty of nail-biting fights and gritty detail as you watch the lives of Cato and Macro play out on the barbarian frontier of the Roman Empire.

The protagonists are written around each other in the best possible way: inexperienced intellectual Cato and toughened veteran centurion Macro. Easy reading which shouldn’t take you long to finish and is more than likely to get you hooked on the series. It did for me!

4. Dictator (Cicero Trilogy #3)

Dictator

Political thrillers and Ancient Rome go together like tea and biscuits, and Robert Harris proves himself to be a masterful composer of that ensemble in Dictator. In it he brings together two titans of the Late Roman Republic, Cicero and Caesar.

Ambition, corruption and uncertainty are three of the hallmarks of the book and the period. Set during one of the pivotal moments of Roman history, this novel certainly deserves its place in the top 5 historical novels set in Ancient Rome.

I misbehaved and skipped ahead to the third in the trilogy, but you can find Imperium (Vol 1) and Lustrum (Vol 2) by following the links.

3. Fire in the East (Warrior of Rome #1)

Fire in the East falls into the same sub-genre as #5, but Harry Sidebottom’s thrilling Ancient Rome fiction series is significantly more developed. I say developed to avoid calling it more sophisticated. That would be unfair to Simon Scarrow, whose legionary romps fill a slightly different niche.

The series follows Ballista, a barbarian who has become a leader in the later Roman army. What I loved most about this historical novel is the message of one man standing tall against seemingly impossible odds. He is a barbarian at the heart of an empire which views his kind as backwards and untrustworthy. His task is to hold a small fortress against the mightiest foe Rome ever faced. It’s impossible not to root for that kind of underdog!

If you do give it a go and enjoy it, I highly recommend reading on to #5 in the series, Wolves of the North; an absolutely fantastic read!

 2. First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome #1)

First man in rome

Politics, manipulation, deceit and ambition. Colleen McCullough’s gripping Masters of Rome series really does stand on the top rung of Roman Empire historical fiction. She takes us all the way through from Marius and Sulla to Pompey and Crassus and finally the great man himself, Caesar.

Masters of Rome is the first instalment and, as is so often the case in historical fiction series, the first outshines the rest. Absolutely a recommended read for any fans of the sordid politics of Ancient Rome.

1. I, Claudius

I claudius

This is a book which not only changed the way historical fiction about Ancient Rome is approached, but it has also influenced the way we think about the emperor Claudius. Many of the assumptions we make as students or observers of Claudius’ rule are grounded to some extent in this fantastic novel.

I, Claudius treats a man who rose unwittingly to the head of the Roman Empire in a very human way, portraying him as a simple man caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Robert Graves captures the essence of Roman politics and high society just as well as, if not better than, the above author. But he goes further in creating a compelling story which will immerse you in the imperial court of Ancient Rome.

Best Ancient Rome Nonfiction

5. Ancient Rome on Five Denarii A Day

Five denarii

I love the concept of this book. It tries to bring history out of the past and reconstruct it in a way which lets you really experience a lost age. A travel guide for a long dead civilisation with a good sense of humour, Ancient Rome on Five Denarii A Day is worth picking up if the drier, heavier history books aren’t really your thing.

4. Annals and Histories (Tacitus)

Tacitus

Unlike the above book, Annals and Histories isn’t going to be everyone’s idea of a good read. Tacitus lived in the period he is writing about, which makes his contribution to the historical record invaluable. With the painstaking care of a diligent chronicler, he takes the reader through the first century AD from the death of Augustus to the death of Domitian.

Undeniably, this should take a prominent place on the bookshelf of any would-be historian looking to gain a deeper knowledge of Ancient Rome and draw their own conclusions from a first-hand account.

3. The Twelve Caesars (Suetonius)

Suetonius

Another primary source, Suetonius differs from Tacitus in a significant way. The Twelve Caesars shows us much of the world explored by Robert Graves and Colleen McCullough in their novels, the public politics and courtly relations. But Suetonius has an advantage over them beyond having been present in the first century AD. He also lived at the imperial court.

This access and his willingness to lay all bare before the reader makes The Twelve Caesars more than just another stuffy contemporary account. The narrative is interspersed with anecdotes surrounding the Caesars’ private lives. These can range from who had an affair with whom to which poison was placed in whose cup.

2. SPQR (Mary Beard)

SPQR

Mary Beard is my favourite historian because she has a brilliant ability to hone in on the daily lives of ordinary people in Ancient Rome. You can see this in her documentary series, Meet the Romans, which I’ll embed the YouTube version of below.

As for SPQR, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I’ve noticed a trend in history publishing recently where it seems that all we’re getting are new books which tell the same tired story in a different way. This couldn’t be less true of Mary Beard’s history of Ancient Rome. She captures small details often glossed over by other writers which add real value to the reader’s experience. Her entire approach is based on the brilliant idea that, no matter how small or insignificant, the stories of every individual in history are worth taking time to discover, understand and describe.

1. Rubicon

Rubicon

Tom Holland’s Rubicon manages to achieve everything a history of Ancient Rome should rightly aim for. My only regret about this book is that it only covers the end of the Roman Republic, because it’s that good you won’t want it to end!

The author uses a narrative history approach to lead you in through the gates of Rome and along its streets. You meet the important people and the common man. You experience their world and witness the great triumphs and tragedies of their lives. What stands out most to me about Rubicon is how the author brings this distant era of history into the present and draws parallels between the world of the Caesars and our own. A five star history!

Helpful online resources

My Books

Click the image to view my books on Amazon.com!

Vikingr  Shameless plug!

Writing The Opposite Gender (rehashed in a rage)

Do you remember the time I published a post about Writing the Opposite Gender? I’ll summarise it for you. Just write a person. People are unique, regardless of gender. That sounds about right. We can leave it at that.

Panda
Women aren’t pandas. Neither are men. That’s all you need to know.

But we can’t! Your writing is going to be read (we hope). It will be read by people who think about gender. If you’re unlucky, it will be read by someone who thinks about gender while they read (a very dangerous sport).

You may remember that earlier post, but do you remember the time I wrote a crime novella? Not to worry if you don’t. I’ve since unpublished it as part of an effort to get serious with my writing. It was a silly thing I wrote on a bet. A bet made largely with myself.

“I bet I can write a crime novella in a couple of weeks.”

“What? Why would you do that? It seems kind of pointless if that’s not even the genre you -”

“Challenge accepted!”

Continue reading “Writing The Opposite Gender (rehashed in a rage)”

Kappa: Japanese Fiction Review

I’ve recently been keeping up with Meg Sorick’s series on drinking adventurously (trying the alcoholic offerings of far-flung lands and describing them for your pleasure). Drawing inspiration from her, I thought I’d bring you a taste of something different which you might not have encountered before. Not having the stomach for exotic spirits, however, I bring you a sample of the unique flavour that is Japanese literature.

Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Ryunosuke Akutagawa

We can begin with the author, Ryunosuke Akutagawa. He wrote Kappa in 1927 as a social commentary, making clear his negative view of corruption in Japanese society. One feature which made him stand out as an author was his willingness to blend western and Japanese influences in his fiction.

Akutagawa committed suicide by overdose in the same year Kappa was published, believing he had inherited a mental illness from his mother and fearing he would lose his mind. This casts a shadow over the tale which makes its meaning more powerful.

Continue reading “Kappa: Japanese Fiction Review”

Tip #42: And Then This Happened…

Angry

Mary Sue was walking through the park when she happened to meet Algobog. She was scared of him.

And then he said “Don’t be scared of me, I want to be your friend.”

And then they were friends, but Algobog had a secret. He did not really like Mary Sue because she lacked character depth.

And then he ate her.

“And then this happened”, etc. until the story finishes. This is an extreme example, but it illustrates a point.

This view may be personal to me, but there is no such thing as “good fiction” and “bad fiction”. Instead, all stories fall somewhere on a broad spectrum of “And then this happened.”

At its worst this is flat, sequential and predictable. At its best, well… it’s a great story.

One example which springs to mind is The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell. It’s a fun read and a TV series I would happily recommend. However, it does not grip me.

The Last Kingdom has very engaging characters and plot. The setting is excellent. But it suffers from mild “And then this happened.”

You may think this is another way of describing deus ex machina (where something is concocted to get your character out of an impossible situation). But it is really a way of explaining why some fiction is “better” or “worse”, of which deus ex machina is one part.

For example: Mary Sue is in an impossible situation, And then this happened, she lived happily ever after. The reader has an issue with neither an impossible situation nor happily ever after. It is the And then this happened which makes deus ex machina an irritating writing device.

It is plot minus motivation. Things just happen. Events and dialogue roll along regardless of what the characters are thinking or feeling. People say and do things, but the reader never falls into a state of suspended disbelief.

Ask yourself why they do and say X. Even the seemingly most random acts in our lives have a cause or purpose. Every tiny action you perform says something about who you are.

The same is true of fictional characters.

Mary Sue was walking through the park, searching for that special someone. She knew it was a fantasy. Outside of movies nobody found true love strolling through a park. But still… She hoped.

That was when she saw Algobog. It was not his green skin or huge canines which frightened her, but the thought that he just might be “the one”. 

“Don’t be scared,” Algobog said, hiding his glee at having found an unwitting victim. “I want to be your friend.”

She did not want to believe him, but how could she not? This was the moment she had been hoping, no, longing for. Sometimes, you just had to dive in and leave your misgivings behind.

Algobog ate her. Of course he did. He was hungry. But for a brief moment, a passing whisper in time that was their lives, Mary Sue found love. If she had lived, she would have re-played that meeting a thousand times in her mind.

Mary Sue

If you are concerned or afraid, don’t be. Algobog’s feeding frenzy is over and it is now safe for you to leave your homes.

My books:

Tip #41: Creating Escapism By Genre

Escapism

You know what fiction is all about. The purpose of a novel or short story is escapism. This is also true of television and cinema.

I have been watching Homeland, which got me thinking about escapism. It’s a spy drama and I would recommend it for one compelling reason. The show manages to recreate for you, the viewer, something of the spy mentality.

That is how escapism works, in TV or fiction. You are not just trying to create vivid imagery and realistic dialogue, but also using your writing to manipulate the reader’s thoughts. You want a small part of them to believe in the story.

How you achieve this will vary depending on genre.

Spy or thriller

Escapism in spy fiction is about making the reader think like a spy. What is a vital characteristic of fictional espionage? Trusting no one.

Your characters are frequently betraying each other and undermining their plans, or at least appearing to or being suspected of doing so. If this happens, which character will your reader trust? No one. This gets them thinking like a spy character, pulling them into the story.

Thrillers operate in a similar way. They are stories about the changing psyche of a character. Their primary goal is excitement. Run the tap on hot and cold to create escapism. Rather than showing how depressed your character is (and I realise this is quite cruel), make the reader feel that depression. Give them something to feel down about.

Historical and fantasy (inc. sci-fi)

Now we can return to my niche. Your job may be harder if you write historical fiction or fantasy (or both!). There is no set preconception for how a historical or fantasy person thinks, unlike spies.

The first step is setting up the scenery. This is true of any genre, but especially these two where setting is of such importance. Now place characters in that scenery who are believable as real people. If they were alive today, would your reader still empathise with them?

You are also lucky in a way. Readers approach historical fiction and fantasy anticipating the need to jump from their world into another. So they already have their seatbelt fastened and baggage stowed in the overhead locker.

Give them a place and people which seem real and the reader will jump in on their own.

Crime

Again, the crime genre creates some problems when it comes to escapism. This is because the genre’s title is limited. Is your story about a criminal? A detective? A victim of crime? There are so many different approaches that one mindset does not fit all (again, unlike spies).

What you need to do is make the crime hit the reader. Something as simple as having your phone stolen or a brick thrown through your window may have a profound impact on your life. It can change the way you act, think and feel.

Draw the fictional crime unsettlingly close to reality. You could write “Bob shot Jess” and the reader will hardly blink. Create a vivid picture of Jess looking over her shoulder everywhere she goes after someone pickpockets her driver’s licence. This will leave the reader’s skin crawling.

Romance

Are you blushing? Romance is messy. There. I ruined it for you.

That is a good way to approach the genre. A romance can build slowly over time, steam-rolling each obstacle in its path. There is nothing wrong with that, but why not throw out some curve balls?

When the first roadblock springs up in the relationship and your characters run around it like headless chickens, your reader will sigh and say “such is life”. When it happens again a second time, “aaaargghhh”. Fourth, “are they stupid?”. Fifth, “JUST ACCEPT HE LOVES YOU!!!”.

And then the sixth, where the characters finally address their problems, allowing their romance to blossom (or they die tragically etc.). Now your reader is reaching for the tissues and reminding themselves “it’s not real” or “if only it was”.

So, if you aren’t already, start writing spy fiction. It seems a lot more straightforward. Does that help?

My books:

Tip #40: Hindsight And Self-improvement

Hindsight
“Of course my vision is 20/20, officer. I’m driving in hindsight!”

Today I went back and had a look at my first writing tip on this blog. Ouch! Re-reading something you wrote back then can be painful. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction. Could any of us read one of our old school essays without wincing?

What should you do with your dusty old writings? There are a number of tempting options: burn it, revise it, ignore it.

Binning your old work

50 torn

You may feel so embarrassed about your old work that you want to destroy it, hide it from prying eyes forever. This would be a loss to you and any fans you accumulate along the way.

Wouldn’t you like to be able to go back and have a look at J K Rowling’s first school essay for English Literature? It would probably look something like this: “To conclude, War and Peace is a naff book because WHERE ARE THE BLOODY WIZARDS??”

One day, somebody might want to read your first short story. They can get a sense of the journey which led to you becoming #1 best-selling author in the world, living in a solid gold mansion on top of Buckingham Palace.

It also lets you look back and see how far you have come.

Revamping the oldies

Another, less drastic option is to edit your past writing. You might want to re-submit it to a publisher or update it on your blog. This is a good option because you get a like-new story or novel, without all the time it takes to craft a truly new one.

The drawback is that editing previously completed work might still be a waste of time. What if you used that time to write something completely new? You would still benefit from greater experience and, rather than having one updated story, you would have two.

Letting old dogs lie

So you could just leave you old writing as it is. It might feel like you are wasting those words you wrote, but they serve a purpose. They have value in the sense of what you learnt while creating them.

The experience is already yours and it will reflect in your new writing. So ignore the actual written words. How good is the plot? How special are the characters? If the story deserves revisiting, do so. If not, let it lie.

What do you think about your past writing? How far do you feel you’ve come?

Similar writing tips:

My books:

Tip #39: Writing A Realistic Narrative

What is the difference between a realistic and unrealistic narrative? Read a story written by a child, or any naff fiction. Do you notice a common trend?

20151130_122733-2

(Blogger momentarily distracted by blackbird flying up to have a chat)

Mary Sue

One lady is the perfect example of this.

Mary Sue does not always do the right thing, but at least she is honest about it. Her narrator says “Mary robbed the bank and felt really sorry for all the innocent people she tied up.” This is where it gets unrealistic.

"I apologise." - whoever drew this insanity.
“I apologise.” – whoever drew Mary Sue in those shorts

Your character could be an absolute saint, never doing or saying a single thing wrong. It’s fiction. Who are we to judge? But the narrator is a bridge between the fictional character and real-life reader. They have to stay true to reality.

In this example, the narrator might portray Mary Sue as a heroine. Tying up innocent people is described as a noble act, like she is the female Robin Hood.

Or the narrator lies about her motivation. “She did it all for the greater good.” But we see her spend the cash on new clothes and a fast car.

Maybe the narrator does say Mary Sue felt sorry about what she did, but then the reader discovers this is not the case. She laughs it off with her friends, mocking the security guard who fainted in fear.

Inside the tortured mind of Mary "Shotgun" Sue
Inside the tortured mind of Mary “Shotgun” Sue

A blank space. The narrator does not know what events/thoughts/feelings happened in this vital interval, so they leave it blank. These details are left to the reader’s imagination.

What is a realistic narrative?

It does not matter if the characters are all perfect Mary Sues. The narrator is imperfect in their interpretation or recollection of events. There is something at odds between the events and how they are described.

Yours might be an omniscient narrator, seeing inside the head of every character, but this only concerns what they know. How they feel about the events in the story is up to you, the author.

An imperfect narrator = a realistic narrative.

Example

She pressed the shotgun barrel up in the bank teller’s face so that it tapped the glass screen.

“Empty the cash into this bag. Do it now!” she said, her voice a hard hiss through the ragged mouth hole of her balaclava.

“I’ll do it. Please, don’t shoot.” the teller said.

He began whimpering as he reached for the emergency alarm hidden beneath the counter. His fingers were shaking, slippery with sweat.

That was the moment when I tore the roof away in a shower of rubble and shattered tiles. My clawed hand reached down, plucked them both up and popped them in my mouth. Delicious.

I, Algobog, have no flaws
Algobog, a narrative voice you can’t argue with

If you know Mary Sue, what does she think about all of this? Is she willing to release a press statement about her recent spree of armed robberies? We’re here to listen, not to judge.

My books:

Tip #38: How To Write In The First Person

Does the title interest you? Perhaps you are wondering what there is to say on this topic, other than using “I” instead of “he”. While it is not complex, the first person is one of the most delicate and nuanced areas of writing.

Treat it with the appropriate skill and caution, and you can achieve literary greatness. Treat the first person poorly and risk sounding like a footballer’s memoir.

Not a footballer's memoir
Not a footballer’s memoir

Authority

This is relevant to both fiction and non-fiction. Using the first person makes the narrator seem like less of an authority. A study reported in The Wall Street Journal found that people who say “I” more often are viewed as subordinate.

For your blog and non-fiction writing the relevance of this is obvious. If you want to sound knowledgeable about a subject, limit how often you refer to yourself. You might notice that my blog posts are often addressed to “you” rather than saying what “I” think.

In fiction, the effect of first person narrative is that it adds a subordinate element to the character who is narrating. These characters, even if they are strong or influential within the plot, will often have the feeling of being undermined.

I, Claudius is a novel about the most unlikely ruler of the Roman Empire. He is disabled and quite cowardly.

I, Algobog, have no flaws
“I, Algobog, am never subordinate!”

Perspective

A number of characters can fill I’s shoes. They can be the protagonist (Claudius in I, Claudius), an intimate associate of the protagonist (Dr Watson in A Study In Scarlet), a minor character (Nick in The Great Gatsby) or someone who is relating another character’s experiences (unnamed in Heart of Darkness).

The reliability of these narrators varies wildly. While the protagonist or his close friend knows what happened, their thoughts and feelings, they may be biased to some extent. The minor or ancillary character should be more impartial, but less aware of true events and the characters’ thoughts.

A literary game of Chinese whispers
A literary game of Chinese whispers

Style

Where should you use the first person and how? It often works best in novels with a psychological element to them and where the character’s vulnerabilities are a prominent issue.

What happens when you use “I” is that the reader gets a glimpse inside the character’s mind. They have full, unrestricted access to certain aspects of the narrator’s actions, thoughts and feelings. It is much like a fictional autobiography.

Have a poke around inside
Have a poke around inside

This approach lends itself to fiction with themes exploring the mind or emotions. You can build on the character’s mental or emotional vulnerability by manipulating the narrative. Make “I” brutally frank with how terrified, desperate or upset they were or have them hold back in a way which makes it clear to the reader exactly what they are hiding.

Let me know in the comments if this was useful. Do you have any writing tips to share?

My books:

Tip #37: How To Choose A Name For Your Character

Name tag

It’s a hard choice to make. Give your character the wrong name and it could break the reader’s connection with them, with all the doom and despair which follows.

Of course, there are more important things in fiction. There is plot, style and narrative. But people form their first impressions of someone in a very short time. Tell me a character is named Algobog and already I begin to form a mental image of them…

Monster
Algobog

Naming a character by genre

The genre you are writing in will go some way towards determining a character’s name. Contemporary fiction means a present-day name, no surprises there. This will also vary by location (not many named Freddy in China).

Fantasy names are generally longer or more abstract. This can take a lot of creative thinking if you want something completely original. I have no idea where Patrick Rothfuss got the name Kvothe from.

A simpler approach is to borrow from the “dead” languages. Voldemort may have Latin inspirations (vol-de-mort = flight of death). Gandalf means “wand elf” in Old Norse.

Sci-fi names tend to be shorter and a little more funky, futuristic. It can simply be a case of fitting vowel and consonant combinations together until you land on something plausible. Hariten, made that up on the spot.

Popular character names

This is the pinch. You want your reader to be able to empathise with the main character. Will you feel sympathetic towards someone named Algobog the Supreme Kaatharlek?

Monster
“Look upon my visage and despair, ye mortals!”

One method is to have a look at the most popular names for your target audience (e.g. US, UK, Kazakhstan). You can find this information online.

Harry was an excellent choice for J K Rowling, given Britain’s habit of crowning people named Harry (aka Henry). Luke in Star Wars also seemed to work.

Character names by theme

Here is a good example, Scarlett from Gone With The Wind. What do you think about a character named Scarlett? They are red. It’s the raciest of all the colours. So Scarlett is probably a loose cannon, perhaps even a little “fast” for her time.

Letting the character choose the name

There are two ways to look at this. It will tie things together if a character’s personality matches up with their name. It’s also useful to signal something to your reader via a name. In Vikingr, Ulfr is a nasty piece of work (Ulfr = wolf in Old Norse). Erikr means “alone ruler”, and it sort of makes sense. In Harry Potter, Voldemort’s name is apt for his character.

But you do not have to rely on hidden meanings. The sound of a name can give a lot away. Harsh noises like a hard A, O, F, S or T will suggest someone tough or dangerous: Severus Snape, Malfoy, Sauron, Saruman, Gandalf, Algobog.

"Cower before me!"
“Cower before me!”

Soft vowels paired with gentle consonants make for a very peaceful first impression: Frodo, Hermione, Elgerbeg.

Monster
“Cuddle much?” – Elgerbeg

If you get stuck, do not panic. Sometimes a name just feels right for a character. Other times, it’s something which grows on you. Good luck!

Let me know in the comments if this was useful. Do you have any writing tips to share?

My books:

Tip #36: Fear And Courage In Fiction

Fear

There are so many ways that fear and courage can crop up in fiction. In a fight, romance, disaster or life choice. Fear is an excellent way to make the reader empathize with a character. Courage can make your readers like them more.

So what is courage?

As a concept, innate courage does not make much sense. Have you ever met a courageous cat? There are aggressive cats, idiotic cats and loyal cats. But why would a cat be brave? From a survival perspective it has no reason to be brave. Still, a cat and a person can act with courage.

It’s less of a thing in itself and more of a process. Courage connects a motovation with an act, against a background of peril. Your character is in a dangerous situation, but they take a risk and act because they want something.

It can help a writer to think about courage like this. You do not need to worry about recreating an abstract concept of “bravery” in a character. The events create the mood. This provides more room to manoeuvre.

The soldier who fights to defend his/her country might still yelp in fear every time they hear a dog bark. A murderer might bravely track down victims during a police manhunt. The most courageous, and dangerous, people are those who have already promised their soul to Hel and seek no place in Valhalla.

Courage

Why is fear harder to write?

Fear is an emotion, a variety of feelings. It does not need any excuse or purpose. You could be safe in bed, asleep, and still feel afraid. There are countless different types of fear on a sliding scale of severity.

Fear of violence

In that short second when an obscure figure walks around the corner in front of you, what sort of fear is that? It’s a ball in the bottom of your gut which jolts up and punches your heart. It’s an improbable combination of burning adrenaline and ice-cold panic. Find it between the butterflies of stage-fright and vomiting terror of imminent death.

Phobia

This is specific. You see whichever thing frightens or revolts you most. It’s no use, you cannot stop yourself from imagining it on you. Your skin crawls, itches. Terror sets in and you want to slap your arms, set fire to your hair and jump in a river to get it off. Are you scared of insects? Have you ever asked yourself why we do not kill all insects and make the world a better place? Fear can become disgust, anger or degradation.

Fear of emotional loss

Most of you will have experienced this type of fear. It’s hollow. You feel like a passenger trying to climb the Titanic’s hull while it founders. Whatever you try, however desperate, there is no hope in clinging to a sinking ship. It drags something out of you.

Indecision

Fear has many guises. It creeps up on you with least warning when you have a vital choice to make. Experts say most (if not all) of our decisions are subconscious, with only the illusion of conscious thought. Indecision is a war between the silent mega-computer of your mind and an alert fear of the consequences. Stress, fear’s favourite outfit. The shriek of internal gears grinding against each other and a roadblock inside your head.

Fear of the unknown

Here is the most abstract form of fear. Your character stands on a small island of knowledge in a vast sea of the empty and unfamiliar. The void grows around them until it presses inwards, an irresistible force. Your character’s only choice is to bury their head in the sand or attack, burning through the shadows with their desire to understand.

Void

Let me know in the comments if this was useful. Do you have any writing tips to share?

My books: