Gangs

Developing believable groups within a society

There have been many famous, infamous, and secretive groups within fiction. If you’re trying to create clubs, factions, gangs, sects, guilds, brotherhoods, or any sort of organized group within your story but need a little boost getting the depth and nuances fleshed out, then I’m here to help. 

Where did they begin?

  • Start with an idea. A person or a group of people came up with an idea, a philosophy, a passion. Who were they?
  • They began recruiting, rallying others (a few other people, or large groups) around their idea. How difficult was this? How receptive were those who heard? How open about their new idea were they?
  • They formed an official organization. What mission statement did they write? How was a leader or group of leaders selected? How much disagreement was there in the earlier states? How did they find and/or claim a headquarters? What rules did they start out with, if any?
  • How did they adapt to growth over time? Was the growth fast or slow, if it happened at all? How did rules or structure need to be adjusted as the numbers grew?
  • If the primary goal or mission was met, how did they adjust and redefine their purpose?

How do they function, once established?

  • How has their origin shaped who they are as an organization today?
  • How do they interact with the world at large?
    • Are they a secret society? 
    • Are they at odds with the law?
    • Do they run their town/village/country, whether directly or indirectly?
  • Who can join? What does joining require? Is there a “probationary” period? How are new recruits treated?
  • Is there any training or education that proceeds (or precedes) initiation?
  • How are they funded? 
    • Through illegal means
    • Through the government
    • Through private donations
    • Through the church
    • Through the (legal) work of their members
  • Do they have an official or unofficial religious affiliation?
  • Do they have an emblem or a sigil, some symbol of their loyalty. How is that mark treated? How commonly recognized is that symbol?
  • How free to live one’s own life is a member once they’ve joined? How much of a day-to-day impact does the membership have?
    • Can they still work their old job?
    • Have their old friends?
    • Stay with their families? Or perhaps the families join as a unit?
    • Keep their home? Perhaps they still live in it, but it becomes property of the guild? 
  • How ubiquitous is the mission statement? Is it quoted frequently?
  • What is the consequence for leaving the group? Or for disloyalty?

Happy writing, kiddos!

Check out the rest of the Brainstorming Series!
Magic Systems, Part One
Magic Systems, Part Two
New Species
New Worlds
New Cultures
New Civilizations
Politics and Government
Map Making 
Belief Systems & Religion
War & Conflict
Science & Technology
History & Lore

Missy Hart grew up in Redwood City, Calif. — in gangs, on the street, in the foster care system and in institutions.

“Where I’m from,” the 26-year-old says, “you’re constantly in alert mode, like fight or flight.”

But at age 13, when she was incarcerated in juvenile hall for using marijuana, she found herself closing her eyes and letting her guard down in a room full of rival gang members.

Back then, she says, yoga was just another mandatory activity, run by a Bay Area program called The Art of Yoga Project. It offers what it calls “trauma-sensitive yoga” to incarcerated girls.

At first, 13-year-old Hart felt uncomfortable. But, gradually, she learned to use the poses and breathing to relax, and she loved it.

The Role Of Yoga In Healing Trauma

Illustration: LA Johnson/NPR

Prompt List: Criminals/Gangs/Crime

“You can’t just piss off every gang in the city and expect to get away scratch free!” 

“I told you when you joined. The only way out is in a body bag.”

“You still have all your fingers, but that can easily be fixed.”

“I don’t think you understand. See, this is my town. I’m in charge and that means I get to do what I want.”

“If you don’t want your cold bloody corpse to be found in some ditch off highway 17, follow me and don’t say a word.”

“This can go one of two ways. Either you tell me what I want to know or I beat you to a bloody pulp and then you tell me what I want to know.”

“Make a decision. Give up the location or swim with the fishies.”

“We can do this the hard way or the easy way. So, tell me, what’s it going to be.”

“If you don’t want your balls chopped off and delivered to your mothers doorstep by morning, you’ll tell me where they are!”

“I don’t get you. One day you’re chopping off some dudes finger like it’s nothing and the next you’re helping old grannies across the street and picking up liter!”

“I’m not saying you can’t shoot him. I’m just saying you can’t shoot him here.”

“How unfortunate. You got blood on my new tie.”