What Gang-Bangers Do

I’m in chapter five of Mauro Corvasce and Joseph Paglino’s book, Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide, and it deals with gang murders. Today’s discussion details what gang members do. In other words, what fills a gang-banger’s day?

In my opinion, gangs are all about profit and power. They want to sell their merchandise (earn a living), hang onto their territory (defend their home), and avoid prison (refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Oops, sorry, that’s all personal commentary). Humor aside, gang members take their membership seriously, and find it offensive when other gangs try to encroach on “owned” territory. They seek revenge on rival gangs through the disrespect or damage of that rival’s possessions, property, or members. 

Corvasce and Paglino worded this bit nicely, so I’ll copy it word for word:

“One way gangs mark their turfs is by “tagging” buildings, dumpsters, mailboxes and so forth within their turfs. These tags look like meaningless graffiti, but to other gangs, they are “no trespassing” signs or street “newspapers”: that keep members informed. One way rival gangs show disrespect for each other is by writing over, or x-ing out, another gang’s tags or entering its turf. And each gang has its own set of colors or type of clothing that show membership, so rival gangs can show their disrespect by wearing other gang’s colors and clothing. This is why you sometimes hear of innocent youths getting killed because of the clothes they were wearing; the killers were members of a gang that wore the same type of clothes as a uniform, and they believed the non-gang member was showing them disrespect.”

Gangs depend on their turf to earn their living (sell drugs and prostitutes), so encroachment on their turf is a serious business. Violence erupts quickly, and because drug-selling brings large profits, gangs can afford to arm all their members with lots of big guns.

I realize this is a simplified version of what’s involved in a gang-bangers day, but that’s all you need to create a believable gang member. They spend their days earning their living (selling drugs, guns, contraband, sex, whatever) and defending their homes (keeping their turf free of other gangs and police presence). And as gang-bangers are human (insert favorite sarcastic remark about sociopaths), they may spend their free time searching for love and companionship, fulfilling basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter, and seeking entertainment. Of course, their idea of love, needs, and entertainment may be vastly different from what you and I would ever consider… but you can fill it in and create a great antagonist for your novel.

More on gangs next time–we’re not finished yet.

-Sonja
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