How to Create Your Own Gangster Character

Updated February 21, 2017

Few literary or cinematic figures have captured public fascination like gangsters. Their stories embody the dark side of the American dream, where ruthless entrepreneurs gain wealth and fame through illicit means, only to lose it all in a hail of bullets. You can create a gangster character of your own as part of a literary project or just for fun. It requires only a little creativity and a willingness to write down the details.

Research real-life gangsters from various eras. This helps you understand where they came from, how they operated and what kind of personality they required to thrive. Pay particular attention to the way organised crime works and how it differs from more mundane types of crime.

Look at gangster movies featuring famous characters, such as "The Godfather," "Goodfellas" and "The Public Enemy." These can provide excellent inspiration.

Determine the ethnicity and era for your gangster. Most classic gangster stories take place in the 1920s, but organised crime can be found in any era, and modern gangsters comport themselves much differently than earlier bootleggers. Similarly, ethnic background plays a large role in the gangster's identity. Many fictional mobsters are first- or second generation immigrants, with strong cultural ties to their homelands.

Develop a history and basic personality for your gangster. Where did he come from and how did he enter into a life of crime? Was he seduced by the promise of power and riches? Or was he born into it and now wants a way out? Note specific incidents in his life and think about how that might affect the kind of person he is. In particular, you should discuss the types of crime he is involved in and what role he plays in those operations.

Come up with some rivals or enemies for your gangster. Every mobster has enemies, whether it's a crusading local DA or a ruthless criminal rival. They will determine how your character reacts to danger and provide obstacles to overcome (or succumb to).

Flesh out your gangster's personality based on his past history. Is he a raging hothead like Sonny Corleone? Or a ice-cold schemer like Sonny's brother Michael? Does he have a moral compass? If so, where and how does it come out?

Describe your gangster's physical appearance: size, physical attributes, the kind of clothing he wears and any tics or twitches he may demonstrate.

Think about how your character might die. Things rarely end well for gangsters--it's the tragedy of their story--and the end they make for themselves has as much to do with who they are as their life and crimes.

Write down all of the details you have come up with in order to refer back to them. If you have artistic inclinations, you can draw a picture of your gangster as well.


If you're going to a Halloween party or a costume party, you might consider dressing up like your gangster character. If you know how he looks, you can find the right components very easily.


Take care to ensure that your gangster character is original. While you can draw inspiration from movie gangsters and similar figures, you don't want to emulate any one character too closely.

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