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How to incorporate the mob into a steampunk world?

Hello, I have been trying to figure out how to fit the mafia into the world of my story. It's set around 1780s-ish, a little before French Revolution time. The vibe/aesthetic I want to go for is "if rococo and steampunk had a baby" with a touch of surrealism lol. So far, my ideas are this:

There is a huge juxtaposition between the classes. The rich are fabulously so and love to show it off, while the poor can't afford to think about fashion and fine food etc. The middle class is small but not vanishing.
Essentially, the middle class are often skilled workers like tailors, mechanics, factory managers, etc. The poor are usually factory workers, scullery maids, etc. The rich are just rich. I don't plan to offer an explanation as to how they get their wealth.
It is an urban landscape with limited mention of any rural place at all
The rich fund this universe's version of the mafia to essentially consolidate power. Different nobles control the purse-strings of different gangs around the massive city.
The main character, H, works in a tavern and struggles with her dead-end life. She meets the other main character, P, whose brother built up a lot of debt with the mafia before dying (genuinely not caused by the mob lol) and leaving him as the last of his family.
The mob is slowly encircling P while he scrambles to come up with the money to pay them off. At the start of the story, he is trying to sell the family business to the brother's friend as a last resort.

I'm a little frustrated with myself because I feel like there's so much material here for a compelling story! I must have gone through 8 re-writes of the plot by now because I can't figure out anything that feels solid. The things I listed above are the only things about the story that have stayed consistent and that I feel pretty good about.
I would appreciate any insight! I may just need someone else's perspective to help jumpstart my own brain. Thank you for reading this far!


I feel I should ask what have you already used that did not work?

To me, this seems to be lacking enough information to answer it usefully.

How about a bloke who shows up every now and then saying, 'You know I dont want to do this, cause I like you, but the big shots, they say I got to...so, do you have the money, or do I have to break your legs?"

If you want a long plot line with this, maybe P has rich friends too, and the one gang is afraid to move too aggressively as they may draw trouble from a different gang.


Myth Weaver
The world building, such as it is, appears sound.

Based on the limited information available, what you seem to be missing is motive from at least two directions.

First, your MC needs a major personal stake in this - maybe a family member got kidnapped, is seriously ill and in dire need or a rare cure, or they're sitting in the lockup awaiting execution or a trip to the salt mines.

Second, your mafia - or at least members those interacting with the MC need a goal or a major issue of their own - be it a truly major heist, the opportunity to get a major member of the aristocracy under their thumb, or a bid for internal power, or maybe some combination thereof.

The thing is, at least part of what the mafia is seeking to accomplish requires either disposing of or coopting the MC - maybe both. The MC,
in turn, needs something from the mafia to resolve his own issues.

To all this, I would add substantial unrest across the city - strikes, food riots, brutal policing actions. Let these events claim characters who seem crucial, meanwhile minor players take advantage of them to become much more important. I'd also throw in a long, grinding war way off in the background, which manifests itself as press gangs roaming the city, arbitrarily rounding up criminals and working poor alike.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
What I would do is some homework. How much research have you done into the history of the Mafia? I would start there, and build your steampunk mafia based on what you find. I would also do some pretty in-depth research into the time period you're hoping to emulate so that any anachronisms you introduce are intentional. Just a thought, but I was under the impression that Steampunk has a strong Victorian aesthetic. 1790's are a bit early.

Here's your homework assignment: do a Google or Bing search into the history of the mafia. Next, widen your scope. History of organized crime. And because I used to be an academic, here are some books...

Honestly nyou have already done exactly what you asked about.

You say different nobles and such hold the purse strings to various gangs, that's exactly what you asked.

Now if your asking how do you incorporate the actual wise guy mentality that's a totally different thing, Each gang could have a unique personality seperate from the others. For example let's say gamg#1 could refuse to have anything to do with loansharking but the others do, then gang #2 refuses to deal in drugs unlike gangs #4 #7 #8 who absolutely won't let any sort of compatible in their area.

Then your going to ask how they have hold particular areas for their illicit actions that's easier to do because each gang had a leader at some point in the past that decided running all around accomplished less then favorable returns, so they carved up the city like a pizza with everyone getting a spot.

Now let's say gang 1 has to send some one to gang 5s turf for the purse string holder of their gang to handel something,

Gang 1 could have three options 1 call up gang #5 and ask them to deal with the issue for them, ( Hey if the jobs done does it matter who done it?) And they all swap favors back and forth, (2) They have a set of specialist that can infiltrate the said area and accomplish the mission, (3) go in acting like they're ready to take over the entire turf of the other gang just to do one job,