With any story the entry point for me isn't the concept but the people. I can't write a story if all I have is a gimmick; it means nothing unless there's someone for that gimmick -- and that story -- to happen to.
In the previous installments I talked about "the Split", or the superpower (for lack of a better word) that's the chief gimmick in AONO, one which allows people to see possible futures to avoid incoming danger, but which only manifests when danger is present or palpable. I wanted to explore that by way of it being an enabler of an underworld ethos, something that exists mainly in opposition to what is. A criminal power for criminal people.
The character I settled on as my protagonist, Akiva Roan, didn't start off like GoodFellas's Henry Hill: it wasn't like he wanted to be a gangster as far back as he could remember. When The Split manifested for him, Aki was still in middle school, trying not to get his butt kicked on the way home, and at first it just seemed like a good way to not have that happen to him. Then his ambitions ramped up, and he found himself at increased odds with his exhausted and increasingly estranged mother.
What he ends up looking for is a replacement family, and he finds one by way of Yannick Seyrig, the godfather of his own assembled-from-scratch crime syndicate made exclusively of Split users. It's his own long-range Split that keeps the family safe from everything from NYPD-level annoyances to FBI-level disasters, and provides them with an (apparently) endless source of illicit income. But if there was one thing Yannick did for his people, it was give them a sense of purpose and belonging. Yannick brings Aki under his wing, gives him the envy-inspiring job of personal bodyguard, and grooms him to fill his role with panache and style.
Under the swagger, though, Aki still remains to a great degree that shaky-kneed teenager who grew big but never really grew up. He needs not just a mentor and father figure, but a partner and a friend. Enter Börte Kalogridis, a recruit for the Seyrig family. In another life, with her polit-sci degree and her worldly smarts, she might well have been heading up an NGO or founding a startup. But her long-range Split always kept her at odds with the world -- doubly so after her attempts to use it to protect her mother and father from harm both came to naught. When Yannick gave her someplace to go that made her feel truly important -- and someone in particular, Aki, to add to that feeling -- she said yes.
But all that was years ago. Now Yannick lies in a coma between life and death, laid low by a stroke that somehow no one, least of all him, could see coming. The family has passed into far more cynical hands than Yannick, its holdings and opportunities withering away, the cops always only a step behind them. And Aki and Börte have to figure out what kind of life they can build for themselves, now that the ones who built a life for them are gone.
Next time around I'll talk about the supporting characters, and the way they further complicate matters.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind