Kaigou has posted a terrific pair of essays about life on the streets and common mistakes writers make. I learned a ton from this. If you’re writing about characters on the fringe of society–urban fantasy, near-future science fiction, or anything requiring you to know what life is like on the streets–I recommend these posts very highly. Go read them. An excerpt:
2. There are rules at the fringes of society. They’re just the opposite of your rules.
There are rules on the street as much as there are rules anywhere, but talking to Di made me realize the key is Joplin’s phrase: freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When you don’t have anything, literally, all you have is your cred. Sure, street kids can be loners, but the loners don’t last long; in that environment, you gain points by your actions and by your connections. Who you know, who introduces you, is also who bails you out or backs you up, and I bloody well wish more urban fantasy authors would take the time to actually meet a few former (or current) street/fringe kids, to realize this instinct doesn’t expire just because you’ve managed to reintegrate with society.