What to write about, what to write? This was the dilemma facing me a few years ago. I’d written and published a traditional Regency and finished another which had been rejected. I wanted to try my hand at contemporaries but I couldn’t figure out what to write about. The old adage “write what you know” came to mind, but what did I know? Perusing the shelves at the local bookstore, I noticed a lot of stories about knitting, wine, cooking and other specific interests and hobbies. I don’t knit, I’m not into wine and I don’t cook, so what did I know that was worth building a story around? I love books and movies but where’s the conflict there?
At the time, I was working at a large entertainment union in Hollywood. My days were full of conflict as I argued with producers and studios over various claims for violations of the union contract. I’m not sure at what point the obvious jumped out and hit me but one day it finally did. I knew about Hollywood and especially the conflict between studios and labor unions. I began to ponder different fictional situations until I discovered the one that would ultimately become my novel. What would happen if a lawyer at an entertainment union and a lawyer working for a studio fell in love while they were both working opposite sides of a major arbitration?
Thus was born my first contemporary novel Labor Relations, a story about two labor relations attorneys on opposite sides of a major arbitration facing a passionate conflict of interest. The heroine, Sarah Steele, is the newest member of the Movie Actors Guild legal team and new to Hollywood. The hero, Jake Rappaport, is the head of Labor Relations at Lion Studios, a veteran movie industry man enjoying the perks of Lala Land but wondering if there isn’t something more. There is an instant and powerful attraction between them but a personal relationship during the arbitration could ruin both of their careers.
The natural conflict built into their jobs combined with the conflict of their ideals helped me develop the story and keep it moving, providing many opportunities for creating bumps on the road to true love. Setting the story in Hollywood allowed me to use my knowledge of the city and the entertainment industry to give the novel its flavor. I had a lot of fun writing a glamorized, fictional version of tinsel town as seen through Sarah’s eyes.
So, what can you learn from my experience? You can write what you know, even if you think you don’t know anything. Start by examining different aspects of your life such as your job, where you live, the groups you’re involved in and then look for the potential conflict in each of these situations. Once you find it, make it as big and threatening to your main characters as possible so that they have everything to lose if they don’t overcome their obstacles. Finally, use your own, personal experiences to make the characters, backdrop and yes, even the conflict, feel real and believable. By the time you hit “The End”, you’ll be surprised to discover that the conflict you know really is worth writing about.