Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in a Creativity Retreat with Susan Kaye Quinn, Rebecca Carlson, and Adam Heine. This retreat was held online via Google Hangout, which is pretty amazing when you consider I’m on the U.S. East Coast, Sue’s in the Midwest, Rebecca’s in Hawaii, and Adam’s in Thailand.

If you’d like to know more about how the retreat was organized, check out Sue’s post here. I wanted to talk about one particular activity, which Sue discovered at a workshop given by Kat Falls, author of DARK LIFE.
Sue asked us to make a list of 10 books or movies we LOVED, which were related in some way to our WIP. Then, with the help of our fellow participants, we looked for similarities in theme, characterization, plot, etc.
Since I’m working on the second book in the EIGHTH DAY series, I made a list of MG books I love – and when I say “love,” I mean “use in my classroom year after year and never get tired of.”
  1. Everlost
  2. Gregor the Overlander
  3. Airborn
  4. The Teacher’s Funeral
  5. A Long Way From Chicago
  6. Star Hatchling
  7. The Power of UN
  8. Save Queen of Sheba
  9. No More Dead Dogs
  10. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

In this list, I found these recurring themes:
  • an MC who makes a big mistake and has to undo or correct the consequences
  • a missing or absent father who nevertheless plays a large role in the story because the MC tries to live up to (or live down) the father’s reputation
  • big brothers protecting siblings
  • characters who make sacrifices for the sake of someone else
  • characters who discover hidden talents under the pressure of necessity
  • surprises in characters we thought we knew – whether it’s a devastating betrayal by someone we trusted or an act of selflessness/courage from someone we’d written off
  • loyalty among friends
  • light, sweet, and puppy romance

Perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did: Many of these themes can be found in THE EIGHTH DAY and are already developing in the sequel. Sue (and Kat Falls) are right: These are the themes that call to me. And now that I know it, I can work at teasing them out of my subconscious and helping them blossom in this work.
Do you have your list of ten?