Filling the Creative Well

When talking about filling the creative well, there’s usually something missing in the conversation, in particular when it comes to writing for the YA audience.

I fear that in our quest to catch up on the books that we’ve been highly anticipating and stay on top of new releases from the novelists who inspire us most, we often forget the other mediums that have so much to offer up to the YA audience. We forget what they have to offer up to us as creatives.

There’s so much to learn from different mediums, television and movies in particular. So I want to take a moment to recommend some recent television shows and movies that I think people who write YA should be viewing and analyzing and taking from them what they need to take to fill the creative well. Because filling the creative well isn’t just about what we hope to be inspired by. It’s also about what we need to be equipped with to inspire others. In order to fill the well, we need to really be in tune with our audience in as many mediums as possible.

It doesn’t matter if you write contemporary or sci-fi or fantasy, there’s something for every YA writer to take from these works (including a college aged title and middle grade title listed below), whether it be character arcs, relationship dynamics, story structure, pacing, etc… Whether you know what you need to work on or you’re looking for the ah-ha moment, I think you’ll be very encouraged and inspired by these works. So let’s dive right in and find out more about them.

TV Shows

Photo Credit: The CW

BLACK LIGHTNING (The CW, Season 1 – 13 Episodes – Streaming on Netflix, Season 2 Premieres October 9, 2018)

Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. Nine years ago, Pierce was gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, which he used to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights with his life and his family on the line, he left his Super Hero days behind. Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, Black Lightning returns — to save not only his family, but also the soul of his community.

Photo Credit: Freeform/Andrew Eccles

GROWN-ISH (Freeform – 1 Season, 13 Episodes)

A contemporary take on the current issues facing both students and administrators in the world of higher education. Yara Shahidi portrays Zoey – Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) popular, entitled, stylish and socially active 17-year-old daughter — as she heads off to college and quickly discovers that not everything goes her way once she leaves the nest. Yara is joined by ”black-ish”’s Deon Cole (Charlie) who portrays Charlie, Dre’s eccentric and unpredictable co-worker at Stevens & Lido. Zoey runs into Charlie during college orientation where she learns that he moonlights as an adjunct marketing professor. Arlook portrays Miriam, a freshman know-it-all at Southern California University with a no-holds-barred attitude. Parnell portrays the dean of Southern California University, and Jackson portrays a socially conscious sophomore at Southern California University.

Photo Credit: Showtime

THE CHI (Showtime – Season 1, 10 Episodes)

Created and executive produced by Emmy® winner Lena Waithe and executive produced by Grammy® and Academy Award® winner Common and Elwood Reid, THE CHI explores the humanity behind the headlines sensationalizing the South Side of Chicago. Shot entirely in its namesake city, THE CHI is a timely coming-of-age story for all ages, centering on a group of residents who become linked by circumstance but bond over the need for connection and redemption.

In THE CHI, Brandon (Jason Mitchell) the dreamer makes his own nearly impossible leap of faith to succeed in life and love with girlfriend Jerrika (Tiffany Boone); Emmett (Jacob Latimore) is the carefree teen thrust into complex responsibilities with guidance from his mother Jada (Yolonda Ross); and Ronnie (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) is the drifter whose struggle for reciprocal love calls into question his every pursuit. Pre-teen Kevin (Alex Hibbert), an unwitting eyewitness, must step past shattered illusions to return to the normal rites and passages of a childhood interrupted. They’re all under the watchful eye of law enforcement, but Detective Cruz (Armando Riesco), a good neighborhood cop, works every case with justice, not incarceration, as his end goal. Their collective yearning to make their lives worthwhile and to overcome the roadblocks society has laid out for them, as well as their own personal flaws, drives the storytelling in this arresting, deeply felt series.

Photo Credit: Netflix/Pedro Saad

3% (Netflix – 2 Seasons, 18 Episodes)

3% is a post-apocalyptic thriller set in near-future Brazil, where a select few are allowed to join a privileged society after undergoing an intense and competitive process. 3% is the first Netflix original series filmed in Brazil.

Photo Credit: Netflix

On My Block (Netflix – 1 Season, 10 Episodes)

On My Block, co-created by Lauren Iungerich (Awkward), Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft (All Eyez On Me), is a coming of age comedy about four bright and street-savvy friends navigating their way through the triumph, pain and the newness of high-school set in LA’s South Central neighborhood.



In the hip Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, single dad and record store owner Frank (Nick Offerman) is preparing to send his hard-working daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) off to college, while being forced to close his vintage shop. Hoping to stay connected through their shared musical passions, Frank urges Sam to turn their weekly “jam sesh” into a father-daughter live act. After their first song becomes an Internet breakout, the two embark on a journey of love, growing up and musical discovery.


After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace his daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.


Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth-grade year.


Childhood friends Lily and Amanda reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart. Lily has turned into a polished, upper-class teenager, with a fancy boarding school on her transcript and a coveted internship on her resume; Amanda has developed a sharp wit and her own particular attitude, but all in the process of becoming a social outcast. Though they initially seem completely at odds, the pair bond over Lily’s contempt for her oppressive stepfather, Mark, and as their friendship grows, they begin to bring out one another’s most destructive tendencies. Their ambitions lead them to hire a local hustler, Tim, and take matters into their own hands to set their lives straight.


The Edge of Seventeen is a coming-of-age movie in the vein of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club – an honest, candid, often hilarious look at what it’s like to grow up as a young woman in today’s modern world.

Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson).

All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until the unexpected friendship of a thoughtful boy (Hayden Szeto) gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.

The film also stars Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine’s well-meaning but completely ineffective mother, and Woody Harrelson as Nadine’s History teacher, mentor and reluctant sounding board.

What are you watching to fill the creative well?

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