The Importance of an Exploding Sandwich by @JulieFalatko and GIVEAWAY

Has this ever happened to you? You come up with an amazing idea for a story. Let’s say it’ssnappsy about a boy who wants a dog, and all the things he does to convince his parents to get him a dog. You work on it, revise it, make it better. You’re feeling pretty good about Ben and the Dog Campaign. And then you’re standing in a bookstore and, under a cloud of dread, you pick up Bob Lobbies for a Dog. It’s essentially the same as your story.

Or maybe you don’t even get that far. Maybe you write Ben and the Dog Campaign and even though you love it, there’s a funny feeling in your stomach when you read it. A feeling that says, “This is kind of flat.”  A feeling that says: “So what?”

And let me tell you this: you never want to think, “So what?” after reading a story.

You, my friend, need an exploding sandwich.

Don’t hide behind that bush! It’s a metaphorical exploding sandwich. All I mean is that you need a surprise, and not a something-jumps-out surprise so much as an aliens-fly-down-and-luckily-make-amazing-tuna-salad surprise. Something that says “that is great” instead of “so what?”

So many picture books can be grouped into the same category. Pet-wanting books, difficult-bedtime books, first-day-of-school books, moving-to-a-new-house books. There’s a reason for all those books. Kids do want pets. They don’t want to go to bed.

You can absolutely write a book in one of these categories, but you want yours to stand out. You don’t want an agent or editor to read the pitch for your book and unsuccessfully suppress a yawn. Which would you read first?

Ben wants a dog, but his mom says no way. Ben shows her he’s responsible by putting out food twice a day, walking himself around the block, and brushing the couch. All his hard work pays off, and in the end his parents take him to the shelter to pick out his new best friend! Kids will learn the value of hard work. For fans of literally every boring pet picture book ever.

Ben wants a dog, but his mom says no way. So Ben builds a Rube Goldberg device to free all the dogs from the pound and lure them to his backyard. Surely his mom won’t be able to resist all those cute furry faces? But when things go horribly awry, Ben is left with a surprising new best friend: an octopus. For fans of Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, Sophie’s Squash, Cecil the Pet Glacier, and Sparky.

You might ask: how? I’ve found the best way to do this, and also add a lot of humor to your story, is to start mashing things up.

Do you have two stories that aren’t quite working? Smush them together. Maybe you have a bedtime story that’s kind of dull, and a story about a loud robot that you can’t find an ending for. Mash those two together. I know they have nothing in common, except always remember that they have you in common, which is not a small thing. So you make a story where bedtime doesn’t go well because that robot is just so loud. That’ll stand out much more on the shelf, and it’ll be funnier too.

I had the hardest time with revisions on my picture book The Society of Underrepresented Animals. My editor and I had been working to make it better, but it still had a small nagging “so what?” feeling. In desperation, I wrote five different versions of the story with very different plots. None of those was quite right either, though. So I smushed the best parts of them together, and that’s what finally worked.

You don’t even have to do it with the whole story, you can just throw in a few small exploding sandwiches. Make a park bench wearing sneakers deliver sage advice. Have one boy carry a tuba around everywhere. Change a character into a kitten who dreams of running her own popsicle truck franchise. The key is to be silly, surprising, and memorable. And the real trick is to make it work for your book. I bet, though, that once you tell your brain you want an exploding sandwich, suddenly you’ll see how that makes the story come together. That boy with the tuba? He uses it to call to the elephant who runs to the tree and saves Popsicle Kitten, who got stuck up there dreaming of new flavors for her Catsicle fleet. Or whatever. Your brain likes fun. Your brain likes surprises. Your brain will be delighted by the challenge and will have fun connecting the dots.

And so will readers.

FalatkoJ_headshotJulie Falatko debut picture book is Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book), illustrated by Tim Miller (Viking). She is also the author of The Society of Underrepresented Animals, illustrated by Charles Santoso (Viking, 2018), and Help Wanted: One Rooster(Viking, 2019).

You can visit her website at www.juliefalatko.com or find her on Twitter @JulieFalatko or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JulieFalatkoAuthor.

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Julie’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

If you haven’t registered for #KidlitSummerSchool yet click HERE.

Julie is generously giving away a signed copy of SNAPPSY. For a chance to win, please leave a comment below.

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.

339 comments on “The Importance of an Exploding Sandwich by @JulieFalatko and GIVEAWAY

  1. Nancy Ramsey says:

    Great advice! Looking forward to giving it a try- Thanks, Julie!

    Like

  2. Geralyn Underwood says:

    First day of summer school was rough with getting logged in to the exercise book and all but the worksheet was well worth all the aggravation! Thank you!!!!

    Like

  3. Anna Gateley-Stanton says:

    Such a fun idea. Can’t wait to plug my three choices into my story. Thanks for getting the creative part of my brain moving again!

    Like

  4. Aimee Haburjak says:

    Super great opening post! Cannot wait to take some “so what’s”, smush them together and have some fun brain exploding sandwiches. Thank you, Aimee

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Angie says:

    Excellent advice! I can already see how I’ve had that “bleh” feeling after reading a manuscript…and now I have a wonderful tool/exercise sheet to help me explode some sandwiches! Thank you!!!

    Like

  6. Hmmm…I definitely have some “so what” drafts collecting dust. Maybe there is hope for them yet! Thanks for the inspiration Julie!
    – Amanda Sincavage

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  7. Keila Dawson says:

    Oh yeah, let the smushing begin. Congrats on the new books Julie!

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  8. Thanks for the great post. Now, all I need are some exploding sandwiches!!!

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  9. susanzonca says:

    I am ever amazed with the fresh ideas provided. What a great beginning. I am looking forward to the fun.

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  10. Maria Marshall says:

    Excellent lesson. Thanks for the hint to combine stories.

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  11. Kristen Browning says:

    Thanks very much for the fun post and the great advice. I love the “exploding sandwich” idea–memorable and will be helpful in my writing. I’ll give the mashing technique a try, too!

    Like

  12. Renee Borst says:

    Great advice! Thank you. I tend to be lyrical, so exploring the funny side is so wonderful.

    Like

  13. Fun, fun, fun. This was an excellent post. I love the suggestion of mashing ideas together.

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  14. The “so what feeling” is the worst feeling. Thanks for your suggestions!

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  15. Sandy Perlic says:

    Love this! It can’t hurt to try smushing two “so what” books together! Can’t wait to try it.

    Like

  16. writersideup says:

    I love the way your imagination works, Julie 😀 Excellent post! Thank you 🙂

    Like

  17. You crack me up, Julie. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Claire O'Brien says:

    That exploding sandwich just blew up in my face! I’m covered in mayo. Going to get smushing. What a great start to summer school, thanks!

    Like

  19. Sharon Giltrow says:

    Thanks Julie what a great way to smash stories up and make them pop!!

    Like

  20. gail says:

    Great first day! Thanks Julie.

    Like

  21. Andi Osiek says:

    What a great idea! I’ve already started looking through my “idea book” and there are some thoughts in there just begging to be smooshed! Thanks Julie.

    Like

  22. Nicola says:

    The idea of an exploding sandwich already got they dormant synapses of my brain twitching. Thank you for the inspirational post.

    Like

  23. Lotus Ivak says:

    Hi Julie! I will hereby work towards making my stories 83% weirder! Thank you for your awesome insights!

    Like

  24. Mavis Penney says:

    Thanks for the worksheet – looks useful – and the 83% rule… can’t wait to work THAT into the story! 🙂

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  25. Kim Pfennigwerth says:

    Thanks Julie! – Love the chart!

    Like

  26. Marla says:

    I love the idea of a mash-up! Will definitely keep it in mind for those times when I get stumped with a good idea that turns into a mediocre manuscript.

    Like

  27. Lauri Meyers says:

    Exploding sandwiches all around!! Love it.

    Like

  28. Thank you for the chart that goes along with this post. I am looking forward to adding to it and making the lists longer and longer!

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  29. Love this post! Great first day. 🙂

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  30. Julie! So good to “see” you! Your post delivered a brain jolt. Thanks for that! 🙂

    Like

  31. This is such a great post, Julie! Although I prefer an analogy of mashed potatoes than sandwiches (I’m very particular in the way I like my sandwiches! 😛 )

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  32. I’m a day late because of computer problems. Love your mash-up ideas. Thanks, Julie.

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  33. Thanks Julie! I can’t wait to give the chart a try!

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  34. Awesome post! Thank you, Julie!

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  35. Definitely going to work to “train my brain” to use some exploding sandwiches. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.

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  36. Heather H. Rhodes Writer says:

    I just went through this exact situation last month. Found my story and even the same names. Ugh! I needed this post, and I now know I NEED to make an exploding sandwich now as well. Thank you! and congrats on your success!

    Like

  37. Lynn Alpert says:

    Thanks for that exploding sandwich image, Julie! I’ll never forget that term. I’m going to take all my ‘meh’ ingredients and smush them up!

    Like

  38. Tina Cho says:

    Awesome post, Julie! I need an exploding sandwich for my WIPs!

    Like

  39. *enters room hanging her head for missing the first day of school* BUT! I love your suggestion, Julie! In fact, I think I know which two stories will collide on my desk. Thanks…oh, and, I’ll try harder to make it to class on time. Thanks ladies!

    Like

  40. gayleckrause says:

    Excellent advice. Writers need to know not to quit when they have a similar ides. They just need to make it better. 🙂

    Like

  41. Janie Reinart says:

    Thank you for the great metaphor. Going to try it!

    Like

  42. janebuttery says:

    I see that it is “when the sandwish explodes’that the fun starts.Oddly enough I was working on a dragon story and found one already written about my Welsh dragon! What am I to do, I thought? make it more fun, more ridiculous and be truthful?
    Hoping to be inspired more by you worksheet .Thanks.

    Like

  43. kgiardKate says:

    Silly, surprising, and memorable…exploding sandwiches will stick for awhile!

    Like

  44. Linda Crowley says:

    I’m delighted to discover I really can do “silly”. I didn’t think I could, but was determined to at least try with the given exercise. Now I’m not so afraid to be bold with my writing.

    Like

  45. This is a solid reminder–going to try to make it stick this time!! Thanks, Julie. 🙂

    Like

  46. darshanakhiani says:

    Great post!

    Like

  47. myaustinboys says:

    I knew I was craving something, just didn’t realize it was an exploding sandwich😜

    Like

  48. MK Resk says:

    Such fun examples. Julie, I love your creative mind! Thanks!

    Like

  49. Great examples. I’ll never see a tuba, park bench, or sandwich the same!

    Like

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