Sunday, March 13, 2011

Idea Garage Sale: Molly, Polly, and Holly Dolly

I thought of this one again during my pathetically short period of yardworking this week.

A woman who isn't experienced with children is the only person available to take the daughter of her brother's new wife during the honeymoon. She buys an assortment of new toys, almost at random, and does her best, but the little girl (not surprisingly) is not in any mood to be pleased at anything. Among the toys is a set of three six-inch plastic dolls, identical except for coloring. Molly is blond and dressed in blue, Polly is brunette and dressed in yellow, Holly is red-headed and dressed in green. When the little girl recognizes that she's been lured into having a good time making milk carton boats with her unwanted aunt, she sets out to be bad and miserable, disobeying her aunt by playing in the storm-swollen drainage ditch and losing all three dolls, who whirl away in their milk-carton boat and are lost.

Molly, Polly, and Holly are shipwrecked some way downstream and set out to make a life for themself in the doll-hostile wildness of a modern greenbelt laced with drainage easements. They build their own home, make their own clothes when the cheap outfits they came in fall apart, and make friends and enemies among the animals around them. Holly, the most adventurous and also defined as the youngest, is the protagonist for the only episode I finished, the one where she's kidnapped by a bird and has to get herself down from a tree. Molly acts as housewife and Polly does more of the male-gendered jobs. The only characters outside the dolls I ever defined were the Squirrel Brothers, Earl and Merle, who do odd jobs and are fascinated by machinery.

I have a weakness for this sort of story, but I tend to flounder a bit when I try to write one. I was also intimidated by the prospect of writing a query for it. Face it, any story about toys leading independent lives is going head-to-head with Winnie the Pooh, Miss Hickory, The Mouse and His Child, and Raggedy Ann. Most people who try to do that wind up wallowing in cuteness, and I suspect most editors would sigh and bury the query as soon as they saw those names.

Also - the origin story leaves a huge thematic thread dangling and sets the reader up for a completely different sort of book. Until and unless I can mentally integrate the Dollys' episodic survival adventures with the nameless little girl's emotional arc with her aunt, this is going nowhere. There probably is a way to do it, I've just been going in a completely different direction lately.


  1. Earl and Merle...They deserve a story of their own!

  2. You're many stories, so little time, energy, concentration to go around...