THERE ARE NO SECRETS IN SALEM
With word now out that Aunt Viv and her on-again/off-again nemesis, Carly, are leaving Salem in the near future, while tortured couple John and Marlena are on their way back - at least for the summer, this seemed like the perfect time to write my thoughts on the Days of Our Lives tie-in novel, A Secret in Salem, by Sheri Anderson, in which Mr. and Dr. Black are prominently featured (along with their daughter, Belle, her husband, Shawn-Douglas, and their little girl, Claire.)
Though I've been a voracious reader of tie-ins since I was a kid (Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, Star Trek), I've been looking at them with a new eye ever since publishing three of my own, ATWT's Oakdale Confidential and The Man From Oakdale, and GL's Jonathan's Story.
The most difficult thing I, personally, found about writing a tie-in was that stories (outside of those stream of consciousness things everyone feels compelled to experiment with in college) require the protagonists to learn something, and then to grow and change as a result of it. (As a writing mentor once said, "Your story needs to be about the most interesting thing that ever happened in this character's life. If this is not the most interesting that ever happened to them, then throw away the story you're currently writing, and write about that.")
Good advice, if you're writing a stand-alone novel. But, as part of a series (not to mention part of a television series), that can be tricky...
Especially if the series you're writing about is going on even as you're composing your story.
With a tie-in, what you want to do is have your character learn something, grow and change... and still be the same person they were when the story started. I visualized the journey as a rope, of which you then tie up the loose ends. Your hero/heroine have to come full circle and end up in the same place they started, so that their adventure may be neatly slipped into the fabric of the main (more important) text - the show, without causing barely a ripple.
In that regard, Sheri Anderson does a wonderful job of crafting a suspenseful, intriguing tale for John and Marlena (why is John hiding the fact that he's no longer paralyzed from Marlena?), while still making it possible for them to return to Salem as more or less the same people they were when they left.
The question is, do you, the viewers, want the story told in A Secret in Salem to be incorporated into John and Marlena's return, or do you believe the "real" story is only the one that happens on screen, excluding all supplementary material (books, websites, etc...)?
Let us know in the Comments below!
And for more about tie-in books, visit the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers!
They voted The Man From Oakdale the Best Original Tie-In Novel of 2010!