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Jonathan's Story: Guiding Light's New Transmedia Project


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This piece was originally published  as part of an entry on September 14, 2007, on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog here

A story that's been getting some press in the American daytime drama industry of late is over at Guiding Light, where the character Jonathan Randall returned for a short stint recently after having faked his death, along with his daughter's, in order to escape the domineering figure of Alan Spaulding, his daughter's great-grandfather.

A short-stint return of a popular character is always big news in daytime, but it's not particularly novel. What is perhaps more interesting is his return is yet another chance for daytime to experiment with the novel, quite literally, as Procter & Gamble Productions is promoting a book tie-in with Jonathan's return, with the upcoming release of Jonathan's Story through Simon and Schuster. See this post from A.C. Powers at The Soap Dispenser for more, and look here for more information on the character.

According to the press release, available from Soapdom, there will be a variety of promotions around the book, including copies autographed by one of the stars of Guiding Light, Kim Zimmer, and personal appearances from the cast. I'm skeptical about the depth and quality of the work, even as I'm excited about the idea of filling in the gap of what happened to a character while they were away from the screen. It seems transmedia storytelling could be well-served to fill in these gaps.

The project is being launched by romance novelist Julia London, along with Alina Adams, the author of another interesting project from last year, Oakdale Confidential, which played a role in sister show As the World Turns. I've written extensively about that example (see here), pointing out that the book was an interesting experiment in transmedia storytelling and demonstrated great potential and interest, even if fans were dubious about the quality of the book in its relation to the television show.

With this being another project conceived by the head writer of a soap opera but not appearing to be authored in close conjunction with the writing team of the show, I'm again skeptical if this project will see its full potential realized, but I'll be interested to see how it plays out. Oakdale Confidential, was a book inside the fictional world, written by a character in the show, which played a part in several storylines on the show, focusing on who authored the anonymous book and the fallout of using real people from town in a fictional story. Jonathan's Story will not be an artifact from the fictional world but rather another chapter in the story told on the television show, focusing on a character who was gone. That distinction makes this project quite different, and many of the problems demonstrated in Oakdale Confidential which could be covered up by the fact that a character supposedly authored the book, is more problematic in this construction.

However, Adams promises that the book will reveal a secret that will play a major role on GL this fall and that the book will complement the fall storylines for America's oldest soap opera, so we'll see.

For the project that falls in line closest with what this book is trying to achieve, see instead the transmedia online video series L.A. Diaries, which followed the adventure of a character from As the World Turns who had been off the canvas, as well as a character who had moved from The Bold and the Beautiful to The Young and the Restless. See my piece on the series here.

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