Novel Writing vs. Short Story Writing

One thing I have discovered about composing is that novel writing is a LOT more difficult than short story writing.

I started my first novel with a great plan. I am basing it on the mythology of a county I lived in Northern California. It is an interesting plot about a grad student in anthropology researching the history of the county. As an outsider, he meets with reluctance and derision from the townsfolk about sharing the shadowy history. And he soon finds his life is in danger. Neat, huh?

So I thought how hard can it be to write a novel? My approach was to treat every chapter like a short story. I would write a chapter, close it out and build on it in the next chapter. Simple enough. But what I forgot was that characters, once brought to life and three dimensional, have an agenda of their own. And the more I write, the more the topic or premise of the book becomes skewed by the characters.

Well developed characters always take on a life of their own at least in my opinion. Once you have given them a personality and breathed life into them, the characters have a tendency to run away with your story. No matter how much you fight to keep the storyline on track, the characters steer it in another direction: their own direction. And all you can do is try and reach a compromise.

As I am nearing what I thought was the end of the novel and formatting it into one volume, I am finding that my characters have other ideas. Reading back through the manuscript, I find references to things and people I don’t remember inventing. So now I have new chapters and characters and events I have to create. It would be almost disconcerting if it wasn’t so normal.

Does everyone have this dilemma?

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