The Writer's Chronicle, published by AWP, is a terrific magazine that usually has at least one outstanding craft article in each issue. The February 2005 issue has one called "The Author-Narrator-Character Merge: Why Many First-time Novelists Wind up with Flat, Uninteresting Protagonists" by Frederick Reiken. The problem, which Reiken discusses at length from several angles, and in both first and third person fiction, past and present tense, short stories and novels, is that a writer, usually an inexperienced writer, will often fail to distinguish among the author, the narrator, and the protagonist. He says, "What typically results is a narrative in which there is virtually no distance between the story's narrator and the story's character, one result of which may be a sense that the main character is really nothing more than a narrating device and hence not much of a character at all." Reiken goes on to describe other consequences of the A-N-C merge, when it might happen intentionally for aesthetic purposes, and how to avoid/correct it if it is getting in the way of the story.
I'm convinced that this is the problem with my novel and has been from the first draft. And my readers, including my esteemed thesis advisor, identified a symptom of the problem, but not what the problem really was. This time through, for what better be the last revision of this particular novel, I'm keeping this article close at hand--for tips on how to demerge these people.