"Your protagonist is weak, Janna."
She had been about to interrupt him, but at the coldness in Professor Lanard's tone, her jaw hung open stupidly.
He waited, but she said nothing, because no words formed in her mind, only the vision of a gaping black hole, her usual symbol of the immutable naivety that was her novel.
She could tell by the lean of his shoulders and the fervor in his eyes that he was not finished.
"You aspire too high, Janna."
This popped her out of the fog. "Cardinal rule of dialogue--overuse of character names sounds unnatural to the ear."
She wasn't sure where that came from, but she liked it. She studied his face, waiting to see the tell-tale signs of his classic defensiveness poking through his frown. But he didn't.
The corners of his mouth twitched into a half-smile. "A challenge. That's what you need to give your character. The history the background is all well and good, but we have to see what she makes of the challenges thrown her way."
She thought for a moment, running through story scenarios and characterization weaknesses. In an instant she realized she was forcing her character to survive with just her own timidity.
Somehow the line between the fiction and the real had blurred in her mind, but no more. This was an easy fix.
She looked him clearly in the eye. "I could do that."