Just a quick list of things I notice missing in a lot of YA fantasy novels and it’s kind of confusing to me… like, not a deal breaker just… confusing.
1.- Hobbies. They don’t need to act on that hobby, but at least mention it or something. I feel like everybody had some kind of a hobby, be that crafts, reading, writing, film watching, exercise; and it’s a huge deal. It’s one of the first things you talk about in small talk, at least in my circle, so when I make it through an entire trilogy and the main character only seems to have fighting as a hobby (something they usually pick at the beginning of said trilogy), I find this weird. Not bad… but unusual.
This is also a good way to flash out some side characters! Small details like this go a long way to humanising characters.
2.- A life before the book begins. Like, they probably had friends or at least co-worker or somebody they are leaving behind to take place in your plot! They don’t have to be super important to them, but it’s nice to bring it up and remind your readers that this is a person with a past, a present and a future!
3.- Preferences! Small choices really help make a character feel real. Instead of going to a coffee shop and having the another character automatically order two coffees without even asking what the protagonist wants, have them ask, have them answer. Maybe show them ponder for just a minute over whether they want a tea or a coffee? Show some depth!
4.- Opinion, not going to go into this one, this one often is a deal breaker for me, when a character is just thrown around and doesn’t express themselves on the matter, I can find that really off putting (not always, there are exceptions to everything, but usually).
Note that, I don’t think a protagonist making choices is too important, but them having an opinion is important. I can think of plenty of chosen-one narratives where they are thrown around and get no choice in anything, but it’s entertained because they know this and mention it and complain. The opinion is what makes the character!
5.- More than one outfit. This isn’t a cartoon, the book won’t be more expensive if they have more clothing options. I find it really weird when characters start the book in an outfit and never ever change out of it. This one really depends on context, but just mentioning that they changed into a fresh outfit allows me as a reader to imagine they have more than one outfit.
Perhaps this is a really personal one, not sure, I just get excited for a character when they get new clothes, maybe it’s because I play video games and love finding new clothing items there?
Usually I see this when they put a specific outfit on for horseback riding, or a ball, or they go on a date!
I won’t notice this missing if you aren’t someone who described clothes at all. I only notice this if you only describe one outfit. And I probably make this mistake myself. This is more of a, I get excited when this happens and not a I get disappointed when it doesn’t, kind of situations.