People are complex.
There is the childhood bully, who isn’t a person to you until the day you see his dad hit him. You hear the neighbors talk, words you, as a child, have never been privy to. This isn’t the first time he’s been hit; it’s not the first time the police are called. The neighbors hear the yelling, they see the boy, and the adults understand him and his situation better than us children. We only saw him as a bully. I only saw him as a bully, until that day, and then, he became a victim in my eyes.
People are complex. So, why are characters often so simple?
Character= Personality + Relationships + Motivations + Experiences
People could be broken down in the same formula, but there is more to people, and should be more to characters, than this. We, as the writers, should understand our characters better than they understand themselves. They might not know why the possibility of love terrifies them, but we should. They might not know that even while they are afraid, they have an inner drive, an inner spirit, that keeps them fighting, but we do. The problem is that many writers reduce their characters to stereotypes, and guess what, characters deserve more.
In young adult books, the main character is usually someone who has lost their parents, or their support system, and must find a way to survive in an unjust world on their own. But, the books that truly stand out often have just one quality that makes their character so unique, they seem real to us. And the more unique, the more you are creating a character that will transcend the pages, and become a real person to your readers. This is why we as authors need to be fair to our characters, and our readers, and move beyond the stereotypes, to breathe life into our characters.