In Paperwork (by Celine Nisaragi), the protagonist’s personality came from a combination of traits taken from my cat, my grandmother, and a pop singer. What about the other characters? Not one is taken directly from real life. So, where do they come from?

Another way to create a character is to think of a topic that you have strong opinions about. You can create a character who becomes your personal soapbox. Let them model your feelings about that topic. Let them rant and rave. Give them an opening, and let them riff on your hot-button topic.

In Paperwork, Sergeant Denny Dugan ends up in the hospital, and I’m the one who put him there. Love him or hate him, Sergeant Dugan is in Paperwork because I have a hot-button topic that he illustrates perfectly.