When I was in my wanting-to-be-a-writer phase, I remember doing a lot of research about how to start a novel. I have some "how-to" books that were helpful, and I read a lot of articles online. Then I discovered blogs. I learned a lot over a long period of time, but one thing stood out like a neon light: You must create memorable characters.
And I thought Hmmm, how am I going to do that? I mean, the advice was dead-on. Memorable characters are a common throughout every single book that I've ever loved. My current favorite character is Katniss from The Hunger Games. I love the fact that she is a survivor, that she was able to use her skills and intelligence to outsmart the other contestants and the government.
So, how do you go about coming up with an amazing character like that? Well, one of the things I've learned is to steal traits from people you know. Now don't make one of your characters a thinly-veiled carbon copy of someone you are close to. That could just start a huge argument if they happen to read your book and recognize themselves. Just pick a few traits and mannerisms from several different people and mix them into a new person of your doing.
You can even find traits from people you don't know by watching movies, t.v. shows, and the news. For instance, I love the t.v. show Monk. In case you haven't heard of it, the main character was a private investigator with major OCD issues. He had to have an assistant follow him everywhere, and one of the things he always had her do was to give him a wipe whenever he was forced to shake someone's hand or touch something. Talk about a weird trait.
And don't forget to use yourself! Who knows you better than you? (Does that make sense???) I know all of my own hopes, desires, fears, dislikes, and what have you. Since you are so intimately familiar with what makes you tick, why not use a few of those things to liven up a character? One of the things my mc shares with me is a fierce sense of protectiveness. I'm like that in real life toward my children and anyone else who is close to me, so that was a natural thing to add to my mc.
So, where have you picked up character traits from? Are your characters a mixture of a lot of different people, or do you have a different method of creating them?