Once upon a long time ago, I went to college. All was fine and dandy until my friend and roommate discovered that I liked to write. Once that tidbit of info was out, she began to demand that I write her "really awesome stories" every day. I guess that she knew--before even I knew--that my calling in life was to be a writer. Not, as I proclaimed my freshman year, a lawyer or a diplomat or a psychologist. (Heck, writing encompasses all of that anyways, am I right?)
It had always been a passion, but I really started getting serious about writing in college largely due to the stories I opted to keep writing to please my roommate. (Best writing prompt ever? "Write me a story where I'm a beautiful princess and DON'T MAKE ME A DITZ.")
However, sometimes my dear friend saw herself in places where she was never meant to be. She has red hair, so when I wrote about a really mean person with red hair, she'd immediately ask, "Wait...is that me?!" She was also a biology major, so all mad scientists also got a "Hey! Is that me?!" Even if she was very obviously written as a beautiful princess, the antagonistic dragon I had in the background was pointed out with a "WHY'D YOU MAKE ME A LIZARD?"
The point is that despite any authorial intent, we may see ourselves in various characters from time to time whether it's flattering or not. And once our written work has passed into someone else's hands, whether it be a crit partner, beta reader, agent, editor or a someone who got your book for their birthday, people will start seeing themselves in YOUR characters. Exciting, right?
Of course there are thousands of ways to get inspiration for characters (I'm gonna leave this link right here so don't blame me if you click on it and wake up four hours later from your trope-coma: CHARACTERS) But how you come up with your characters--whether it be from personal inspiration or, like Athena, they pop out of your godlike-head fully formed--is a completely personal process.
Any cool character stories? How did you come up with your hero or your villain? Are they an amalgamation of every awful gym teacher you've ever had or a thinly veiled college roommate or someone completely new? Let's hear it!
True story*: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes was based off of Romeo and Juliet. James Franco and Shakespeare were roommates in college.
*this is not a true story