My characters are frequently based on real people, but as the story develops, they take on a life of their own and bear little more than a superficial resemblance to the person on whom it is based.
In the case of Nara, the main character in The Gate House, she is based on the daughter-in-law of a friend from my days in Costa Rica. Her name is Nara, a unique name, and she is petite with dark hair and grew up in a Caribbean island nation. But that is where the similarity ends.
From that basic description, I created Nara Blake, who lives in the Gate House with her father and aunt, and whose interest in art along with her innate curiosity leads her into trouble.
Elaine, the cathedral tour guide who becomes involved with Nara and her adventures, is based on a real guide I met at Lincoln Cathedral. But of course I know nothing about the real woman’s personal life. I created one for the character in my novel.
Next time you are in a public place, look around and imagine a character from someone you see. From that person, you can create a story, or invite him or her into a story you are writing.
Here are a couple of websites I like for help in creating characters:
How to Create Characters http://kathrineroid.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/how-to-create-characters-for-a-novel/
Fiction Factor http://www.fictionfactor.com/characters.html