Different writers approach the writing process differently. I absolutely loved Stephen King’s On Writing, and was fascinated with his account of his writing process. He described it like archaeology, in that he conceives one really unique idea and builds the story around it. He said that he doesn’t plot out his novels; rather he kinds of excavates them (totally paraphrasing here). I on the other hand am definitely a plotter (plodder??). I’ll usually start with the characters I want to write about, how I want them to grow as people and then decide what terrible things I’ll do to them to help them grow. Sometimes I will have really cool plot idea and I’ll need to invent characters who would tend to be in the situation I’ve imagined. I never purposely base any characters on any one person (okay ONE time I did but that was a long time ago, and they totally deserved it) but I do find that people tend to see themselves or me in the characters – even when I don’t see it! I have an easy way of knowing if I’m drawing too much on real life, and that’s if I get cold feet putting a character through the wringer. If I’m balking at killing their family or inflicting a debilitating injury only because it feels like I’m jinxing someone I care about, that’s a surefire sign that I need to go back to the drawing board with my characters.