1 It's a fact. A story isn't much of a story without characters. What would the literary world be without Pippi Longstocking, Captain Nemo, Wilbur the Pig and Charlotte the Spider, Nancy Drew, Ichabod Crane, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Dorothy Gail from Kansas, and countless others? Think about the books you have read. Who is your favorite character, and what is the title of the book or series in which that character is featured?
2 I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Sh-h-h-h! Don't tell anyone I told you this, but a character is often a combination of several people whom an author knows! The author may have borrowed Sally's looks, Kate's personality, Trevor's talent, and Keisha's odd habit of wearing polka-dot nail polish. Sometimes an author includes something of his or herself in the character. This is smart thinking for beginning (and even advanced) writers. If the character comes totally from the author's imagination, it may be flat–stereotypical–or too much like the author! If an author bases a character on a single real person, that person would have legal grounds for a lawsuit. Create a character from a mishmash of real people, and none of them will recognize themselves in the story; the author will be safe.
3 Of course, you should never name a fictional character after anyone you know personally. That's a big no-no. (If you pick names that belong to people you do not know, you are safe. They wouldn't be able to convince a judge that your intention was to embarrass them.) Choose your character's name carefully. The sound of a name can influence the character's personality and the reader's attitude regarding the character. A wimpy character might be named Percy, while a tough guy could be called Jake. If a baby name book is available, thumb through it and discover the variety of names listed. You will find the meanings of names as well, which can be useful in your search for a good name for your character.