I find it difficult to write from direct experience, or to take characters directly from the ones in my life. Perhaps its because I don't know any interesting people, or I don't want to psycho-analyze them.
Most of what I like to write, or what I feel I write well, is speculative fiction. I like to pose a what if, be it world or situation, and let the characters develop naturally from there.
They may make choices that make me cringe, or that I wouldn't do myself. I think of a character who could be anyone, and through the course of the adventure, their character becomes defined, and then possibly changes.
Sometimes they don't change, their circumstances do. People do this in real life, by making the world around them conform to their belief, like Gandhi.
I did something similar in psychology. Whereas most theories come from observation and experimentation, I would design my labs "in the real world" and introduce situations, or objects, that were outside the norm, or regular continuance. One such experiment was introducing a toy cow to people, telling them his name, his interests, and if they would want to have Magnus sit on their shoulder (it was a beanie Jersey cow and balanced perfectly).
Women refused and looked at me weird. Men often accepted Magnus, and would set it on their shoulders. With additional information and interviewing I devised a theory that women were more self conscious, and because of this in certain ways less developed emotionally than men in public environments. Men appeared to be comfortable with who they were regardless of what others thought of them.
Popular? No. Society holds that females mature emotionally more than males, and that is often the case. But females care more what other people think, to the degree that they will tear each other apart socially for status. this does not seem very emotionally mature.
That's what I do with my characters: I try to take what is the accepted norm, introduce something fantastic in a reverse Dues Ex Machina or ironic twist of fate that "propels the hero through his journey"*
*Rango. Every writer should watch that movie.