No matter how much fun I had, nothing quite measured up to when my aunt would bring my little cousins for a visit. As infants, most of them got rides in my large doll carriage.
Watching the babies and interacting with them translated into making my playtime more like the real thing. My aunt passed along their clothes for my dolls. I didn't want the silly clothes they made for toys. They didn't match up to baby clothes. I held realism in high regard.
While our characters aren't real people, we strive to capture the experiences of daily life on the page. We're challenged to create story worlds and people, who are believable to our readers. Life experiences, reading, music, and movies all give us a frame of reference for our writing. People watching, snippets of conversation, facial expressions, and tone of voice all get stored onto the brain's hard drive for future reference.
How do you invent your characters? How do you keep your characters from sounding alike or a clone of yourself?