I usually base my characters on composites of people I know. One trumpet player in SIDE MAN is really a mix of four different guys I knew growing up. Patsy , the waitress, is a mix of about three different people. I like doing it that way. I start with the characters, as opposed to plot, location, or some visual element. I write more by ear than by eye. I always work on the different sound of each character, trying to make sure each has a specific voice and speech pattern, which some writers could care less about.