Someone on the Critters Newsgroups posted the link to Spam Obitiuaries. What a hoot! This guy has taken the names from spam emails and "killed them off"! That blog was mentioned after someone on that ng had asked if anyone else ever made up stories based on people we see passing by. I've done that for ages. I'll see people and have "instant story" hit from time to time. Mostly I want to know how they got that way. My daughter (now 31, but this was when she was in high school) and I would sit in the mall and make up stories about people walking by. One woman who came to the mall and bought cookies in the food court was dressed in a housecoat and fuzzy slippers, with her hair up in pink rollers. No idea WHY she dressed that way at lunchtime, but she was interesting. Then there was the skinny, pimply kid in the long black leather trench coat who looked like he couldn't have AFFORDED that coat from the look of the rest of him, but he thought he was so cool, he swaggered. ;-) Then there was the time when my best friend and I were sitting in the same mall people-watching while our daughters shopped. We admired the fine form of a man who walked by and whispered, "He's GORGEOUS!" to each other and giggled - and he HEARD us! He turned around and wiggled his eyebrows at us. We two 40-something blushed like girls, but he really was worth the embarrassment. Never did make up a story about him - the real one was funny enough! LOL!
Sometimes a person's appearance will be a real trigger for characters for me. My heroes in my novels are based in part on specific people, as are many of the other characters in the novels. I start with thinking of that person's appearance and basic personality traits and evolve a character from there. By the time I'm through, the character doesn't resemble the real person enough to be recognizable (which is what I want - I'm not putting people I know in my stories, but using them for inspiration for characters). By having a solid visual or personality concept of them, it's easier for me to come up with their body language, etc.