I'm actually not a non-fiction writer. At least I keep telling myself that truth. My first love, still, and will always live in the world of fiction.
Fiction has its uses: No one cares if your details are right. Nobody cares where you did your research (so Wikipedia might just be accurate "enough" knowing my education level that I can skeptically assess some of the entries).
But there is some trouble with fiction: as an author, your creativity is placed at the feet of the world asking the world to believe in your story, even for a few moments.
So I will look back at some of my choices in literary creativity.
"Putting It On The Line" is still my flagship story. Mostly because I have been writing it since I was 14. I grew up with Jessie, though her story started when she was 26, and the story of "Putting It On the Line" didn't manifest itself until I was 21.
But things like her name, I don't know why I latched onto Jessie right away. There were some qualifications. I needed her name to have a diminutive, a sign of affection, and I didn't know how important it was that she have that until much later in my process. I searched baby name books. I did not have much of a choice back then, it was 10 pages in the back of one of our dictionaries. And so I looked, the names A-Z and I ended up finger pointing to target myself. And then up came 'Jessica'.
Things that helped solidify that fact, Madonna has a song that helped in early days, "Dear Jessie" and that had helped things.
Music does help me determine a lot of things about characters, major moods, and directions I want to lead my characters through.
So Music and random picking.
Sometimes though, the character will come to me, their name firmly attached and nothing I can do will change that.
To date: I have never written (and published) someone from my life into my fiction, probably much to the relief of my business partner and some close friends.
Character traits are driven by the character's motives. I have many moments when my characters are very introspective and self-aware. I like those moments, knowing what my character wants and needs. They are truly self-determined and want their goals and whether or not the goal is realized or not is a part of the character's journey.
I spend much time in examining the tradition of the "Hero's Journey". I don't have much formal training in this concept, but it is basic at the core that I know most stories follow this rise and fall of the long story.
I purposely over write. I write about sequences I find that are very private to the character, that I am embarrassed to know about. Usually these parts don't make it into the things that I write, but that's how close the characters and I get.
I find that writing is really the way that my brain processes information because I will get many, many ideas at the same time and they will all converge and writing is the frenzy that happens when there may just be too much. But my mind is always writing, always wanting to be at the computer, watching letters form on the page. It may not be directly cathartic. I'm often as anxious as my characters are. I know better than to stop writing when I am in a groove, too many grammar issues occur and that I will lose track of the real goal.
So I'm back to where I'm headed, writing with the goal of getting the ideas to be clearer.