Until recently, I've been writing my novels by having the main character be almost exactly like me. I would just shove my entire conscience into the adventure, give my own reactions and my own opinions. That worked out great *motions at all the horrid unfinished novels on my desktop*. I didn't really understand why they were always so bad. I mean, when I'd summarize the plots to my friends or explain the concept in my head, it sounded extraordinary. Then, when I'd read it, it'd go something like this:
1) Opens document
2) Rereads some and realizes the audience has no freaking clue what this character's past or personality is like
3) Anxiously inserts random backstories and facts into places in the plot that absolutely did not need them
4) Saves document and leaves
5) Returns a week later
6) Continues writing
7) Feels the need to add another backstory
8) Rereads the novel
9) Realizes that the main character explains about her happy middle class life before novel then later in the plot she explains her miserable poverty stricken teenage years (as an example)
10) Angsts and cries
The character was so familiar that I always forgot to explain her actions, motives, etc. I did this with minor characters too, basing them off friends OR EVEN CHARACTERS FROM OTHER BOOKS. Now take a second to judge me. I know, I'm a horrible person. I just wanted so badly to just insert myself into a fantasy world, and (oh yeah) I was a teenager. Let me make my mistakes, I promise I won't publish them.
Now, I think the only way to make a character that the reader understands and that I can truly write about is one that is near opposite of me. This has worked wonderfully in the past with short stories, and I'm not sure why I thought it wouldn't work well for novels. So I think I'm on the right path now. Hopefully, future works will be far less confusing.
And here, since that was probably way too much text to read I'll include some pictures of my favorite main characters (that google images have pictures of) to attract attention. Yeah, I really want someone to read my blog. :/