What are characters to you?

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Original poster
Hey, just a thought I had. I have a particular way of thinking of characters, whether in an RP or story, whether I'm writing them or not, and it leads to a lot of my philosophy about how writing should go. I'll get into exactly what it is in a moment, but first I want to ask my fellow Iwakuans to describe the same thing: What is a character to you?

Now I'll go ahead and answer my own question down here. To me, a character is a person in every way, except that he or she is fictional. Now, if I just put it that way, a fictional person, it seems really obvious, but there's a lot to my definition of the phrase. I think of each character as an individual with their own thought patterns and mannerisms, beliefs and opinions and feelings. I guess you could say I have a muse with an extreme split-personality disorder, as my inspiration tends to come through as a character's voice speaking (not necessarily to me), narrating just what they think and would do in a given situation, or sometimes just bits and pieces of their life. It's for this reason that I tend to think of all stories as character-driven: Plot is just people doing things while we watch. Mischaracterization is my hated enemy, as it often results from a character's personality becoming inexplicably subservient to a pre-planned plot. Since I think of characters as people, I also tend to dislike it when a character is seriously hurt or killed off in a way that is pointless, reasonless, or just stupid. Don't get me wrong, I accept character deaths wholeheartedly as long as they make sense. This is also why I hate to see an RP die. It's like if you took an entire world's worth of people and just destroyed them for no reason.
I think of characters as real people and I am either stepping in to their shoes to live their life or being the god that controls them. c_____c

There is a complete separation between who my characters are and who -I- am. Once I am playing a character or "In Character" I am 100% playing that character true to what -they- would do. And I get REALLY FRUSTRATED when people try to correct ME or get mad at ME for what a character thinks/does. (For example; Correcting ME when a character gets info wrong, or yelling at me cause a character is being a bitch. c__c;) I'm not a self-insert player, so that bugs the hell out of me.

I do feel for and get sad or upset when bad things happen to characters. But because I have enough separation from them, I take pleasure in it as an evil evil outsider. XD It's like reading a book or a soap opera. I know it's not real, so if something happens in game or the roleplay dies off unexpectedly, it doesn't bother me that much. I know that I can always reuse those characters again.

One of the other things that does piss me off is hijacking my characters. I am very possessive god of my characters and I don't like other gods touching my stuff. D:<
My characters are people who I briefly look through the eyes of, 'Being John Malkovich' style.
They are not me, and not extensions of me by any means. Some of them have characteristics that I also have, but they remain their own people. I really enjoy playing people who are completely different than me in terms of personality. Adds a lot of depth to their character, as you explore their interactions with other people and the world around them. The area where I fail in terms of differentiating my characters from me is that the majority of them are human, or human like. Quite a few are Hell/Devil related too.
Oh well.
To me, they're facets of a person's being. They are devices to drive home whatever the storyteller wishes to propagate, even if that means that they would essentially be tiny flickers in the greater scheme of things.
I'm going with Butterfly on this. They're coats.

Put them on, take them off; they're fun to have and you get to walk in another man's shoes for a while with none of the risk of actually having to deal with their problems, yet basking in all their victories.

As an old-school D&Der, when a character dies, they (usually) stay dead. It sucks, especially if you spent a lot of time running a particular character, but its also an opportunity to play something else...or play Fighter McWarrior's strangely identical twin brother, which could well become a whole clan of identical relatives if you die enough....

For me, characters don't mean much aside from a chance to play something I'm not (if I play a mage-type). Or better, play an exaggerated version of what I am (jacks of all trades, masters of awesome-type characters). And I'm one of those gamers who'd play the gender bender monster goblin thief just to fill out the gaming table; I'm not too picky. Part of the fun is gaming itself, not what i'm playing.
Pathetic meatsacks.

In all seriousness, I like Butters and Razilin's analogy; characters are pretty much coats you wear to put you in the mindset of someone else.

Dwarves FTW, for Edoras and Erolingas! For the bloody red dawn! CURAHEE!
The coats thing is a good analogy. But I suppose I am sort of a self-insert writer, with my own characters I make up (Chuck as opposed to Aya, say) they are extensions and/or sort of projections of aspects of myself, just focused and magnified. I have happy, carefree days like Bae Yun ( I WILL get to play him someday, somehow, dammit) and I have guilt issues am usually fairly gruff like Chuck. I'm a twinless twin (tho I don't know if anyone even remembers Kirk and Xu Fahl its been so long and I think I only used them once) and a bookworm like Allairo... I just isolate one or two aspects of me I feel like acting out would help the story along with and try to build a person around them. I don't like playing overly complicated characters, I'm complicated enough for me.
Eh, I don't think of them as coats moreso as peices of myself. The different characters I have are all different parts of me.
I agree with Ravine, each and everyone of my characters is a piece of myself
I like to play characters that are nothing like me, although I am sure little bits of myself slips into my characters.
In the context of RPing, characters are like coats or hats for me. Maybe even shoes. Different personas to try on and make my own for a little while.
Could you say they're like toe socks? I mean, if they fit that good... That'd make for a great character.

For me though, they are both coats and facets of my identity, exploited into someone completely different, only to be stripped off the person in question and worn a la Buffalo Bill. (horrible sounding, I know, but it's true, isn't it?)
Sims. Made them up for whatever reason, I get very into them for a while and then cool off eventually when stuff is winding down or there's something shinier to take its place.

There's a few I got attached to cos of something daft, but I rarely use them because I know it's stupid to be too attached to characters. Then again, I attach to people pretty easily and that seems to apply with fictional ones too - see here 10th Doctor, Angel and Louis from the Charlie Parker series, etc etc. Yay.