I think characters come alive when we can connect them with our own world of experiences. One of the books that came alive for me that way was "Babbitt," by Sinclair Lewis. In my mind, Babbitt was really an analysis of my Uncle--and it helped explain some of his contradictory ways. Later, I saw it as an expose' of American character, as I connected it with other books I was reading by Lewis and others. Over time, it acquired more depth, and it was no longer only my uncle that Lewis was exposing.