I saw an interesting show on t.v. the other day called Writers' Confessions. Nothing steamy, in spite of the name, just a bunch of authors talking about the writing life. They brought up an interesting topic: when authors are portrayed on t.v., what is their book about? Usually just an autobiography in thin disguise. See the t.v. show, Castle, and NCIS as examples.
While it's true that writers often 'write what they know' in regards to places and cultures, and to a certain extent, they can't help that sometimes their voice and opinions and favourite sayings come through in their work, everything that happens in their book is not something that really happened to them. It is fiction, after all.
I try to stay away from describing any of my characters so that they sound like someone I know. While some may want to be included in a book, they may not like my impression of them. I'd rather keep my friends.
I know that if a book is researched well, people will say, "You must have worked in a lumber camp, because you describe it perfectly." I've told writers when I thought they "got it" perfectly. They take it as a great compliment, because that's their goal. They want you to get so into the story, that you believe these are real people and you care about them.
I think I 'show up' in some of my characters. But I also like to explore what a person who is completely different from me would think or say. That's the beauty of fiction, and the fun a writer has in creating a character and then stepping back and seeing what they have to say. Some characters take me by surprise.
What about you? How much of yourself and those you know shows up in your writing?