I am a writer, and as such, my characters mean a lot to me. I can't really write them realistically unless I think of them as actual people-- more or less, they are my friends. This means that I end up talking to them, interacting with them, even imagining myself physically present in their worlds on occasion. Sometimes I even "click" with characters that aren't my own creation-- someone from a book or video game or movie that caught my attention-- and I keep a version of that character in my head, just to talk to.
In a way, these characters are part of me, because they live in my imagination and spring from my own creativity. But in a way, they are also not. They are separate people, with their own identities, with free will. They do not always agree with me. They do not always behave in a way I condone. They are NOT me.
Something about them is alive, in a way that makes them separate from me. They have their own feelings, opinions and ideas. They have free will. They exist in another time and place disconnected from my own, and I am only the person who watches them. I do not puppet them. Their feelings, even their souls, are real.
Consequently, I treat them as real people. I am not some godlike writer who controls their lives; I am a watcher and friend (in some cases, a barely tolerated one.) As long as they do not interfere with my own life, they are free to do whatever they want, and occasionally they will influence me (I may buy one of my characters a CD they particularly like, for example.) They do NOT control me, but neither do I control them. I am myself, no one else.
I am not crazy. I would never allow my characters to push me to do something illegal, immoral or cruel. Just because one of my characters is enraged, that does not make me go out and hurt somebody. I am no more their puppet than they are mine. I am not some multiple-personality disorder case; I am aware of my characters and I coexist with them peacefully.
These people may not be flesh and blood on Earth, but they are real. They have their own lives, in alternate realities. They are not me, but they still matter.
I know, not their faces, but their souls. They share a bond with me. They are my soulbonds.