DIB Bitmaps using pixel arrays?

Hi, I'm a short-time z80 assembly and C++ programmer who decided to try his hand at using the Win32 API, and the tutorial book I've been using to get started is sadly lacking in good information regarding how to create and use DIBs, and none of the online resources I've looked at try to address what I'm looking for.
I've been using a series of pixel (char) arrays in the code to make DDB bitmap objects, and have noticed that when using the CreateBitmap method, color bitmaps with a lower or higher bits per pixel value than the system are not displayed unless I 'force' them to be by changing the planes value.
From what reading I've done, using CreateCompatibleBitmap is supposed to allow you to use predefined graphics in a system that has a higher or lower bits per pixel value than the bitmap (with the expected loss of colors, but converted to be compatible). This is where I get completely lost trying to figure out which, if any, of the functions listed on MSDN to use.
So my question is really twofold:
1) Is it even possible to use an internal pixel array as a DIB created using CreateCompatibleBitmap or a similar method?
2) If so, how? If not, what would be the next-best alternative?

Thanks in advance.
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