Here’s Keshlik, the primary antagonist of Storm Bride:
I do this a lot: I use pictures of people and places that I find online to set the mood for the things in my books. For people we typically call this “headcasting,” and I’m not sure that there’s really a common term for locations, but let’s call it “location scouting”. In this case, I am extremely excited to pick Toshiro Mifune as my visual stand-in for Keshlik, because Toshiro Mifune is awesome, and both his look and his on-screen personas fit the character of Keshlik. (One could pick nits here, such as the fact that Mifune is Japanese and the Yakhat are not based at all on Japanese culture, but it would be silly to whine at that level.) Update: Actually, the person pictured above is not Toshiro Mifune but Tatsuya Nakadai. I was misled by the fact that the picture is like the 2nd Google image result when searching for “Toshiro Mifune”. Thanks to commenter Jor for pointing this out.
So how about Uya?
There are a few nitpicks here: the nose ring worn by the woman in the top picture is not something that I imagine for the Praseo culture. The woman on the right looks exactly right, except for the fact that her coat/cape thing isn’t quite as cool.
Both of these women are Tlingit, a Native American people of the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a very cool article and photo essay about Tlingit culture, which shows off more of their traditional clothing and jewelry, as well as explaining some of their current challenges. And here’s the dirty secret about why I use real-world cultures for inspiration about stuff like that: I’m not very good at imagining unique visuals. For whatever reason, my world-building imagination runs very easily to political systems, religions, rituals, family structures, and history, but I have a hard time figuring out what these things look like. So I tend to look for human cultures whose designs and symbols resonate with me and seem to match the rest of the setting that I’m developing. In the case of Storm Bride, the culture, religion, and political structure of the Prasei are not drawn from the Tlingit at all, but the visual style and symbolic elements are.
Finally, there’s Saotse:
This was actually the hardest one to find. In the first place, Saotse should look like an old white woman in clothing similar to what Uya has, but for good reasons this is a hard thing to find pictures of. More importantly, I started by trying to find pictures of “old icelandic woman”, which reveals that the oldest women in Iceland are evidently about 25 years old. Saotse originally comes from a place called Kalignas (though this name never appears in Storm Bride) which is somewhat similar to Iceland in climate and culture, but having given up on that particular search I eventually came across the woman above, who is (I think) actually Scottish. Oh well. She looks sad, which is Saotse’s major personality trait at the opening of the novel, so it works out. I guess.
Next week I’ll try to show you some pictures of the locations in Storm Bride.