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Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers)

A while back, we had a discussion on the blog about the cover art for my princess novels. For the most part, I really like these covers, but they’re not perfect.

Now I could talk about the way women are posed in cover art … or I could show you. I opted for the latter, in part because it helped me to understand it better. I expected posing like Danielle to feel a little weird and unnatural. I did not expect immediate, physical pain from trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do the hip thing she’s got going on.

I recruited my wife to take the pictures, which she kindly did with a minimum of laughter.

Being me, I naturally couldn’t stop there. I headed over to Amazon and grabbed a sampling of book covers, primarily urban fantasy, and spent the evening doing a photoshoot.

I’m tempted to use the Night Myst pic as my new author photo.

In all seriousness, I spent the rest of last night with pain running through most of my back. Even the pose in The Shape of Desire, which first struck me as rather low-key, is difficult to imitate and feels really forced. Trying to launch my chest and buttocks in two different directions a la Vicious Grace? Just ow.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being sexual. I can totally see Snow from the princess books flaunting her stuff, for example. But posing like these characters drives home exactly what’s being emphasized and what’s not.

My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk.

Guys, you should try it sometime. Get someone who won’t laugh at you too much to try to help you match these poses. The physical challenge is far more enlightening than anything I could say. (Wardrobe changes are optional.)

A few covers which I feel do a pretty good job of conveying strong, capable female characters: The Gaslight Dogs, An Artificial Night, The Darkest Edge of Dawn. Other suggestions and general discussion are welcome, as always.

Related: A contortionist and martial artist tries to imitate a comic book “fighting pose” … and can’t do it.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 207 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 11th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
These are brilliant. I almost gave myself a hernia just thinking about the different directions of torque required.
Jan. 11th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
Awesome post! I always figured I was just kind of inadequate as a woman because I never struck poses like that. It didn't occur to me that maybe no women strike poses like that, because they're physically painful and our bodies don't work that way.
Jan. 11th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
That was great, Jim. Thanks for the laugh!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
So I tried a few of those poses myself, seeing how much having a more feminine torso than Jim's would help. Some of the standing-hands-on-hips poses like Dani's I could manage, but probably not perfectly. Hanover cover's hurt my arms to have them up like that... but I'm out of shape.

I think I cramped something trying to mimic Ringo's. Far too much trying to twist my body into a spiral to work. It's lovely composition-wise, but owowowow...
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha! This is an awesome post. I think you should go to the publishers and offer yourself as a model. Of course, the men on the covers never do anything like this. It's usually a waist up or face shot. :D
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
Dear Mr. Hines.
in 30% relatedness to your excellent blog post I present to you the anatomy of Rob Liefield:

Regards, Hudson.
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Dear Mr. Hines.
It's fascinating how many times Liefield's name has come up, either directly or indirectly, in response to this post...
Re: Dear Mr. Hines. - duncanotoole - Jan. 11th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Dear Mr. Hines. - jimhines - Jan. 11th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Dear Mr. Hines. - trinker - Jan. 11th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Dear Mr. Hines. - dulcinbradbury - Jan. 12th, 2012 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Dear Mr. Hines. - jimhines - Jan. 12th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
:mutters to self: definitely time to get my Hugo noms in
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
I will say that the last one is a transition in a combat move, and not intended to be held as a stance for the artist . . .
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
Aside from gratuitous butt crack, I think the thing that bugged me most about that last one is the fact that she appears to have her eyes closed.

I'm guessing there's an in-story reason for some of this, but still...
(no subject) - jhetley - Jan. 11th, 2012 06:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dulcinbradbury - Jan. 12th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
Jan. 11th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing this Jim. I never really thought about how impossible the poses were before, but this really drives it home.

It also made me laugh out loud. :)

Jan. 11th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
You are seriously awesome, sir. And also, kinda hott.
Jan. 11th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
Well, shucks...

Somewhere through the time/space continuum, 13-year-old me is utterly shocked that:

1) 37-year-old me would be comfortable enough with how he looks to pose and post the pics

2) Anyone would use the words "kinda hot" in reference to said pics

There are some body issue and related things in here that I'll probably try to unpack in a separate post one of these days...
(no subject) - matociquala - Jan. 11th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
I actually really like the covers of your princess books, largely because Women in Sensible Armor is a rarer thing than it has any right to be. That said, yeah, I can see that the poses are a little bit... unlikely.

This is a pretty hilarious exercise, though! I've seen a recent trend toward pose/gender-swapped art for comic book and video game characters, putting iconic male characters in the ridiculous outfits and poses that female characters get. (Superman in a pose that resembles how Wonder Woman is shown, in ridiculous heels and midriff-baring spandex.) (This one of the Avengers movie poster is one of my favorites: http://mistressofmuses.tumblr.com/post/13435028137/sixty-seven-littlepunkryo-the-original)

It certainly emphasizes the ridiculousness of this stuff, when people tend to not give much of a second glance when women are posed this way.
Jan. 11th, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Also, I've linked to this. Too good not to share!
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( 207 comments — Leave a comment )


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