by Raelene Gorlinsky
We (the Publishing Department) have a weekly status meeting. Well, it's theoretically about the status of various projects and any issues that have come up during the week, but it tends to go in unexpected directions. We have learned to keep my office door shut during the meeting.
So at a recent meeting we were discussing how editors must watch out for what we call "choreography" problems in scenes. You know, where the author describes Tom sitting down in the chair, then several paragraphs later has him rise from the couch. Or Sue takes off her shoes three times (just how many legs does she have?). Or puts on a t-shirt in the morning, but removes her lacy blouse later on. I have several times conducted a writer workshop on this issue of choreography--always hysterical to watch. But new and interesting situations always arise in books being edited, and sex scenes are the most entertaining to analyse for choreography correctness.
At this particular meeting we discussed a question that had come up recently on a scene in a book--can a woman lick her own nipples? Because I know you're dying to know--yes, some women can. It doesn't depend on the size of her breasts, it is far more dependent on her flexibility. If you want to be sure a reader will believe your character can do this, establish earlier in the story that the woman practices yoga. If she can get into some of those yoga positions, she can get her tongue to her nipples, no matter how flat her chest!
Often an editor has to determine whether some position is humanly impossible or if the problem is with the way the author describes the action. As I teach in my workshop, the best way to test this is to act out the scene exactly as the author wrote it. So after we finished discussing tongues and nipples, editor Meghan brought up a sex scene in a book she was working on. Before you know it... "Jennifer, you lie down on the floor and raise your legs. Jaime, you kneel here and..." Jaime and Jennifer are our Publishing Assistants. When we hired them, we didn't exactly tell them all the duties of the job. Well, the J ladies are both young and slim and flexible--like most romance heroines--and were able to prove that the position could work.
Do you see why we keep the door closed?