I was browsing the Harlequin website (as you do) and came across the guidelines for writing a Christian romance. Once I had stopped laughing, all I could think was – I’m so totally glad I’ve no interest in writing for Steeple Hill.
I can’t imagine writing a romance and avoiding all of the following (what’s left?).
Direct from the website:
Terms that cannot be used in a Steeple Hill novel:
Breast (except for breast cancer if necessary)
Buttocks or butt (alternatively, you can say derriere or backside)
Damn (try "blast" instead)
Devil (except in the religious sense, but the circumstances would be rare)
Dang or Dagnabbit
Father (when used to describe a religious official)
For heaven's sake (can use "for goodness' sake" instead)
For the love of Mike
For Pete's sake
Geez/jeez (but "sheesh" is acceptable)
Heat (when used to describe kisses)
Hell (except in the religious sense, but this would be rare)
Need/hunger (when used to describe non-food-focused state of being)
Tempting (as applied to the opposite sex)
St. [name of saint]
Swear, as in "I swear..." - Christian characters are not supposed to swear.
Undergarments - of any kind
The following are allowed only in the context mentioned:
Angel - only when used in a Biblical context
Miracle - only when used in a Biblical context
Oh my God/Oh, God - ONLY allowed when it's clearly part of a prayer
Heavenly - only when used in a Biblical context
Although you can say “He cursed” or mention cursing, do not overuse. Furthermore, only non-Christian characters can curse.
Situations to be avoided:
Kissing below the neck
Visible signs or discussions of arousal or sexual attraction or being out of control
Nudity - people changing clothes "on screen" or any character clad only in a towel
Hero and heroine sleeping in the same house without a third party, even if they're not sleeping together or in the same room
Also, Christian characters should not smoke, drink, gamble, play cards or dance (except in historical novels they may dance but please limit to square dances and balls, no “sexy” dancing like waltzing cheek to cheek), and terms associated with these activities should only be used in connection with bad guys or disapproving of them or such.
Bodily functions, like going to the bathroom, should be mentioned as little as possible and some euphemism may be necessary but we don't want to sound quaint or absurd.
Good lord, you’re right that’s the last thing we’d want “to sound quaint or absurd”.
I will say though, they have made a few good calls. Unless the story includes a two year old the following should never been see in a romance (or any really book, unless for the pure stupid humour value): Dagnabbit, Doody, poop, & pee (does this leave room for pee-pee?).
Okay, I can understand that the goal to living as a good Christian is to avoid the bad things like swearing and drinking to excess, but on what planet do no Christians ever do these things; smoke, drink, gamble, play cards or dance (dance – what century are we in – the waltz was no longer scandalous in the 1800s. The Prince Regent himself blessed the waltz in 1816, and by the end of Victoria's reign, waltzing had become the dance of choice at many a private ball and public assembly). And how can you be redeemed if you’ve never slipped even once?
It feels like they are sucking all the fun out of life (I notice sucking is still allowed ;) ). If I’m going to read something with such a huge disconnect from reality I’m going to stick to paranormals & fantasy.
The other thing that got to me: Why can't a religious official be referred to as Father? And you can’t even mention priests? I understand we don't want anyone to say "Crap!" (I notice they left out the F-bomb), but what do characters do when a priest walks by? Do Catholics, Anglicans, or Episcopalians not exist in Steeple Hill? I’m sorry but I’m starting to get the heebie-jeebies about the level of fundamentalism involved here.
Harlequin do add that because Steeple Hill sells to both CBA and ABA bookstores, they must adhere to CBA conventions - that's the Christian booksellers association.
All that said, my curiosity is aroused (oh wait, can’t use that word)… I’m intrigued, I might have to read one just to see how they do it. My admiration goes out to the writers who actually manage to write a good romance sticking to these guidelines.
Currently reading: ‘Ultimate Weapon’ by Shannon McKenna