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Writing that moment when faith comes alive

By Allie Pleiter

I don’t always write characters who come to faith in the course of a novel. Some of my novels have been romances between two people who already have faith as a crucial part of their lives. Others have one character helping to open up the heart of another to God’s love. I admit, those are my particular favorites, but they are always the most difficult to write. How do you put something so life-altering into mere words? It’s a scene I absolutely want to get right, to feel authentic for my readers.
Saved by the Fireman Nov
Jesse Syke’s moment of awakening to faith is a personal favorite. Jesse is asked by the heroine, Charlotte, if he would pray for her as she faces a tremendous challenge.

“Jesse?”

“Yeah?”

“Pray for me? I know it’s not really your thing, but God will hear you anyway, and I’ll feel better knowing you’re asking Him to keep me safe until I get there.”

It was a drastic thing to ask, but if this wasn’t a time for drastic measures, what was?

This volunteer fireman is known for his soulful voice – he has a charming habit of breaking into Motown tunes – and he toes up to prayer by singing whatever gospel song he can remember. That’s what I think makes an authentic description of a new faith experience – let the character relate the concept of faith to something he already has in his life. A jumping-off point, if you will:

Was prayer really complicated? Charlotte never made it look like anything more difficult than breathing. Prayer seemed to come to her like singing came to him – something that flowed out of a person.

Singing.

And so, after a guilty look around to see if there was anyone who could hear, Jesse began singing the couplets of a gospel song he remembered….He let the words soak into his own tangled spirit as he remembered more and more of the lyrics…He felt his own words form – not out loud, but like a sigh inside his head, a breath waiting to be exhaled.

Jesse comes to faith by letting God come into the life he knows while taking steps toward the Lord. It’s a continual process of translation and transformation. All-at-once conversions do happen, but I can’t seem to write them in ways that feel authentic to me. The many steps toward God can happen in a short timeframe, but I need to show them all to have my reader engage in my character’s first experience of faith.

What about you? What conversion scenes have you read that ring especially true?

Allie Pleiter June 2014An avid knitter, BBC Television geek and French macaron enthusiast, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced two parenting books, twenty-five novels, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website at www.alliepleiter.com or her knitting blog at www.DestiKNITions.blogspot.com. Her most recent release is Saved by the Fireman.

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