The Faith Healer Didn’t Want Me

back from church and the faith healer
back from church and the faith healer

He puts his hands on her head. “You are forgiven. She is at peace!” he shouts. My friend screams and falls to the floor. Another man runs over to cover S. with a towel. Several people are on the floor and others wait their turn. The faith healer looks at me passes me by. I wonder how he knows I’m not willing to collapse for him. He doesn’t look my way again.

He touches a teenage girl who shrieks and begins jumping up and down. He takes his hands away but she keeps letting out this fantastic, otherworld noise. I wonder if she has ever sounded like that before or ever will again.

People are whispering prayers, speaking in tongues, and crying. I worry that my expression and my posture is all wrong. I’m not blending in. My friend sits up, tears pouring, and I wonder if this will ease her guilt.

S. and I go to the revival all three days. She doesn’t ask me if I believe in the man’s power, and I don’t ask why she does. No one in her family would go with her and she was afraid to go alone. I volunteered. I watch the other people there come up and embrace her. “It’s okay,” they say. “We love you,” they say. She cries and I put my arm around her.

I think that one day I will write about this and I hope she is not hurt.

Being a writer can remove you from events, turn you from participant to observer. Guilt gnaws at me when I use people I care about to write, but I do it anyway.

How do you feel about using people in your life in your writing? How do you decide when it is okay and when it is not?

8 thoughts on “The Faith Healer Didn’t Want Me

  1. Depends on the person in question, AND on the context in which I’d think to “use” them. (Ugly verb, that.)

    Like your question of last week about crossing over the fine line into exhibitionism, and where exactly that line is, this business of bringing real people (not celebrities and other public figures) into public view is a minefield of discomfort for me.

    Pseudonyms and other gimmicks (like your “the tactophobe”) can help, because at least if the person comes across his/her unmistakable story it can remove the sting of public “exposure.” (Of course, in a story like the one you tell here, there really may not be much exposure going on — not if the two people involved are the only two who know the “truth.”)

    Some stories I’d never tell, literally or even remotely recognizably, even though it might help my writing succeed. I wish I could be “fearless” that way but, well, people’s feelings do count for me. (Fatal character flaw, I suspect.) I’ve turned one major event in my life into a story, added layer upon layer of misdirection and camouflage so that the chance of someone’s recognizing him/herself is infinitesimal; as much as I like the story, and confident though I am that all the sleight-of-hand works, the thought of its publication does give me pause.

    And even weirder: it embarrasses me to have said that, because it makes me feel like a dishonest or cowardly writer. Seconds after I hit the Submit Comment button below, I may be emailing you to request deletion — or at least.pseudonymity 🙂

  2. sherri

    I’m more worried about the subconscious insertion of a person. The ones I intend to put in can be camouflaged, as JES says. But the ones who sneak in from the dark places…those are the ones who will bite me in the ass later.

  3. “My own belief is that one regards oneself, if one is a serious writer, as an instrument for experiencing. Life – all of it – flows through this instrument and is distilled through it into works of art. How one lives as a private person is intimately bound into the work. And at some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition, and if we are to accept ourselves in all the complexity, self-doubt, extravagance of feeling, guilt, joy, the slow freeing of the self to its full capacity for action and creation, both as human being and as artist, we have to know all we can about each other, and we have to be willing to go naked.” -May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

    I read this on swirlygirl, and thought immediately of your post, which I was still mulling over.

  4. Tricky question: there is a freeing transformation in fictionalization that allows me to create characters that are an amalgam. They are never one person in my life, though taking things here and there, so I don’t feel guilty at all. It it were a true to life model, it would be memoir, and would have a whole other set of baggage attached.

  5. Squirrel, I don’t purposely put anyone into my novels.

    Sherri, I actually don’t worry about subconscious one. Not yet anyway.

    rowena, thanks for that link. And yea for May Sarton. Here’s to truth.

    JES, It is not a character flaw. And if you ever do want me to delete a comment of yours, you know I will.

  6. You’ve heard the phrase “Reality Bites”, there is more truth to that than not. It’s always a question of how much is too much. It’s a hard question to answer. I’ve found whatever I’ve written has so much more potent, energy, realism behind it when I bring the whole “truth” element into it. I think it was Stephen Kings who once wrote that a writer should write about what he knows best. (Kind of scary if you think of the context of some of his writing, then again he has that obsession with everything Maine).

    I think you have to give it the element of truth, even half truths to make it believable. If you worry about offending, using names etc. simply change the scenario. Give an objective name. It doesn’t matter if your the only one who knows the truth( the bottom line) just the element of it being portrayed. It’s possible to give your readers the context your coming from, without going somewhere that feels hurtful to someone else.

    On a deeper theorem of friendship, I believe that friends should be able to agree to disagree. I have a whole diversity of friends who don’t exactly believe as I do about multiple things. However they understand, I respect them and their beliefs and in turn they respect mine. I think telling your friend your there to support her, even if it’s not necessarily something you believe in…is being honest with her and a true friend. As in anything this is just my humble opinion.

    I have a feeling you and I both stand on the same threshold of what we think of the revival meetings. (Hugs)Indigo

  7. Indigo, yes, I’ve written a few things that felt like biting to the bone, but I decided I wanted the strongest writing I could drag out of me. In this particular story (what with a certain detail taken out) my friend will be fine with the telling–though she might be disappointed in my view of revival meetings.

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