1. Lyn Perry says:

    Good summary. I think genre expectations have a lot to do with it, combined with a very high percentage of CBA readers who are quite quite conservative. Different topic, but my niece who writes Christian women’s fiction included a damn in her book, an organic expression from a character who was failing in life but eventually got back on the road to restoration. A reviewer marked her book as one star saying there were vulgarities in it! Hello. There was one word. Another commented on her blog that in her family growing up she wasn’t even allowed to say darn because it was a substitute for damn. Sheesh. No wonder a lot of “Christian” fiction is formulaic – it’s not really Christian, it’s just conservatively prudish to meet the expectations of a (large) segment of readers (and to avoid those one stars).

    • Tony Breeden says:


      Since you mentioned profanity in a Christian novel, here’s an article I’ve written recently on the subject: @#%*!!, or Dirty Words & the Christian Author – Part 1

      On the subject of this post: I’m currently writing a conversion scene in my WIP so this post was helpful. In my debut novel, Johnny Came Home, their is an unsuccessful conversion attempt. I put it there because it was natural for the character, a preacher, to attempt to share the Gospel… and natural for the person listening to reject it for the reasons he did. It also served as crisis point for the preacher, sort of a What do you do when everything fails? moment. We’re given the Great Commission, but I think sometimes we forget that it is God who grants repentance not our arguments that convert.

      I also think that another reason why conversion scenes are so common in Christian fiction is the writer’s need to resonate with the reader. Christian books are generally written to Christian audiences. Conversion is one experience all Christians have in common.

      Likewise, I think another reason conversions are common in Christian books is the idea that Christian fiction ought to be evangelistic, that it ought not only show the truth about God and Christian doctrines, but  show also the hoped-for unsaved reader their need for salvation and how they might receive it.  Authors hope to generate a larger audience and are, thus, very aware of their responsibility to the Great Commission if the opportunity exists.

  2. Travis Perry says:

    I have actually read very few stories that contain a conversion scene. One I read recently did feel rather forced because it was intertwined with a romance in which the Christian male protagonist was attracted to the unbelieving female–and subsequently led her to Christ. I’ve heard of people with romantic entanglements leading one another to the Lord, but I’ve never witnessed such a thing and never knew anybody in person who did so. So, as per what you said, the material being outside my experience made it seem unrealistic (though at times I read things outside my experience and they seem right anyway).

    I think an important factor about conversion scenes is that Evangelical Christians believe such a thing exists! You’ll see secular science fiction writers continually talking about how evolution, the struggle for survival, has shaped this or that alien species. Such a discussion is part of the landscape for them, because random, purposeless evolution driven only by survival IS where they see life coming from. We Christian writers see a message from and a response to God as an ordinary part of human existence–therefore we are likely to portray it.

  3. Fred Warren says:

    I don’t think conversion can be portrayed effectively as something incidental to the story. It’s too important. For the best examples in literature I can think of, the journey of conversion–before, during, and after–*was* the story, and it wasn’t a quick fix. Omit it altogether if you’re going to present it superficially, like a tick-mark on a checklist or changing a character’s t-shirt.

    We’re talking about a life transformed. Go big, or go home.

    Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables comes to mind.   http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/135

  4. This is a new and interesting take on the “conversion scene”!  I have to say, I have this idea of a cliche conversion scene that, in actuality, I’ve never (or rarely) seen in real Christian fiction.  Most Christian fiction I’ve read does have conversion scenes, but they’re very organic and natural, not stilted.  I avoid bad books, though, so maybe that’s why.  😉  A character can’t just have a conversion “scene” – they generally need a conversion *plot arc*, and it must be well-done.

  5. Julie D says:

    That makes a lot more sense to me.

  6. I really appreciated this perspective!  It makes a lot of sense.  I had to write a conversion scene in the story, because it was part of a conversion arc, and just made sense with the character.  However, since I came to faith early, I did some interviews and research, and the variety of ways people came to Christ was astounding, as was the way that faith manifested in their lives afterwards.  For some, it was a complete switch over, without the emotional drama, but for others it was this long, drawn-out struggle.  It really helped give me insight on how to write that kind of scene.

    Another thing I had to come to grips with is that for a secular audience, a lot of people are just going to think any kind of conversion is crazy.  Even the disciples had to deal with flack about their faith in Jesus–and that was when He was on earth, working miracles!  The Good News is just too good to be true, and too outside the world’s wisdom for them to get it.  Since I write novels with a mix of Christian and non-Christian characters (and no, not all the non-Christians convert, and they do represent different faiths as well as atheist/agnostic), I feel this disbelief is an important thing to show.

    Also, one thing that’s important to realize is how you write a scene too.  It takes skill and good editing and a strong knowledge of character and plot to pull it off well.  Otherwise a conversion you pulled directly from a true story can seem fake to Christians AND non-Christians.

  7. Interestingly enough, the most shamelessly blatant conversion scene I’ve ever read wasn’t in a CBA-published book, it’s in that old hoary classic ROBINSON CRUSOE. In the words of the Eleventh Doctor, “I was not expecting this!”

What do you think?