by Mackenzie Jager
It is surprisingly easy to forget how wise your friends are. Charnell Peters is confident, intelligent, encouraging, and often sassy, but this week I was reminded of her wisdom. She approaches life––and especially her craft––with a conscientiousness that is moving.
“I want to be a writer because stories have affected my life unlike anything else I have experienced,” Charnell explained. “I actually don’t like writing that much, but I adore rewriting and the experience of searching for the right words in the right order in the right place with the right punctuation. It’s exhilarating and tedious all at once.”
Charnell seems very in-tune with her writing process, but she would be the first to confess that she’s “always surprised by how stories develop. Even if I have a pretty clear picture of how things will pan out, I’m surprised by deviations to the plan and to themes that emerge without my trying.”
Being a writer is often a way of life, and Charnell says that “Being a writer makes me do weird things. I watch people and eavesdrop like nobody’s business. . . . I think that makes me seem quieter than I really am sometimes, because I love observing.
“Being a writer affects the way I see the world in a huge way, because I truly believe in people’s stories and the ability that God has to redeem any story. So I tend to look at things with a wide lens, with the knowledge that we are all very human and very broken people who experience and do very bad things, but that’s okay.
“I don’t write very much explicitly Christian work, but God is everywhere, and He doesn’t need a Christian sticker to do His thing. I trust that whatever I’m writing, God will work through it, even if it’s only to minister to myself.
“I pray a lot over what I write. . . . [and it] is often a pretty convicting experience. I get really invested in my characters. . . and the Holy Spirit’s always making my question my priorities and question whether I feel as deeply for the hurting people around me.”
In her playback theater troupe this year, Charnell has been able to tangibly connect story and the human experience. She and her troupe “listen to people in the audience tell stories about their lives and then play the stories back in different forms. People can tell any story . . . whether it was a huge moment in their lives or a small event that day. Some of them are hilarious, others are sobering, and others are heartwarming. . . . we have the opportunity to play back stories from every part of the emotional spectrum.”
Whether she’s writing, acting, or singing in Chorale, Charnell is passionately communicating God’s story of love to her audience. But storytelling is sometimes as much about the communicator as the recipient, Charnell points out: “The stories of others have uplifted, taught, and healed me, [but] the stories I have written have [also] challenged and encouraged me.”
Mackenzie Jager is this year’s Faces moderator.