Monday, 3 August 2020

A Good Storyteller

The Storyteller

Once upon a time

The plot thickens

Strange goings-on

That can't be good

I’m a good storyteller. 

That statement may sound either arrogant or the sign of someone who is extremely confident in their own ability.

However, it is a statement that each of us who attempt fiction or memoir need to know is true for them. 

As writers in the current competitive world of bookselling, it is also a statement that is possibly challenged and undermined on a regular basis.

Let me tell you a story:

About twenty-six years ago, before my first novel was published, I had been writing a lot, having discovered the joy of writing fiction. When my father’s sixtieth birthday was approaching, I decided I’d like to write a story about him. My dad is a larger-than-life character, and I had plenty of material from my childhood observations and from all the stories my grandmother used to tell me about my father. When I think about it, the storytelling gene came down from my grandmother. The first part of the book, I recounted tales told to me as a child. Then I interviewed my mother, and got some of the finer detail about Dad’s young adult years, and their story of romance and marriage. 

At the time of writing, I had not had the advantage of having attended writing workshops or even knowing what the editing and publishing process was about. I simply wrote from the heart, and told story after story about my dad—most of which had a lot of humour attached. I finished the book, and gave it to him printed on A4 paper and spiral bound. And that was that.

Three years later, I self-published my first piece of fiction, still without the benefit of the proper editorial processes and reviews. That title, to this date, has sold over 8000 copies in Australia and has had five editions.

Fast forward to recent years. Being a member of Omega Writers, having attended many conferences, read many blogs, consulted may experienced editors and writers, adjusted and reworked much of my work, I don’t have that happy, ignorant confidence I had when I first began. In fact, my current work, in my humble opinion, is far superior to what I wrote in the early days, and yet I struggle to find an international publisher, agent or even market. Confidence has crashed in direct inverse proportion to the increase in the quality of my work. I have talked about this with writing friends and colleagues, and while we can comfort each other, and encourage one another, it doesn’t usually make any difference to the quest to let our work fly free into the greater reading world.

So back to the story I wrote for my dad. 
 I was up visiting my now 86-year-old father on the farm a couple of weeks ago. My mum is still living there as well, and she is in the throes of writing her memoirs. Being a sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, she is not very mobile anymore, and spends a lot of time at the computer. I was cooking dinner for them one evening, and mum asked if she could read a section of her memoirs to me. She began to read, and I was engaged and amused. It wasn’t long before I realised she was reading what I had written 26 years ago. 

‘I decided not to rewrite this section,’ she said, ‘as you’re such a good storyteller’.

Having just listened to it being read back to me, I agreed.

 By jingo, I am a good storyteller.

And then it struck me. The piece she had read was written pre-education. It was pre-editing and polishing. It was simple, unedited storytelling, and it was delightful.

So the message came to me to share with you:

Are you a good storyteller?

 The question isn’t: have you found a niche in the market?

 It’s not: have you found an agent who has accepted your work?

 It’s not even: Do you have a mailing list of thousands of fans who can’t wait to pre-order your book?


The question is: are you a good storyteller? 

The answer to that question for me is: yes. Yes, I am a good storyteller. 

Will I ever find that agent, or that international market, or list of thousands of fans?

 Maybe. Maybe not.

 But have I delighted my readers over the years—well written or not? 

The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Though I cringe when I read any of my work pre 2012—head hopping everywhere, speech attributions galore, adverb heaven, and telling, telling, telling (who knew what showing was?)—the general feedback I get from anyone who admits to having read one or more of my books is: I love your books! 

These people pop up now and then, and are enthusiastic in their praise. Bless them. I want to apologise for all the poor writing, but they don’t even understand what I’m talking about. They engaged with story and character, and loved it. 

So …

I am a great storyteller. I also think I’m getting better as a writer.

How is it going for you?

 Do your family and friends love what you write? Are kids enthralled when you’re telling them what it was like ‘in the old days’ (you know, back in the 1970s when dinosaurs roamed the earth).
Chances are, you’re a good storyteller too, and there are those in your life who love the stories you tell.
 Getting agents, publishers and international markets to buy it is a whole other matter. But does that really matter, in the long run? Or do you get pleasure out of telling a story?

Meredith Resce
Author of 'The Heart of Green Valley' series; For All Time and many other titles
President of Omega Writers Australasia

Meredith's Website 


  1. Thanks Meredith. One is prone to loose sight of this powerful main ingredient while slogging away stirring the writing-and-publishing industry soup until the dish is ready to be served. What a great reminder to appreciate and savour the best part.

    1. I like that. Savour the best part. Developing your characters and telling your story - the other rules are important to know as well, but holding a reader or listener captive with the tale is the best part.

  2. I can relate to what you have written, Meredith. When my first novel was published in 2007, I knew very little about all the ins and outs of novel writing. Yet it was the story of my heroine in that novel (and its sequel), inspired by the life of someone I had known, that carried it along and resulted in the highest sales of all my books. I think readers overlook a lot or forgive you a lot if you have a good story to tell and can draw them in so that they may not even notice things like point of view changes or clumsy direct speech or whatever!

    1. I think you're right, Jo-Anne. The times I've wanted to apologise for bad writing in early novels, and yet the readers don't seem to realise it is bad writing. They just loved the stories. Or if they did know, they were forgiving.

  3. Thank you Meredith! I needed to hear this today. I completely relate to all you are saying. I'm one of your fans from way back and yes, you are a gifted story teller! And no, I didn't pick up on any 'rule-breaking', I just enjoyed your stories. I am also a story teller and often the joy of that is taken away by the 'should's of writing - you should be following the rules, marketing, promoting, selling etc. And then I hear from one reader who has enjoyed my work or been blessed by it and I realise that is enough ... I hope and pray you continue to write for many years to come and that God will provide all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

  4. Thanks Jenny. I know you tell a good story. My niece, who was not a reader, became a reader because of how you captured her imagination with your stories.

  5. I recently read your book, "For All Time." I loved the story and I thought it was clever how you introduced contemporary issues in a thought provoking way. And I didn't notice any errors, I was too busy enjoying the story.

  6. Head nodding at these: 'will I ever find that agent, international market or list thousands of fans?' My answer 'Er, not at the moment, maybe next year? Never?' But we still keep writing and keeping on keeping on. With three more historicals stacking up.....unread, and mulling over another, I think why am I doing this. Truth is, when a story infects you, you have to let it work itself out. I guess that's what storytellers are all about. :)

  7. Not sure why my name didn't come up, but Inspirational R
    omanc is me, Rita Galieh.

  8. When I write with my head my words stutter and stumble and fall in a crumbled heap that I kick into a corner and leave in the dust.
    But when I write from my heart I can't stop the flow as the words assemble themselves into a beautiful creative piece of art that resonates and delights and begs to be shared with anyone who will listen.

  9. Great post, Meredith. It might seem obvious, but storytelling is so important. A lot of writing workshops and books tell you 'how' to write (e.g. show don't tell; don't overuse adverbs etc), but the most beautiful writing in the world isn't any good if you don't have a good story. You just end up with beautifully written doggy-doo.

    I did Lisa Cron's video course recently (and I have her book 'Story Genius') and it's excellent on the story aspects. I'm paraphrasing here, but she says that you never hear someone say 'I can't wait to turn the page and see what fantastic metaphor she comes up with next'. People can't wait to turn the page because they want to see what happens. Good on you for entertaining readers with those stories for so many years. You're an inspiration!