1. Don’t Do What Everyone Would Do

When you first contemplate how to tell your Story, there will be an idea that seems so perfect and so natural that you’ll feel as if it came from the muses. But you’ve probably just scooped the surface of the collective consciousness and found the same idea that everyone would. The obvious Story. Great storytellers go deeper. Don’t tell the Story that anyone would tell. Tell the Story that only you can tell.

2. Be Merciless

A good Storyteller always loves their Story. You love your ideas. You love your characters – good and evil. But a great Storyteller is also a destroyer. “Kill your darlings” is the famous and grizzly expression. Sometimes the bits and pieces that you love the most just don’t fit. You are the ultimate and divine creator of your Story. See the big picture – and mercilessly undo that which you love if it will serve a greater Story.

3. Take Risks

This sounds obvious but it is exceedingly difficult to do. Many people talk about taking risks in Storytelling but when the moment comes, few actually do. They are afraid that no one will like it, no one will get it, no one will buy it. Little greatness has come from playing it safe. Peek over the edge. You may be surprised. As the great Story historian Joseph Campbell said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.”

4. Offer More Questions than Answers

The human experience is not black and white. It’s not even gray. It is a wondrous rainbow of all the colors we could ever hope to see and perhaps some we never knew existed. It is not the Storyteller’s job to make declarations. Few answers are absolute. Pose questions to your audience. Hint at an answer. But trust their capacity to discover one for themselves. The mark of a great Storyteller is inspiring someone to ask questions about themselves.

5. Embrace Failure.

You’ve heard the stats. Michael Jordan has missed more than 9000 shots. Meryl Streep was told she was too ugly. 12 different publishers rejected Harry Potter. Failure is undoubtedly a prerequisite to greatness. You must embrace failure. Your Story must embrace failure. Seek it out and suck the marrow until nothing is left but greatness.