How Quentin Tarantino Knows When He's Come Up With A Good Story

Quentin Tarantino is one of the most respected working filmmakers today, but why exactly are so many of his films so widely well-received? Are all of his ideas brilliant from the start, or does he just have a good nose for sniffing out the duds? The director, who also pens much of his work himself, has shed some light on his writing process. He has to trust his own intuition as an artist, but he is never afraid to phone a friend.

Tarantino is responsible for some of the most popular films of the last few decades, from his debut "Reservoir Dogs" to the star-studded epic "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." He has a strong work ethic, but not everything that he writes makes it onto the big screen. In fact, many of his words never even make it onto a computer screen. Miraculously, Tarantino never learned how to type and still writes all of his films by hand. When he does transfer his scripts into a digital format, he uses only his index finger to type letter by letter — a slow and grueling process. It might sound crazy, but it helps him weed out the bad ideas. "You're thinking, 'OK, I'm not gonna do this unless it's good,'" he explained to GQ.

Typing with one finger isn't the only way that Tarantino decides what is worth keeping. He knows right away if an idea is good because he can't wait to share it. "How I know it's good is, when I write a scene, I'm so excited about it," he revealed to Howard Stern. "I can't wait for people to read it."

He phones a friend — but not for their notes

The first thing Tarantino does when he has a good idea is bounce it off of other people. "Usually I'll call up a couple friends on the phone and I'll go, 'Hey, can I read you this scene I just wrote?'" he said. These trusted friends include Eli Roth, the multi-hyphenate filmmaker behind horror movies like "Cabin Fever" and "Knock Knock," and Stacey Sher, who produced '90s hits like "Erin Brockovich" as well as Tarantino's 2012 film "Django Unchained."

Just because Tarantino calls his friends doesn't mean he's looking for their input. "The truth of the matter is, I don't really want a lot of comments back from them, unless they're positive," he admitted. The filmmaker isn't out to get his ego stroked, though — he feels confident enough in his own work as is. "I'm a pretty good storyteller, so I don't think my stories are dopey," he said, giving himself a rare but measured compliment. "Even something like 'Inglorious Basterds' is fairly plausible, the way I tell the story."

These phone calls aren't for criticism or praise, but they do serve an important purpose for Tarantino. "The point of reading it to them is for me to hear it through their ears," the director explained. "I can walk up and down my room and read it six times in a row, but it still seems like an echo chamber ... now all of a sudden I'm not just reading it in the room, now I'm performing it."

Performing lines out loud helps Tarantino write

Tarantino has acted in several films, including his own "Pulp Fiction" and others like "Little Nicky." As an actor, performing the lines he has written helps him to flesh out a character's voice. "To me writing's almost the same thing because you're acting like a character and that's what acting is all about," he told Creative Screenwriting. "I joke about it, but I'm very much a method writer. I really become the characters when I'm writing them."

The director learns who his characters are through their dialogue, which means they tend to talk a lot. Performing his lines aloud helps him make sure that the lines never lull. "Hopefully the idea is, at least in my case, you're creating rhythm," he explained to Howard Stern. "And you're sailing on that rhythm, and you're going with that rhythm, and you can break up the rhythms and everything, but that's what's stopping it from just being a talk-y drag." By speaking his dialogue aloud, Tarantino is able to get a feel for his pacing.

A truly genius artist doesn't just create brilliant work, they also identify the most effective process for creating that work. Part of Tarantino's process is bouncing his scenes off of others. It might not work for everyone, but it certainly works for him. And if you don't believe me, you don't have to — he has two Academy Awards and a world-renowned filmography to prove it.