Paper and Pen – the best writing method for Quentin Tarantino

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“I can’t write poetry on a computer, man!”
Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino has a gift for making his characters come alive, so much so that he has revived the career of many an actor whose currency in Hollywood has faded, restoring them to A-list status.

His complex universes intertwine, blending brutal violence and compelling storytelling – for example, Kill Bill’s Deadly Viper Squad and the female assassination squad in Mia Wallace’s failed Fox Force Five TV pilot must be one and the same. Tarantino himself says that his writing is just like putting one foot in front of another, and that he listens to his characters, and lets them tell the story for him, frequently jotting down and “borrowing” conversations he hears every day to give them life and form.

Crucially, he also feels that writing with pen and paper as opposed to using a computer is essential for this process.

When questioned on why he writes his scripts by hand, his response is simple – “I can’t write poetry on a computer, man!” Having trained as an actor rather than as a writer, he writes in a way that is obviously ‘live’, and benefits from the immediacy of writing longhand. Tarantino also says that he feels more like a conventional novelist than someone who is writing for the big screen – his scripts are large and operatic, and somehow demand the concentration of pen and paper, especially as he writes as he goes, only finding out where the story is going from his characters as they develop. Unlike many other novelists, let alone script writers, he doesn’t outline his story first.

His love for the epic is obvious – he had to be reminded when writing that even though he saw Kill Bill as one film, its length demanded that it would need to be split into two. For Tarantino, the journey is everything, and his pleasure is in the process, describing it as “some of the funnest times I’ve ever had”, and professing never to suffer from writers’ block.

Like many other writers, he also often listens to music when working, and says that this helps him to imagine how scenes will play out, and how he is going to write them. However improvisatory his writing process may seem, Tarantino isn’t keen on his actors doing the same – unless they happen to be Samuel L. Jackson, who he considers to ‘write’ (i.e. improvise) just as he does; so much so that he feels he’s writing for him whenever he’s creating “a cool male character who was gonna talk a lot”!

Whether you’re a budding screenwriter or just write a shopping list from time to time, there is something about putting pen to paper rather than fingers to keys which makes us slow down and take stock

Most of us write slower than we type, so there’s time to think about anything we might otherwise forget when using a productivity app on a smartphone. Jot a few story ideas down while you’re there – you never know if you have a best-selling screenplay in you!