Below is a response to a question I received in an email. The question arose from a statement I made about creating details in a scene. The question was seeking clarification. If only that were possible. It has been edited to escape complete humiliation.
I look at it like I'm a detective discovering this scene in real time and an audience just happens to be watching me. My reflex/fear response is to just charge along trying to generate ideas to further the scene. In my haste/panic I close my eyes and ears to what is actually going on and get off track. It's like I have to be both participant and observer in the events unfolding. Which if I think about detective movies/stories, that's what's happening. The detective is trying to unravel a mystery he has been pulled into. He's both on the outside AND on the inside. And so are we. Boiling in the crucible and floating above observing our character being forged. In the words of Mike Nichols, "it's a strange and interesting sensation"
So what does this have to do with creating more details? Well, sometimes I'm chugging along in a scene and things are going great. Just a clear path ahead, cause and effect, cause and effect, and so on. Lovely. Then bang! Nothing. The trail of crumbs just disappears with no clear indication of which direction to move forward in. That's when my chest gets tight, the blood in my brain thickens and I start to try and force things. Bad move Georgie boy. Cliche Blvd. What does the detective do when he reaches a dead end? He goes back over his notes and looks at the things he DOES know. And follows THOSE things to their logical conclusion. So in a scene, if I find myself in that spot of not knowing where to go next I can look at the things that have happened, statements made by or about my character or my partners and the possible implications. These end up being more sideways moves that expand rather than further the scene but who says the scene has to be a straight line or a line at all? The important thing is being cool. Because the detective is always cool. Which for me means trying to work from the place of curiosity instead of fear/panic/need. I'm kicking it over, checking it out. I'm motivated bc someway my ass is on the line too. I'm discovering the details, not making them up. One thing leads from the thing before. I use my eyes, ears AND NOSE! And you know what happens to nosy fellas...
P.S. Please see the movie Chinatown if you haven't already.