Although . . . there were the bees disappearing.

“Only mention something if you’re going to bring it up again.”

I can’t tell you how many times my husband has brought this up in our discussions of books, movies, TV shows, anything with a storyline. And you know what? It’s absolutely true.

The best storytellers make every word count. There is no room for extraneous details, because every detail affects the story somehow, no matter how small it may seem at its first appearance.

Prime example: the bees.

Doctor Who, season 4, episode 1. Donna wants to find the Doctor again, but how do you find a man who travels through space and time?

“I just thought, ‘Look for trouble, and then he’ll turn up.’ So I looked everywhere — you name it. UFO sightings, crop circles, sea monsters — I looked, I found them all. Like that stuff about the bees disappearing, I thought, ‘I bet he’s connected.'” (Partners in Crime)

Passing comment, bees stuck in there among crop circles and UFOs. My husband and I talked about it all the way through season 4, though I don’t know that the bees were even mentioned again, maybe once more before the end of the season. But were they important?

Oh, you know. The only way to find Earth in the season finale.

Other examples: Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, inherited in book 1 and vital in book 7. The garlin that Sage rolls across his knuckles in The False Prince. The silver candlesticks that are so dear to the bishop’s heart in Les Miserables.

Those little clues, the details that come back after pages and pages of waiting—those are the things that make a reader squeal and encourage obsessive speculation. Don’t let all that speculation go to waste by leaving loose ends.



  1. I agree! Although I consider myself a “pantser” when I writer, I do use tiny details to foreshadow things to come. I love the details. It’s probably my greatest weapon, and also my biggest writing enemy. Because it requires meticulous attention and care.
    Great post!

  2. Reblogged this on thegirlintardisblue and commented:
    This. Honestly, the amount of details that we seem to overlook at first. I was rewatching The End Of The World (Doctor Who, Season 1, Episode 2), and they mention there being a ‘Bad Wolf Scenario’. Nothing important, probably wasn’t even noticed by anyone, or even if it was, they probably never considered it to be significant, but then you get to the season finale, and those words are suddenly /so/ important. The Doctor Who writers, it seems, excel in foreshadowing, and the fact that Rowling is a genius when it comes to details and foreshadowing doesn’t even need to be stated. This tidbit of writing advice is brilliant, because details and foreshadowing are very, very necessary.

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