The big picture


Do I focus on ‘the big picture’ or do I fret over ‘the smaller details’? Is it enough if I focus my attention, energy, and efforts on achieving the overall goal or do I need to pay equal attention to all the smaller tasks and milestones that I have to cross before I reach the final destination?

I am sure these are questions that most of us ask ourselves whenever we set out on any endeavor. Ranging from the small mundane tasks such as taking the family out on an impulsive breakfast outing where the decision has to range from the cuisine to be chosen, which determines the restaurant to be visited, which determines the parking space available at the venue, which in turn determines the choice of a four wheeler versus a two wheeler, which further determines the amount of ‘dressing up’ to be done by the whole family. So, while ‘the big picture’ remains the family going out for breakfast, ‘the smaller details’ determine the final decision, in this case, at least.

Let’s talk about how this so called ‘dichotomy’ affects the way we read books and imbibe them. While the choice of the book itself is based on the big picture, ie, book reviews, author reputation, the overall genre to which the book belongs to, what makes the book a good or a bad one for readers remains the smaller details. The character quirks of the main protagonist and the antagonist/s, the setting and the milieu in which the plot is set, the character and plot development, the pace at which the story chugs along, the supporting cast, the tone of the overall book, these are a few of the things that either make or break a book. These are the elements which ensure that a book remains memorable for a long time after it is read, or not.

That being said, there are cases where some books beautifully build up the smaller details and get almost all of them correct, but completely miss out on the big picture. At the end of the book, readers, while suitably impressed and happy with everything else, end up having the impression of ‘there was something missing in that book’ without being able to put a finger on it. The easiest way to know whether a book missed out on the big picture or not would be to try and explain its essence in one sentence using ten words or less. And if that one sentence manages to capture the overall essence of the book, then it paints the big picture for sure.

In one of my recent posts, Second Time Around, I had pretty unequivocally stated that my all time favorite book remains the great epic, the Mahabharata. When it comes to reading this book, it has been my experience that while imbuing the ‘big picture’ of the entire epic, it also helps readers a lot if they pay attention to the ‘smaller details’ as well.

An endless treasure trove of information, this book contains various sub-plots, smaller side stories and memorable characters with interesting back-stories of their own, that one can end up spending quite a few years of ‘reading hours’ on them. Although I had read the Amar Chitra Katha comic book series on the epic and had also watched BR Chopra’s TV series on Doordarshan, it is only in recent times that I have realized the sheer depth of the Mahabharata. And regular readers of my blog can vouch for the fact that it has always been my endeavor to highlight some of the lesser known stories from this epic from time to time.

So, here’s hoping that the smaller details of the Mahabharata continue to educate me and provide you with enough interesting reading material on my blog, while not missing out on the big picture.


This post has been written for the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.

Today’s prompt was “When you gaze out of your window – real or figurative – do you see the forest first, or the trees?” and I took the liberty of interpreting this prompt as a question as to what I see first – the big picture or the smaller details.

17 thoughts on “The big picture

  1. agree Jairam. Sometimes, we keep looking at the bigger picture and miss out on the small details.
    that’s why its said – “Take time to smell the roses”
    Or sometimes, we are so worried about finding that parking slot, we miss breakfast!
    Its that balance that we need in life as well as when we write. I’m practicing to get that balance just right with my stories and I hope that I succeed 🙂

  2. I loved your first so true 🙂

    And yes, I am one of those who started reading you recently, but read you regularly because you tell a lot of wonderful small detailed stories from the epics…I think, after reading your blog, I know more about mythological stories than I did through out my childhood reading ACK comics 🙂

  3. Ah the good old “Big Picture v/s Little Things” debate. I love it how you merged books into the topic, particularly Mahabharata. The way I look at it, all the little things together make the big picture. People often say, its the journey that counts not so much the destination 🙂 Nice post

    • @Sid, oh yes, most of the times we are so worried about reaching the destination that we miss out on enjoying the journey itself. The way I see it, both matter, the journey as well as the destination, don’t they? 🙂

  4. And you already know why so many of us follow your blog just to get ourselves educated about the lesser known stories from this and many other epics. It’s been sometime that I bumped into this space, but I’m sure you know the reasons. Keep writing and we’ll also gain some wisdom through your words. 🙂

    • @Rekha, thank you so much for the constant encouragement for my mythology related posts, truly appreciate it. For sure, I will continue publishing such posts going forward as well 🙂

  5. what i feel is that its the small small littel stories that make up the big picture for sure .. this was educational though.. and i am glad i came over here .. got to know the story of bali in the previous post ..

  6. We are usually told that we should simply look at the big picture and not look at smaller details. But I it is the small small things that are mostly so interesting. I like a book that goes deep into details, focuses on small incidents and characters. As you rightly say, both Ramayana and Mahabharata have so many sub plots and stories and they all have a lesson we can learn and imbibe !

    • @Ruchira, so true, and these epics are just examples of how the smaller details add up to make an awesome bigger picture, aren’t they? 🙂

  7. You raised very important questions on the need to look at bigger picture in our choice, be it books, visiting malls or any other choice regarding my life. I do agree with you coz things can be subjective from an individual perspective. Yeah, I agree the narration in sub plots makes for bigger pictures and teaches us a lot about life. I learned so much from you and there are legends I was largely unaware of. Btw, I am waiting for ur book on legends.

    • @Vishal, that wait might just turn out to be a really long one 🙂 But jokes apart, thanks for reading the post and leaving behind your comments on the same 🙂

  8. back after a long break. good to be back at your blog 🙂 there is so much i have missed and need to catch up on. The example of going out to breakfast with one’s family is so spot on. This happens every single time we decide to go out. As far as story writing is concerned, I am just trying my hand at it. Especially working on the details. The details make the story real. Makes the reader feel a part of the story. If we want the readers to view the story the way want to tell it, the details are super important. Leaving things to imagination my change the big picture that the author wants to convey. loved your post 🙂

    • @preethiprasan, thanks for leaving behind your thoughts on this post as a comment. Agree with everything you say, but there could be instances where the author purposely decides to leave out a few details open ended so that the readers make their own assumptions which in some cases could make the story more effective as well 🙂

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