The Domino Effect in Writing

Domino is an Italian word that translates as “falling.” It can also refer to any kind of cascade, whether in real life or fiction. The domino effect in writing can take many forms, from the climactic scene where your protagonist’s hero falls into an avalanche to the chain reaction that results from a single setback or misunderstanding.

When a domino hits the ground, it creates a series of small, connected blocks that fall down in rhythm and harmony. This is how the concept became a popular game, and it’s also the perfect metaphor for any situation where something small triggers a larger, more complicated event. Whether you’re plotting your novel off the cuff or taking your time with a meticulous outline, examining how dominoes fall can help you structure your story.

The most popular domino set has 28 tiles, each of which has a number on one end and a blank or striped pattern on the other. The first tile played begins a chain that can go in any direction and extends as far as the player can see. The player wins the round when all of his or her tiles are covered. A domino can be played to a double, and the winner is awarded points equal to the number of pips in the losing players’ exposed ends. (Doubles count as either one or two, and double-blank may be either 0 or 14.)

A player may win by scoring all of the opponent’s tiles, or by reaching a specified number of rounds. Scoring games are usually won by the player with the most pips in his or her hand at the end of the round. Blocking games, such as matador and chicken foot, are also commonly played with dominoes.

Dominoes are a fun way to entertain children and develop motor skills. They’re also great for teaching the basics of counting and addition. They can be arranged in straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, or even 3D structures. They can be made out of wood, marbles, plastic, or clay.

In a domino chain, each tile must touch all four matching ends (i.e., a one’s touching an o, or a two’s touching a t). This ensures that the chain continues in the correct order and prevents a domino from being stuck in place. A player must carefully think through each move to ensure the entire domino line is completed. This is a good analogy for the way a writer must plan each scene to make sure it’s logical and builds on what came before. The same principle applies to stories: a scene must advance the hero closer to or farther from his or her goal, and it must be spaced correctly so that readers can see what comes next. Then, when it’s finished, the story must flow smoothly into the next scene. This is the way a domino chain works, and it’s how a story should work as well.