The Domino Effect in Fiction and Plotting

A domino (plural: dominoes) is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block, marked with an arrangement of dots or pips on one face, and blank or identically patterned on the other. The value of a domino is determined by its ends, which may be either identical or different and bear from one to six dots, with the two values adding up to the rank of the domino (also known as its “pip count”).

Dominoes are used in many games, including positional games, where each player in turn places a domino edge to edge against another so that their exposed ends match (e.g., one’s touch, two’s touch, five’s touch three’s). In positional games, the winner is determined by counting the number of pips left in the losing players’ hands at the end of a hand or game (e.g., a five-count is worth 5 points). In the United States and Canada, most sets of dominoes are made from polymer materials such as clay or plastic. Some sets, however, are made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), ivory, and ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on them. These sets are generally more expensive than polymer-based sets.

In addition to positional games, dominoes can also be used in linear arrangements such as straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, or 3D structures like towers and pyramids. In fact, domino art is a popular hobby for some, and professional builders often compete in Domino shows to see who can create the most impressive domino reaction or effect before a live audience.

Whether you’re a pantser who writes off the cuff or a plotter who uses tools such as Scrivener to help you outline your manuscript, the concept of the domino effect can be applied to any story. Think of your manuscript as a line of dominoes, and the scenes in your novel as the individual tiles that comprise it. The key to creating a strong scene is to make sure the tiles connect to each other in a way that makes sense for your character and your story’s setting. If any of the tiles are off, your reader will lose interest. This article explores a few tips on how to ensure that the scenes in your novel are connected to each other in a meaningful and logical way. By using these tips, you can ensure that your story’s scenes have a domino-like impact on the reader.