Using the Domino Effect in Your Story

Dominos are a fun and easy way to pass the time, whether you’re an amateur player or a seasoned pro. There are literally hundreds of different games to play with these tumbling, rectangular tiles. But even more impressive than the games themselves are the domino setups that master builders create in the form of elaborate, mind-blowing lines and patterns. Watching a domino show is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. You’ll see hundreds of dominoes set up in careful sequence, each one requiring just a small nudge to cause it to tip over. And once the first domino falls, it carries forward the energy that was stored in its potential form as a line of dominoes, which leads to even more dramatic effects until the last domino falls, creating a spectacular show of physics in motion.

Domino is also an interesting word because it’s used to describe a chain reaction or series of events that start with a single action and ultimately have massive consequences. This is the essence of a plot, and it’s why writers who don’t use outlines or Scrivener to guide their process will often end up with scenes that don’t have enough logical impact on the ones before it. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to avoid this: Using the domino effect in your story.

The earliest evidence of dominoes comes from China in the 12th Century when a stateman presented them to the Emperor Hui Tsung. The word itself may have been derived from the Latin, dominus (master of the house), and it’s also been linked to a type of monastic hood and a hooded mask worn in winter by Christian priests.

There are many games played with dominoes, but two of the most common are blocking and scoring. To score, a player lays a domino with its exposed ends touching the end of another domino that has matching values on both sides. The value of the touchy domino is the sum of the pips on both ends, or in some sets, Arabic numerals.

Players continue laying dominoes until either one player has played all of their tiles or until the number of players is equal. The winner is the person whose combined total of all the pips on their remaining tiles is lowest. If no player has any more pieces, they chip out and play passes to the other player.

The most popular games in the West involve scoring points by putting the pieces together in rows and columns of three or more. These are generally called a block game or draw game, and the rules for each vary by the type of domino set used. The most common is the standard double-six domino set, but there are also games that can be played with a double-twelve or double-nine domino set. Other games that can be played with a domino set include solitaire and trick-taking. The latter were once popular as an adaptation of card games to circumvent religious prohibitions against playing cards.