The Domino Effect in Fiction

Whether you plot your novel with a detailed outline or write by the seat of your pants, writing fiction comes down to answering one question: What happens next? If you don’t have a clear idea of the next scene, you’ll likely end up with scenes that either don’t have enough impact or fall flat. That’s why it’s helpful to consider the domino effect, which can help you plot your story in a way that creates a cascade of rhythm and momentum.

Domino is a type of tile, often square and rectangular, with an arrangement of spots or pips on each side. The number of pips on each end is typically indicated by a numeral from zero to six. The pips are usually colored black or white, but some sets have a different color scheme. Dominoes are normally twice as long as they are wide, which makes it easier to stack them.

The word “domino” has a somewhat unclear history, but it may have been derived from an earlier sense of the word hooded cloak worn with a mask at carnival season or for a masquerade. It is also possible that it came from the Latin domino, meaning a cape worn by a priest over his surplice. Dominoes were once made with contrasting ivory and ebony blacks, which resembled this garment.

Despite their complex construction, dominoes are relatively easy to play. They are arranged in rows or circles and the first player begins by drawing a single domino, usually from a pile of already drawn tiles. Then, players place the domino on the table so that its exposed ends touch others (a double’s exposed ends can match each other, for example). If a domino’s points add up to a particular number, the player is awarded that number of points.

Most commonly, dominoes are used for blocking and scoring games, where the goal is to get all your pieces out of your opponent’s hand before they can score. A typical set includes 28 unique tiles, but some more elaborate sets feature a greater number of unique endings. These more specialized sets often include additional rules and a higher maximum point value.

A common game is double-six, in which each player draws one tile from the deck and places it on the table so that its exposed ends match other dominoes (i.e., one’s touch two’s and so on). Alternatively, the game can be played with a number of other variants such as concentration.

Dominoes are most often crafted from ivory, bone or silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), but other materials have been used in the past, including marble, granite and soapstone; woods such as pine, cedar and oak; metals such as brass and pewter; ceramic clay; and even glass and crystal. These more novel sets are usually much more expensive than polymer dominoes, but offer a look that is both visually appealing and tactilely satisfying. Some of these more specialized sets use an extended version of the standard double-six, adding additional ends with increased numbers of pips.