Writing Fiction and Dominoes

Domino is a game of strategy where players place domino tiles on a line, with the exposed ends touching. Each domino has a number of dots that correspond to the numbers on a die, and a blank or identically patterned side. When placed correctly, a domino can be used to create chains of adjacent and consecutive numbers, scoring points each time the end of one domino touches the end of another in the line. Each domino can also score points by itself, if its exposed ends total any multiple of five or three.

When writing a story, it’s important to think of your scenes as dominoes. Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser, the way you arrange your scenes can have dramatic impacts on what happens next. For example, if your heroine discovers an important clue in the first scene, but the antagonist doesn’t react in the next scene to raise the tension or reveal what the clue is, something is wrong. You can weed out unnecessary or repetitive scenes by thinking of them as dominoes and ensuring that each one has an impact on the scene ahead of it.

The term “domino” can also refer to a chain of events that leads to the death of a person, an event, or an object. For example, a murderer may set up a trap in a house that when triggered, results in the deaths of the people inside the house, including him or her. Domino can also refer to the popular restaurant chain, Domino’s Pizza, whose name is an anagram for “Dominos.”

A domino has inertia, or a tendency to remain stationary when no outside force is pushing on it. But a tiny nudge can cause a domino to tip over and begin to push on its neighbors. This “domino cascade” is often referred to as a “domino effect.”

In fiction, the domino effect helps readers understand the logic of your character’s actions and motivations. It can also help you to build tension by presenting your characters in situations that would be out of the ordinary for real people, or by describing events that might cause them to behave in ways that aren’t considered socially acceptable.

While most modern domino sets are made of polymer or other man-made materials, some sets are still handmade from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, and dark hardwoods like ebony, with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on the identifying surfaces. Traditionally, these sets are more expensive but have a more elegant look and feel. They are often more durable than those made of polymer, and their weight makes them feel more substantial in the hand.