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The Domino Effect in Fiction


A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, usually with a blank side and marked by dots resembling those on dice. It is used to play a variety of games with the aim of arranging a line of dominoes in a row and then, by touching one end or another, making it fall. The resulting chain of dominoes can be long and complex, with each tile affecting the next one to either block it or advance its pips. A player must carefully position each domino to ensure that its matching ends are adjacent, or else it may not be possible to create a full chain.

Dominos are usually arranged in rows, although they can be set up in curved lines, or in other formations as well. In some games, the players compete to build the most elaborate and imaginative domino chains before a live audience. The skill of the best builders is often breathtaking to watch, with a series of intricately arranged dominoes, each falling with the slightest touch or nudge.

The word domino is also used for a number of other things, including a political theory of history in which events are seen as arising from the chain reaction of prior actions. The phrase is also sometimes used figuratively to refer to a person or thing that has the potential to influence or lead to others in an unforeseen way, such as a situation that could result in war.

In fiction, the domino effect is a useful concept for understanding how to construct plot. By considering every scene in your novel as a separate domino, you can see how each one will naturally influence the scenes ahead of it. Whether you write your novel off the cuff, or use a tool like Scrivener to help you plot, this technique can be very helpful in weeding out scenes that don’t add enough logically to the previous ones.

You can test the domino effect by lining up some dominoes in a straight or curved line and gently flicking one of them. Then, notice how the other dominoes quickly fall in a rhythmic cascade of movement. This simple experiment can show you how even the smallest actions can have profound consequences.

Dominoes can be made from many different materials, most commonly from ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted. More recently, dominoes have been made from synthetic materials such as plastic. A variety of games are played with a set of dominoes, most of which involve blocking or scoring. In addition, a large number of solitaire or trick-taking games can be played with a single domino set. These are often adaptations of card games, which were once popular in certain areas as a way to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards. The simplest domino game involves two players and a double-six set. A player takes a turn placing a domino on the table, positioning it so that its matching ends are adjacent. The game continues until one player wins by having all of their own tiles matched or the other players have no more tiles to play.