We’ve all seen those domino constructions where, after the first piece is tipped ever-so-slightly, the rest fall in a beautiful cascade of rhythmic motion. When something causes a chain reaction in which other things are automatically changed, we call it the “domino effect.” This principle applies to any actions that affect others, even when we don’t intentionally set them in motion. For writers, it’s important to recognize the domino effect in their work so they can write scenes that will seamlessly fall together without hiccups in logic or dramatic tension.
Lily Hevesh started collecting dominoes when she was 9 and loved setting them up in straight or curved lines, flicking the first one and watching them all fall. Now she’s a professional domino artist with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers and has created mind-blowing setups for movies, TV shows, and events. She follows a version of the engineering-design process to create her installations, considering the theme or purpose, brainstorming images or words that might inspire her, and sketching out potential designs on paper.
When we set up a domino chain, each tile has potential energy, or stored energy based on its position. As a domino is tipped, much of this energy converts to kinetic energy—the energy of motion. This energy is transferred to the next domino and causes it to tip, too. And so on, until all the dominoes have fallen.
A Domino is a flat, thumbsized rectangular block with one or more faces either blank or bearing from one to six spots or dots: 28 such pieces form a complete domino set. A set of dominoes may be used to play many games, both strategic and recreational, such as bergen, muggins, and Mexican train. In addition, dominoes are often grouped into sets and used as learning tools for counting and number recognition.
The most common domino game involves placing tiles on a table so that their matching ends touch, with the goal of creating a chain that reaches across the entire playing surface. Some of the most popular games involve scoring points, such as bergen and chicken foot, while others are blocking games, including matador and maze.
A story should be like a domino, with each scene adding to the tension and driving toward the climax. If your story has too many hiccups or isn’t moving in the right direction, readers are likely to lose interest and turn the page. The best way to avoid this is to plan ahead, using a tool like Scrivener or an outline, or to learn to “pants”—write by the seat of your pants—while keeping a clear vision of the end result. With a little practice, you can write scenes that fall in a smooth, domino-like cascade. Then your readers will enjoy your story’s seamless impact. Just be careful not to knock over any too fast!