The Domino Effect in Fiction

Domino is a generic gaming device, like playing cards or dice, which can be used for a wide variety of games. In fact, some of the most popular domino games are not even played with domino pieces at all – they’re played by constructing a sequence of letters and numbers on a piece of paper or other surface. Regardless of the type of game being played, a basic set of rules must be agreed upon by all players. These rules determine how the tiles are arranged on the table, their order of play and, for multi-player games, how scoring is determined.

Once all the dominoes are laid out, each player draws a number of tiles from the stock, depending on the rules of the particular game being played. The player who draws the highest double, or a double with the largest number of spots, makes the first play. If there is a tie, a new hand may be drawn to break it.

As each player plays a domino, it must be positioned so that its matching end touches the open end of another tile in the line. This arrangement is sometimes called a string, layout or line of play. In the case of a double, it must be placed cross-ways across that open end. The shape of the resulting chain develops into a snake-line depending on the limitations of the playing surface and the whims of the players.

If a domino is not played, it remains in the line of play, and its open end faces the players. The next player may then choose whether to play it or buy it. Buying a tile is permitted in most games but is not allowed in others. The number of bought dominoes may be counted and added to the score of the winning player.

A domino’s ability to generate a cascade of rhythmic motion from one small nudge is the source of its name. It is this same effect which can be harnessed to create a successful plot for fiction. While the process of plotting a novel can take many forms, it is essentially based on asking one simple question: What happens next? Thinking about how the domino effect can be utilized can help writers answer this question and construct a compelling story.