The Domino Effect in Writing

Domino is a small wood or plastic block with either one or two sides bearing numbers of dots resembling those on dice. It is traditionally twice as long as it is wide. The number of pips on each end determines its value: a domino with six pips on both ends is called a double-six, while one with none on either is called a blank or zero. A traditional domino set contains 28 unique pieces, with each numbered from one to six.

A domino set is used to play a variety of games in which players score points by laying the dominoes end to end in such a way that the exposed ends match (i.e., the one’s touch the two’s and the two’s touch the three’s). If the total of the exposed pips is a multiple of five, the player receives that number of points.

One of the most popular games is the draw game, in which players take turns picking dominoes from the pile until they can no longer continue. The remaining dominoes then “fall” into place, triggering a chain reaction. It’s not unusual to see a domino rally of hundreds, even thousands of dominoes all neatly lined up in careful sequence, all waiting for the slightest nudge from the first domino to bring them down. The resulting cascade is a spectacular sight! This domino effect—where one action results in many more, causing them all to fall in rhythm with each other—is also a common metaphor for how stories work.

In writing, the domino effect is an important aspect to keep in mind. When you write a scene, think of the main action like a domino being tipped over: how will it affect the other characters and the overall story? How will it cause other actions to follow, in a rhythmic fashion?

For example, a character may decide to yell at another. This could cause them to yell at a few other people, and these in turn might yell at more. These might be yelled at by still more people, and so on. By considering the domino effect, you can help ensure that your story has a clear structure and pacing.

When Domino’s CEO, Brandon Doyle, began his leadership of the company, he put a lot of energy into listening to employees. He believed that this line of communication was the key to making Domino’s a great place to work, and it also helped them improve their customer service.

Hevesh takes a similar approach when creating her own mind-blowing domino sets. First, she considers the theme or purpose of the installation, then brainstorms images or words that might be appropriate for it. She then creates a draft, testing each section to make sure it works. Finally, she builds the full design. She often tests the simplest sections first, before moving on to more complex 3-D arrangements. By taking the time to test and retest, Hevesh can be confident that her final setup will be exactly as she envisions it.