# How Dominoes Work in a Novel

A domino is a small, thumb-sized rectangular block that has one or more identifying marks on each side. Each mark, called a “pip,” represents a number from one to six. There are 28 such pieces in a complete set of dominoes. Also known as bones, cards, tiles, or spinners, these flat pieces can be arranged in a wide variety of ways—from simple lines to angular patterns—to form various games.

As each domino falls, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy—the energy of motion. Some of this kinetic energy is transmitted to the next domino, providing the push needed to knock it over. And so on, until the last domino reaches the floor and all of its energy is converted to motion as well.

In a similar way, each scene in your story must build toward the next scene in a natural and logical manner, or it will lose its impact. You need scenes that advance the plot (moving your hero closer to or farther from their goal) and also scenes that raise tension. If a scene in your novel doesn’t create enough tension or is too long, it will feel like a drooping domino that never rises.

You’ve probably seen videos of people setting up mind-blowing domino constructions, and when they tip the first domino ever-so-slightly, all the others fall in a rhythmic cascade. This is what we call a “domino effect.” A domino effect can be created in many ways, including through the use of sound effects, lights, and music.

Dominoes are usually played by two or more players. The most common game uses a double-six set of dominoes, which has 28 tiles. These are shuffled together to form a stock or boneyard, and then each player draws seven tiles from this pool. Depending on the rules of the game, the tiles may be played in any order—with each tile being played when it matches the numbers (or blanks) on adjacent dominoes.

The most basic strategy involves placing dominoes so that each player’s tiles add up to a particular number. For example, if you have three tiles left, your goal would be to play them in such a way that the total of the dots on all your dominoes added up to exactly nine. Generally, each domino must match an adjacent domino on at least one side, although some games allow you to play them off-center.

The number of possible combinations of ends on a domino is limited, so the most common sets have double-nine (55 tiles), double-12 (91 tiles), and double-18 (190 tiles). Larger sets exist, but are rarely used. Some of these are extended by adding more pips to some ends, increasing the number of unique combinations.