Using the Domino Effect in Writing


Domino is a game that involves stacking small blocks of wood or plastic on end in long lines. When one is tipped over, it causes the next domino to tip over and the chain reaction continues until all the pieces have fallen. Complex designs can be made by arranging the dominoes in this way. In the game, players win by playing all of their dominoes before the opponent does. In some games, a player may win by choosing any of their tiles from the boneyard that match the value of the first tile played and then laying it. In other games, a player must choose a domino with the same number as another player’s chosen domino or pass on play.

The word domino can also refer to a series of events that begins with a single event and leads to much larger—and often catastrophic—consequences. In business, this is called the domino effect. In writing, this concept can be used to create more compelling stories that keep readers turning the pages. Whether you compose your manuscript off the cuff or follow a rigorous outline, it’s important to consider how each scene of your story will affect the next. Using the domino effect in your writing will ensure that your scenes progress in a logical and compelling way and create the momentum needed for your reader to want to continue reading.

Lily Hevesh began playing with dominoes as a child, when her grandparents gave her the classic 28-pack. She loved setting them up in straight or curved lines and flicking the first one over to watch the chain reaction. She has since developed into a professional domino artist, with over 2 million YouTube subscribers who watch her create intricate displays. She says that while many factors go into a good domino setup, one physical phenomenon is essential: gravity.

Like playing cards, dominoes have a number of identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other. These markings are typically an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice. When a domino is standing upright, it stores potential energy as it resists the force of gravity, which pulls on the top of the tower and pushes down on each successive domino. As the domino falls, much of its potential energy is converted into kinetic energy—the energy that causes it to move forward or backward.

Hevesh and other professionals who set up enormous domino chains for movies, TV shows, and even pop-star Katy Perry know that each piece has its own unique qualities. The physics of each one determines how it will fall, and it can take several nail-biting minutes for some of her largest installations to tumble. But when they do, the resulting chains are nothing short of breathtaking.