The Domino Effect

Domino is a small rectangular block with each face marked by dots resembling those on dice. They are stacked on end in long lines, and when the first domino is tipped over it causes the next to tip and so forth until all the dominoes have fallen. They can also be arranged in more complex designs to create intricate displays. The word also refers to a chain reaction of events that starts with one action and then leads to much greater-and sometimes catastrophic-consequences. We often hear the phrase, “the domino effect,” to describe a series of events that start with one small action and lead to far larger consequences than anyone expected.

The best way to understand the concept of a domino effect is by examining how they are set up in domino shows, in which players compete to build the most mind-blowing lineups of hundreds or even thousands of dominoes. The builders arrange the dominoes carefully and then nudge them together in sequence to see if they can create a chain reaction that will fall with the smallest touch. The process is mesmerizing to watch.

Those who enjoy playing dominoes can also find fun in creating their own unique setups or competing in domino tournaments, which are like chess or poker competitions where players try to win by outwitting the opponent. They must consider the placement of each domino to maximize their chances of winning and keep track of the total number of points that are needed for victory. The rules vary between games, but the general rule is that a player must play a domino to a line of adjacent dominoes (often called a train) that matches its pip count or forms a specific total. The train may be a straight line, a circle, or a snake-like shape.

Aside from being a form of entertainment, dominoes are used to help teach math and problem-solving skills. They are also useful as teaching tools to show how a seemingly minor event can have major effects.

In fiction, authors can use the domino effect to illustrate a story’s theme or to highlight a character’s growth. By thinking of every scene as a domino, an author can create a chain reaction that will engage the reader and help them understand the logic of the plot.

To use the domino effect in a novel, an author must think carefully about how each scene is positioned and how it will impact other scenes. For example, if a character’s actions are immoral and would upset most readers, the author needs to provide enough logic that will allow them to give the hero a pass or at least continue liking him as a hero. Otherwise, the reader will probably lose interest in reading the story and might stop reading altogether. The same holds true in nonfiction. If a writer writes a scene that goes against what most people believe is right, the reader will likely stop reading and will not finish the book.