How to Use the Domino Effect to Write a Novel


Dominoes are small, rectangular blocks with flat sides and numbered pips resembling those on dice. When a domino is played it is tipped ever so slightly so that its one end touches the edge of another domino in front of it, thus triggering a chain reaction. The whole series of dominos then falls, one after the other, in a rhythmic and satisfying movement. This is called the “domino effect.”

As an author, you can use the domino principle to your advantage when writing a novel. If you think about your story in terms of dominos, it can help you make sure all the pieces work together in a smooth action that keeps building until the big climax.

We’ve all seen amazing domino constructions, where, after tipping the first piece ever so lightly, all the others fall in a beautiful cascade of rhythmic motion. The reason these dominoes are so effective is because they don’t depend on someone pushing the next domino down, but instead on a natural, built-in system where each domino causes a shift in other behaviors. For example, a person may decide to cut down on sedentary leisure activities like watching TV and eating mindlessly, which can automatically lead them to reduce their fat intake as a side-effect of getting more exercise.

In a game of domino, each player starts with a set of 28 dominoes, each domino having an identical number of pips on all four of its ends. Normally, two players play against each other and the goal is to place one of their dominoes on top of the stack so that it covers the pips of a previously played domino. Each time a player covers a pipse with a domino, the number of available pips increases by three. This allows players to continue taking turns until one or both players “chip out” or no longer have any valid moves.

There are also positional games that require the player to place a domino edge to edge against another in such a way that their adjacent pips match or form some specified total. The most common positional game is double-six, in which each domino must match with another that has the same number of pips as one of its own ends.

Besides domino games, many people enjoy using the dominoes to create art, such as straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls and even 3D structures like towers and pyramids. A popular YouTube video shows the intricate domino art created by Lily Hevesh, who has a huge following for her stunning creations. She sets up each section of her work meticulously, often filming the process in slow-motion so she can make precise corrections if needed. She’s so good at this that she’s been asked to do domino artwork for movies and TV shows, as well as for an album launch by pop star Katy Perry.