Writing a Domino Cascade


We’ve all seen it – a domino cascade: the first piece tips ever-so-slightly and, like magic, the rest fall in a neat, rhythmic pattern. But what makes that happen? In short, it’s friction. The tops of the dominoes slide against each other and against the surface they’re on, and the force from that friction is converted into the energy that causes them to fall. The same principle applies to a story. When you nudge your character’s actions just enough, they fall in a neat, logical pattern. This is known as the “domino effect,” and it’s what you need to use when writing scenes that run counter to how most readers think is logical.

There are many variations of domino, and the exact rules for each game may vary slightly from place to place. However, most domino games are very similar and have the same basic rules. Whether you’re playing a traditional domino set or a variant on the theme, the most important aspect of any domino game is that the players must be able to match their ends together in order to play. This ensures that the tiles will fall in a line, and it also allows the players to count the number of spots on each end, which is used to determine the winner.

In some domino games, a player scores only when the counts of the ends of the line of play are a multiple of 5, or a multiple of 3, for example. Other games, however, involve scoring based on the total number of points in each domino’s pips, or by counting the numbers of the winning players’ remaining dominoes and adding that to the winner’s score.

To begin a game, each player draws one domino from the stock and adds it to the pile of dominoes that form the starting line of play. Then, according to the rules of the game, each player places his domino on the table so that its two matching ends are adjacent. The resulting line of play is called the “score” or “pip count.”

After each round of play, the surviving players compare the total number of pips on their remaining dominoes and declare a winner. Normally, this is the player whose total score is the highest. However, a variation on this rule exists in which the players agree to count only one of the ends of a double – for example, 4-4 – as part of the score.

Before each game, a player shuffles the tiles and thoroughly mixes them by moving them with his hands. The player who shuffles the tiles is considered the lead and may be referred to as the setter or downer (or, in some games, the leader). The leader then chooses which player will make the first play by drawing a tile from the stock. The first player to play a domino is called the “chosen” or “bye.” Some games allow players to buy additional tiles from the stock according to the rules of the game.