The Domino Effect and Writing

Domino is a game with pieces that have a number of dots or “pips” on each end. Each pips value is assigned to one of the suits (three, four, five, and blank). A domino may be double-sided and each side can have different numbers. Each pips value adds up to a total of the domino’s rank or weight.

In Domino, each player places a domino edge to edge against another domino. The touching ends must match (one’s touch two’s, or five’s touch three’s). If the exposed sides of the domino are all identical or form a specified total, then points are awarded to the players who place the pieces.

While you might not consider your novel’s plot to be a series of dominoes falling in a neat and rhythmic pattern, there are some parallels between the domino effect and the process of writing. Whether you’re a pantser who doesn’t create detailed outlines of your story, or you use a tool like Scrivener to structure your work, your novel is still a chain of scenes. Each scene plays a role in the larger story, adding to the overall tension and influencing what happens next.

The best way to think about these scenes is in terms of domino. We’ve all seen those incredible domino creations that cascade in beautiful patterns after the first domino is tipped ever so slightly. Hevesh says that when she makes a domino arrangement, the most important thing to remember is to let physics do its work. Hevesh has worked on projects involving 300,000 dominoes and helped set a Guinness World Record for the most dominoes toppled in a circle. Her largest arrangements take several nail-biting minutes to fall, but once they’re in motion, the forces of gravity do their work.

Hevesh works meticulously to make her installations. She tests each section and films it in slow motion to ensure that the whole arrangement will flow correctly. She then starts putting the pieces together. She builds the biggest 3-D sections first, followed by flat arrangements and then lines of dominoes that connect all the parts.

In the same way, when you’re drafting your novel, you’ll need to start by creating the biggest 3-D sections. You’ll need to establish the major characters and the main conflict before you can really begin laying down the dominoes.

Once you’ve laid down the major pieces, it will be easier to fill in the details. But remember, no matter how carefully you plan your scene sequences, it’s still up to you to make the most of them. Just as the domino is a symbol of choice, so too is your journey as a writer. You have a choice of where to set your dominoes, and you can always choose not to pursue knocking them down at all. But if you do decide to continue along a particular pathway, the dominoes can always be moved around, establishing a new journey. So what do you want to happen next?

Comments are closed.