The Domino Effect in Writing

Domino, also known as a set of dominoes or simply domination, is one of the oldest tools for game play. The cousins of playing cards, dominoes allow for a wide variety of games, and they can also serve as tests of skill and patience. Like playing cards and dice, dominoes feature identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other side. The markings, known as pips, originally represented the results of throwing two six-sided dice, although modern sets include seven extra dominoes that represent various other combinations.

It doesn’t take much to tip a domino over. Each piece has a high center of gravity, and all it takes is to slightly shift the domino forward before its weight and momentum carry it down the line. This small action amplifies, as each domino’s potential energy reaches the next and provides the push to cause that piece to fall over. And so it goes, with the final domino bringing everything down in a cascade of rhythmic motion.

When it comes to writing a novel, think of your scenes as dominoes. Each scene should connect with the one before it in a way that naturally influences the next. If a scene is introducing a clue to the case, but the next scene doesn’t pick up that cue, something is wrong with your plot.

If you’re a pantser—that is, you don’t make detailed outlines of your story ahead of time—you may still need to consider this concept of domino effect. If you write scenes that aren’t connected enough, your reader might be left confused and unengaged. If a scene introduces a character but the following scene doesn’t develop that character, you’re missing out on opportunities to raise the stakes for your protagonist.

Dominos are usually made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony. Other materials have been used for specialized domino sets, including stone (such as marble or granite); other woods; metals; ceramic clay; and frosted glass and crystal.

The basic domino set consists of twenty-six double-nine tiles. These can be played in several ways, with some games scoring points by allowing the exposed ends of adjacent dominoes to match: one’s touching one’s, two’s touching two’s and so forth, up to a total of ten. Many game sets are extended by adding additional tiles to the core, making the total number of possible end matches larger and enabling a higher maximum score.

Domino’s corporate strategy has stayed true to its roots, but the company has evolved to stay competitive. The initial strategic focus was on efficiency and fast delivery, but when consumer satisfaction ratings began to slide, Domino’s CEO David Brandon knew that a change was needed. He listened to employees, revamped training programs and spoke directly with them to see what they needed from the company. This domino effect, based on the company’s values and commitment to its customers, helped to turn around the pizza chain.