Dominoes and the Domino Effect

When a domino is set up right, the little blocks of wood can fall in beautiful cascades. The term is also used figuratively to describe other events that build upon each other, creating momentum that spreads like a wave or a fireball. We’ve all seen it happen in sports, where one victory can lead to several more wins, and in business when a project starts making progress, it can create a positive domino effect of increased profits and growth. The word domino has even been applied to psychological terms, such as the “domino effect” describing how one person’s actions can affect the behavior of others around him.

A domino is a small, thumb-sized rectangular block with a blank or marked face and numbered spots in rows of seven or more; 28 such pieces make up a complete set. Dominoes are usually played with two or more players, and the objective is to be the first to play all of your tiles before the opposing team. A player may continue playing until either he cannot lay another tile or the game reaches a point at which play passes to the other players.

Each domino has a matching end and a non-matching end, and the ends must be touching fully for the domino to be played. Generally, the matching ends of a domino must be adjacent, but doubles (two adjoining dominoes with identical numbers of pips) are permitted, as are other configurations such as an L-shaped or zigzag. There are many different types of games that can be played with dominoes, including blocking or scoring games. Most domino sets are made of polymer, but some are made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting white or black pips inlaid or painted on them.

In addition to the kinetic energy of a falling domino, there is electrical energy involved. This comes from the fact that, just as a nerve impulse travels along an axon at a constant speed regardless of the size of the triggering signal, the electricity in a domino chain is independent of its size and travels only one way down the line.

The first domino in a chain is called a starting point, and it can be positioned anywhere on the surface of the table. As the first domino is pushed down, it releases stored energy that carries into the next domino and beyond. Once the initial domino has reached its tipping point, it can no longer resist motion and will continue to move down the row until it hits something else that stops it. The same principle applies to your story. The initial action in your story needs to be something that will trigger a reaction in your reader that will carry into the next scene and beyond. If your action runs counter to logical or moral rules, the domino cascade will collapse.