How to Use Dominoes to Advance a Story


When the first domino falls, it can trigger a chain reaction that knocks down everything around it. In writing, these domino actions can be used to advance a story’s plot or to make the narrative more persuasive. The key to using domino is making sure that each scene logically leads to the next. This requires the writer to think about what happens after each scene and what that scene will influence, much like a domino falling in a line causes the ones behind it to fall.

A domino is a rectangular piece of wood or other material with a number of dots, called pips, on both ends. Dominoes are normally twice as long as they are wide, so that the numbers on both ends match each other and can be lined up end to end to form a chain. Often, a player plays a domino by placing it on the table so that one end touches another domino with a matching number—for example, a ten-pip domino touching a nine-pip domino. If the two dominoes have the same total value, the player scores that amount of points.

The first person to score all of the points wins. A domino may be played with any number of players, although two or more is most common. A single domino has a number of sides that are numbered from 1 to 9, and a double has the same number of sides but is split horizontally. Some sets of dominoes are made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or ebony with contrasting black or white pips. Traditionally, the top half of a domino is thicker in MOP or ivory while the lower portion is thin and made from ebony; these sets are sometimes referred to as “skinny” dominoes.

In classrooms, students can use dominoes to practice addition and reinforce the commutative property of adding. Students can also create equations for dominoes by counting the dots on each end of a domino and adding those numbers together to find the total number of dots on the entire face of the domino. The task also helps students understand the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction, as well as the concept of fractions.

Dominoes can also be used to teach the concept of probability. A teacher can create a simple probability activity by placing dominoes on a grid, and then ask students to predict the total number of spots on each domino, based on the number of dominoes that are touching or in contact with one another. Students can then discuss the results of their predictions.

A domino effect can be used in fiction to explain why a character does something that most readers would consider illogical or immoral. To use this device effectively, the writer must ensure that she provides the logic and motivation for the character to do something outside societal norms—for example, to shoot someone or have an affair. If the writer doesn’t provide this logic, the story will fall apart, and the reader will lose faith in the hero.