Domino, a cousin to playing cards and dice, has long been a versatile tool for game play. Whether you are competing in a domino tournament or simply enjoying a set with family or friends, the game is a wonderful way to spend time and develop social skills. It also helps build math and strategy skills, as well as patience and focus. It is the originator of the popular phrase, “domino effect,” which means that one small action can lead to much larger–and sometimes catastrophic–consequences.
Dominoes are rectangular blocks with a line down the middle that divides them visually into two squares. The top of the domino is marked with an arrangement of spots, called pips, which indicate a value (as in double six), while the other side of the block is blank or identically patterned. The number of pips on the bottom of a domino indicates its rank or weight, and a higher ranking domino is heavier than a lower one.
Traditionally, domino sets have been made of wood and ivory, with a contrasting color for the pips. Other materials used for sets include marble, granite, and soapstone; brass and pewter; ceramic clay; and frosted glass. Polymer-based sets are also available for a more economical choice.
Most Western domino games involve positional play, in which each player takes turns placing a domino edge to edge against another in such a way that the adjacent faces are identical or form some specified total. The value of a domino is determined by the sum of the values of its adjacent pips and, most commonly, the sum of all the pips on the domino. A higher ranking domino is more valuable than a lower one.
Many children enjoy stacking dominoes on end in long lines. When the first domino is tipped, it triggers the next piece in the line to tip over, and the process continues until all the pieces have fallen. This creates the effect of a chain reaction and can result in incredibly complex and beautiful designs.
In a more abstract sense, the domino concept can be applied to writing. If you want readers to follow your plot, you must be able to construct it in a logical manner. This is especially important in scenes that run contrary to what most readers consider logical, such as an immoral act by your hero. You must be able to provide a reason or motivation for the scene that allows them to give the hero a pass or at least keep liking him as a character.
The domino principle is also useful for nonfiction writers. A single scene may appear insignificant on its own, but if you place it properly, it will naturally influence the next scene and ultimately the narrative. This is the essence of the domino effect. The domino principle is a simple, yet effective way to help readers understand your logic and keep them interested in the story.