The Domino Effect in Writing

Domino is a game in which players place domino tiles (also called “tiles” or “blocks”) end to end to form a line of play. Each tile has a number or blank on it that corresponds with the numbers on adjacent dominoes. In most games, one’s touch ones, two’s touch two’s, and so on. When a single domino is positioned so that the touching ends match, and the exposed dots are a multiple of five, the player is awarded points for that line of play. This scoring method is known as Muggins.

Dominos are fun to tip over, but the real excitement is in seeing the entire domino chain fall as a result of a single action. This is also true of writing: every small victory in a novel’s plot can have a dramatic effect on the whole story. I often advise my clients, when reviewing their manuscripts, to think of each plot beat as a domino action. Whether the “domino” is a small victory early in the morning or a major plot point at the end of a chapter, every small step toward the “domino effect” makes the big finish much more satisfying.

A domino action is a high leverage action that triggers a series of other actions. It’s like a script: one command that leads to many commands. For example, a small victory right after getting out of bed can drastically increase the likelihood that you will be motivated and excited about what lies ahead. Then you can go out and kill it! This is why the first domino effect is so powerful: it’s one of the most exciting things you can experience in life.

In order to win at domino, the first thing you have to do is make a plan. Then you have to lay the dominoes out so that they follow your plan. A basic strategy is to start with the highest double in your hand and then play off that piece. If you have a double that doesn’t fit, you can try to play it off the side or even on its face, but this is riskier and not guaranteed to work.

There are many different ways to play domino, and each way involves a specific strategy. For a general overview of all the different rules and strategies, check out the “The Great Book of Domino Games” by Jennifer A. Kelley, which provides the rules of the most common domino games and is available at most bookstores.

For the most basic of domino games, a double-six set is used, and the 28 dominoes are shuffled and formed into a stock (also known as a boneyard). The players then draw seven tiles from the stock and each plays any domino in their hand. The winning player is then declared the winner for that hand, and the other players turn up their unplayed dominoes and count the number of dots. This total is the score for that hand.

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