The Domino Effect in Writing

When most people think of domino, they picture a long line of small rectangular wood or plastic blocks, each bearing an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice. Each domino is marked with a number on one side, and blank or identically patterned on the other. When stacked, they form a square. Dominoes are used to play games that involve scoring points or removing all opposing tiles from the board. They are also used as toys for children.

In addition to being a fun way for kids to practice their math skills, domino can be an amazing artistic medium. Stacking the small blocks on end, they can be formed into intricate designs of shapes and colors. Many of these creative formations are on display at domino shows, where builders compete for the most complex and imaginative domino effect or reaction before a live audience.

Whether you play domino with family and friends or watch an impressive domino show, the effect these blocks create when tipped over is mesmerizing. Just one slight nudge can cause the entire line to topple in a beautiful, rhythmic cascade. This is the domino effect, and it is also a metaphor for how a single action can trigger much larger consequences.

A writer, of course, can take many approaches to plotting her manuscript. Some write their stories from scratch without an outline or structure, while others spend weeks or even months composing their manuscripts with careful attention to detail. Regardless of how a writer works, she can use the domino effect to her advantage by considering how her story unfolds in relation to the other characters and events around it.

The first step in any story is to figure out what will happen next. For example, if a hero enters the scene carrying a suitcase full of cash, it’s likely that she will meet someone who wants it. Likewise, if the hero begins a conversation with an attractive person, it’s not unreasonable to expect that she will continue that conversation.

Once the hero has determined her next move, she must then figure out how to get there. This is the point where the domino effect comes into play, as it’s important that any action she takes in a scene advances her toward her goal and doesn’t just feel like a lark or a bore.

As Hevesh has discovered, it can be difficult to predict how a domino effect will unfold. For this reason, she makes test versions of each section of an installation before putting it all together. This allows her to see if the pieces are positioned correctly and will work as planned. Hevesh has worked on projects involving hundreds of thousands of dominoes, and her largest arrangements can take several nail-biting minutes to fall. But if the entire project works as planned, it can be truly breathtaking.

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